Our society will face increasingly large and complex problems in the coming decades. Some of these challenges can be addressed through research, teaching and outreach in the academic fields we work on in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
We have identified these grand challenges to be:
- Feeding our world
- Protecting our environment
- Improving our health
- Enriching our youth
- Growing our economy
As we work on these universal problems, we seek out diverse perspectives on how to find the best ways forward.
Blue Bell Lecture Series
In 2012, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Land-Grant Act, which led to the establishment of Texas A&M University. As we look forward, we want to ensure that the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences stays true to this land-grant mission while working to address problems that will face our society in the next 150 years. Our vision is to provide interdisciplinary solutions for our College’s five grand challenges: to feed our world, improve our health, protect our environment, enrich our youth and grow our economy.
To advance our thinking about these grand challenges, we have formed a special lecture series, funded by a generous endowment from Blue Bell Creameries, for the 2012-2013 academic year. The lectures are open to all and are intended to spark innovation and collaboration. See previous and upcoming lectures.
2013 Texas A&M AgriLife Conference discussions
At the 2013 Texas A&M AgriLife conference, more than 100 attendees split up into small groups to discuss each of the grand challenges. Each group was asked to define the issues and brainstorm areas of strength and opportunity, as well as any potential problems. To learn more about each of these or to find out how to get involved, please contact the Dean’s Office.
Future discussions and questions
There are many ways we can approach the grand challenges – specifically, how do we underpin existing programs? What programs might be needed? Where should we focus funding? Are there strategic hires we should encourage? There are many questions like these and more that will take our ideas and discussions and put them into action. Each of these sessions will be facilitated by the Dean’s Office.
Work on the Grand Challenges:
Protecting Our Environment
Agriculture and a healthy environment must go hand in hand. The College is committed to environmental sustainability and restoring the health of our ecosystems. Our students can follow their passion by creating parks and green spaces, protecting wildlife and guarding the health of our water bodies and fisheries. With Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the College is involved in many projects in these areas, including restoring military training grounds at Fort Hood, surveying and protecting endangered wildlife species, revitalizing rangelands, designing parks and trails throughout Texas, studying the effects of climate change and developing biofuels for a clean and secure energy future.
Enriching Our Youth
We prepare students to be leaders in solving the world’s problems. Whether they choose medicine, engineering, business, environmental conservation, education, journalism or food production, students can start their career in our College. In addition to a world-class education, our students have a full range of experiences to enrich their classroom learning. Study abroad, field experiences, internships, undergraduate research and a wide choice of student organizations all allow students to develop leadership, organizational and communication skills to become society-ready graduates. Our faculty and programs specializing in youth development and community development, particularly for at-risk youth in both urban and rural settings, equip our students to address the many complex issues facing today’s young people. Students can also choose from major programs in teacher training and certification as well as communications and journalism.
Improving Our Health
From recreation and weight control to designing fruits and vegetables with more phytonutrients for cancer prevention to using the latest biotechnology advancements to search for new drugs, the College is dedicated to improving health. Our students in the life sciences will be among the research scientists and technicians, physicians, pharmacists, and biotechnology engineers of the future. We believe in taking a leadership role in health by providing students and researchers with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to investigate such areas as structure-based drug design using X-ray crystallography combined with computer bioinformatics to find the right drug to target a specific disease. Other research is aimed at finding nontoxic “smart drugs” that can be carried by nanoparticles directly to disease sites in the body.
Feeding Our World
Growing populations, decreasing natural resources and increasing environmental challenges present us with opportunities to find the most efficient and healthful ways to provide food for all, both domestically and globally. Our faculty and students work at levels ranging from the molecular to the industrial to develop best practices for growing, processing and distributing food that is safe, high in quality and abundant. Air quality and the sustainable use of land and water resources — as well as the impact of trade practices and governmental policies — are areas of active research and teaching by our faculty. In addition to improving our own food supply, our faculty and students are helping other nations become more food secure, which in turn can prevent conflict around the globe. The world’s interconnected society and commerce make getting a global education critical to today’s graduates as they help to meet the food needs in other countries by knowing their customs as well as their production constraints. Study abroad programs offer important opportunities for our students to gain that understanding.
Growing Our Economy
Producing more, selling more, adding value and increasing the safety and security of what we trade are all ways the College is growing our economy. Food and natural resources are more expensive today than in the past in part because the population and economies of the world are growing. The United States has greater competition in the global marketplace because more countries are producing goods. As a result, their citizens have more disposable income. This provides us with an opportunity to reach new markets, use technology and innovation to add value to existing products, and create new products to meet previously unseen needs. We must do this in a way that ensures consumer safety and the security of global interests while protecting the environment from increased pressures on land, air and water needed to produce more food and fiber.