Humor is funniest when you tell it about yourself. "I was here last year as interim dean, and now I'm back as Dean of the Purdue University College of Agriculture," Jay Akridge told the Master Farmer crowd last week at the Beck Ag Center at the Purdue Agronomy Research Center. "It certainly does feel good to get to be here again.
"It's been a fast-paced first six months as actual Dean of Ag. Someone told me, though, to enjoy it now. They alighted and said I'm only six months away form being responsible for everything that goes wrong. The honeymoon will be over, I guess."
Akridge didn't spend all of this time on humor when he had more than 100 of Indiana's top farmers and agribusiness leaders in front of him. He updated them on the financial situation Purdue Ag faces, and what priorities he's trying to fulfill.
"The budget it tough, there's no doubt about it," he says. "Everyone has had to tighten their belts. We've had to cut a million dollars from the budget in the school of ag, and that's not easy to do."
At the same time, Akridge insisted that he was proud of their record this year in filling key vacancies. "We've hired about eight new specialists in key areas, many working in Extension," he says. "Even with tight budgets, we're not going to back off from hiring people to fill critical areas that will be of service to you."
Many of these positions have already been filled. Others, such as replacing Don Jones, now retired, in Ag Engineering, are in the process of occurring. Jones specialized in animal housing and ventilation systems, amongst other duties he shared at the department. There's a new soybean specialist on board, and others are on the way.
"We've been hit hard by key people leaving to become deans at other schools," he added. "We've lost three people to deanships at other schools over the past couple months. On the other hand, it's a compliment that other schools are coming here, knowing they can find the brightest and best individuals at Purdue."
One of those who have left was Craig Beyrouty, who left as chairperson of the Agronomy Department to become the Dean at Colorado State University. Herb Ohm is serving as interim head of the department, as a search for a new department head begins. "It certainly doesn't hurt to be able to say that the last person who held this job went on to become a dean when you're out recruiting people," Akridge added.