Soil & Crop Sciences Strategic Plan
Since the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences awarded its first degree in 1911, we have made important contributions to agricultural sciences and the education of thousands of students. Today, our research, education, outreach, and extension activities are more important than ever, and remain at the core of the land grant mission of Colorado State University.
This strategic plan represents our collective forward-looking vision. It is not intended to be a comprehensive description of all of the myriad departmental activities, but rather an articulation of how we intend to grow and evolve over the next five years.
This is an exciting time of rapid scientific and technological advancements that are poised to transform agriculture and environmental stewardship. Our department’s strengths in crop breeding and genetics, crop production systems, soil ecology, microbiome sciences, precision agriculture, agriculture extension, and irrigation management lie at the nexus of some of the biggest challenges facing humanity including climate change, sustainable food production, soil degradation, and depletion of critical aquifers. The opportunity to play a leading role in developing solutions to these challenges drives our ambition, dedication, and creativity. We can only achieve this vision through a strong and diverse community, and through close collaboration with our many stakeholders.
Matthew Wallenstein, PhD
We develop the agroecosystems of tomorrow, transforming environmental challenges into opportunities.
We value and actively promote diversity of thought, cultures, demographic
backgrounds, and scientific disciplines.
We strive to be global leaders in soil and crop science research, education, outreach,
and extension through innovative approaches and a focus on excellence.
We work together effectively and synergistically in an atmosphere of mutual respect
to benefit from diverse perspectives and disciplinary expertise.
We are committed to a high level of professional and personal integrity and
demonstrate those standards to all those with whom we interact.
We conduct sound research, education, outreach, and extension with state, national,
and global impacts that respond to the needs of our stakeholders.
We believe in the power of education to enable productive careers and in lifelong learning
opportunities for our students, staff, faculty, and stakeholders.
Innovations in Undergraduate Training
Strategic Imperative 1:
Enhance undergraduate learning and engagement so that each student leaves prepared to solve global challenges through cutting-edge technical, communication, systems-thinking, and leadership skills, as well as an inclusive global perspective.
Enhance student professional skills and capacity for systems-thinking and collaborative problem solving
We will update our departmental undergraduate curriculum by aligning specific desired outcomes to curricular content, desired student competencies, and student outcomes.
- Each student will graduate with a portfolio of “Signature Works”.
- Professional skills will be taught throughout our curriculum.
- Support and incentivize continuous course development and teaching improvement through mentoring, peer-review, and professional training.
- Actively seek grant and philanthropic support for scholarships, curriculum, and teaching infrastructure.
- Develop new field- and lab-based courses to provide additional hands-on learning experiences.
- Support additional teaching assistantships to enhance hands-on learning and course quality.
- Increase coordination among courses to provide an integrated learning experience and reinforce core technical knowledge.
Recruit a diverse student population, increase student retention, and enhance alumni engagement while providing students with a rich and inclusive learning environment.
For successful careers and to solve global challenges, our students need to collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse perspectives. The college has set a goal of improving retention and 5-year graduation rates to 85%. The department will meet or exceed these targets and eliminate achievement gaps of students from underrepresented groups.
- Survey undergraduate students and recent alumni regularly to identify priorities for achieving retention and engagement goals.
- Enhance recruiting materials and support outreach efforts to increase the diversity of our student body.
- Ensure course content exposes students to diverse ideas, people, and practices.
- Expand access to our courses through development of on-line courses and degrees.
- Support a department committee on diversity and inclusivity to identify additional opportunities to achieve inclusive excellence.
- Institute "faculty roundtables" for students in each concentration.
- Institute a faculty-student mentor program to enhance student support and sense of community.
Improve student engagement with extension and industry partners
Our students will benefit from better integration of our teaching and extension efforts across the department, which will contribute to a broader understanding of today’s agroecosystems so that they have context to shape tomorrow’s solutions. This engagement will expand upon existing internship opportunities with industry and extension offices across the state through an industry and alumni mentorship program.
- Develop an industry mentor program to support student career development and preparedness.
- Incorporate real-world projects solicited from industry, NGOs, and other stakeholders into our courses.
- Encourage student participation in extension internships.
Enhance Graduate Training
Strategic imperative 2:
Attract, train, and support the next generation of leaders in soil and crop sciences and improve competitiveness of graduates seeking diverse careers.
While the quality and reputation of our faculty already attracts high-quality graduate students, we need a systematic approach to departmental support and training. By enhancing professional development, mentoring, and support for our students, we will better prepare them for success in diverse careers.
Develop new opportunities for teaching, leadership, and professional development.
- Increase GTA support through development of AUCC courses, online courses, and industry collaborations.
- Develop additional graduate research assistantships and travel fellowships.
Enhance sense of community among department-supported graduate students
- Develop a graduate student on-boarding process.
- Develop a foundational graduate course to create a sense of community among cohorts.
- We will support graduate student social events.
- Remodel existing graduate student offices and add additional capacity to meet growing demands.
Improve access to graduate school for students from diverse backgrounds
- Develop funding to support moving and other startup expenses for students in economic need.
- Improve and continuously update website to clearly explain selection process.
AgriTech for Sustainable Agroecosystems
Strategic Imperative 3:
Lead integrative research that increases the efficiency and resilience of agroecosystems by unraveling and re-engineering plant-soil-microbe linkages.
To develop the AgroEcosystems of tomorrow, we embrace the linkages between the AgriBiome, soils, water, and crops. In each realm, big data are enabling transformative insights. We will be leaders in analyzing large datasets generated from remote sensing, sensors, genomics/proteomics/metabolomics, and other data acquisition platforms to advance the efficiency, resiliency, and health of Agroecosystems in our region and around the globe.
Strengthen AgriTech and big data capacity to integrate crop and soils research
- Add expertise in the analysis of Big Data for sustainable agronomic management across scales
- Enhance industry collaborations to advance digital agriculture
- Create a makerspace (a facility with equipment to enable sensor, tool, and machine development) to support AgriTech.
- Support development of intellectual property and startups
Enhance the capacity of our plant breeding and genomics program to develop climate-resilient crops
Molecular and genomic approaches to breeding are rapidly advancing and will be a critical component of crop breeding and soils programs into the future. To maintain our edge in research and to prepare the next generation through teaching, we will invest in faculty and infrastructure.
- Add expertise to link crop quantitative genetics to phenotyping and environmental data.
- Develop new facilities to support high-throughput phenotyping across soil and climatic gradients.
- Develop plant transformation capabilities.
- Incorporate new sensing technologies into our field crop testing program
Strategic Imperative 4:
Systematically engage all department stakeholder groups to co-develop solutions to real-world challenges and scientific breakthroughs.
Our department has strong relationships with stakeholders including off-campus extension agents and research scientists, government agencies, NGOs, CSU colleagues, Alumni and supporters, families of our students, crop producers, commodity groups, and industry partners. Strengthening these relationships even further will enable us to continue to have a strong impact and serve our land grant mission.
Enhance communication and collaboration with stakeholders
- Explore re-establishment of departmental affiliations for field extension and research center agents
- Develop a regular departmental newsletter for distribution
- Develop and maintain an active industry advisory board representing diverse perspectives.
- Develop and consistently update social media outlets, podcasts, and website.
Support Colorado producers in addressing emerging issues
- Encourage development of networks of producers interested in conducting on-farm research or testing of agricultural system solutions and technologies.
- Improve our exposure in all parts of the state by working more closely with faculty, extension agents, and staff at the off-campus research centers to develop workshops and extension events.
- Develop fact sheets and/or websites on emerging topics including soil health, organic agriculture, and hemp.