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IANR Vice Chancellor and NU Vice President Owens to step down in 2010


John Owens, Harlan vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will step down June 30, 2010.

Owens has been vice chancellor since January 2001. He also serves as the University of Nebraska's vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

Owens, 65, said two recently diagnosed heart arrhythmias contributed to his decision. He noted, too, that by the time he steps down, he will have been a dean, vice president or vice chancellor in the land-grant university system for 25 years, longer than anyone else currently serving as an administrative head of agriculture.

"It's time," Owens said of his decision.

After a period of faculty development leave, Owens plans to remain with UNL as a UNL Extension professor of entomology.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said Owens will be missed.

"John has made many significant contributions to the institute and to agriculture in Nebraska. More than that he has been a personal friend and colleague," Perlman said. "I am pleased he is staying at the university so I can continue to draw on his knowledge and experience. We will quickly initiate a search for his successor as vice chancellor and vice president."

NU President James B. Milliken said, "Throughout his tenure, John Owens has demonstrated that he cares deeply about agriculture and he understands its importance in the 21st century. His passion and enthusiasm for his work is evident to all around him, and he has been a tireless promoter for IANR and Nebraska agriculture. We will miss his leadership but welcome his continued contribution as a faculty member."

"I'm really proud of the strides IANR has made in the last 8 1/2 years and, just as important, very excited about what the future holds for the institute," Owens said. "But let me be clear: This isn't about what I've accomplished as vice chancellor and vice president. This is about the achievements of our faculty, staff, and students.

"And it's those faculty, staff, and students who are the key to the institute's future, which I'm convinced is very bright despite the very real challenges public universities face," Owens added.

Owens said stakeholder support also has been key. The Ag Builders of Nebraska, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattleman, and others contribute great ideas and energy, and Owens said he has appreciated their effectiveness as spokespersons for IANR and the university as a whole.

During Owens' tenure at IANR, which comprises the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, UNL Extension, the Agricultural Research Division and parts of the College of Education and Human Sciences, there have been a number of accomplishments for which he credits many people.

Owens made increasing enrollments in CASNR and at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) at Curtis a priority when he arrived in January 2001.

--From fall of 2004 through fall of 2009, CASNR saw a 44 percent increase in enrollment, to 1,758. "That's a remarkable achievement," he said, and he credits CASNR Dean Steven Waller, faculty, staff, students, and supporters for the increase.

Enrollment also is up this year at NCTA to the highest number ever in its history as a college, to about 425 under the leadership of NCTA Dean Weldon Sleight.

--New educational offerings within IANR during Owens' tenure include the Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine, a partnership with Iowa State University that represents "the most cost-effective veterinary medicine program in the United States," Owens said.

--During the fiscal year ending June 30, IANR faculty were awarded nearly $62 million in external grants and contracts to support research, teaching, and extension.

--Extension's importance to Nebraska is exemplified, among other things, by the fact that the state leads the nation in the percentage of its eligible youth who are enrolled in 4-H. About 135,000 participate in the program. "That makes it the largest single educational enterprise in the state of Nebraska," Owens said.

--IANR's agricultural scientists are among the most-cited in the world. Latest figures rank UNL scientists 14th in the world in the number of times their articles are cited by other authors.

--Owens successfully pushed for establishment of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, a partnership of UNL's School of Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resource Discipline, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Wildlife Management Institute. Nebraska's is the only such unit Congress has established at a university this decade.

IANR's progress since 2001 "has been accomplished in the face of withering budget cuts faced by the University of Nebraska," Owens noted.

"This is one competitive academic unit full of highly accomplished people," he said, "and I think IANR's future is bright, which is good for Nebraska agriculture and natural resources, which in turn is good for Nebraska. As the university looks to hire the next vice chancellor, that person will come into a successful institute, well-positioned for further advancement and achievement."

Owens, a Texas native, spent 23 years at New Mexico State University before his arrival at UNL.

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