SCOTTSBLUFF – When I moved to Scottsbluff six years ago, our capable Information Specialist at the Panhandle Center, Dave Ostdiek, suggested I write a monthly column. I appreciated Dave’s preemptive approach as a way to both let the public know what was happening at their university, and to perhaps get to know me as the Director a bit better.
Thus began the “Jack’s Insights” monthly column. Since that time, there have been some 75 opportunities for me to provide a bit of information, and perhaps a little insight, to those who have read this column. This entry will be the last of these articles. I've stepped down as director and am scheduled to retire from the university Aug. 31. It has been a good ride, and I leave my director role with some very good memories, as well as a level of sadness.
Today, I thought I would share four insights about things I feel have been accomplished over the past six years that illustrate why and how the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center has merited your support and how you as a taxpayer have benefitted. These insights are not in a rank order, rather I believe each speaks for itself toward this objective.
Insight No. 1 – Hires: We have hired some amazing people – both faculty and staff. As with any organization, employee attrition is simply part of the process. People’s lives change, new doors open, time marches forward and aging continues. All these combine to result in employee turnover. Finding replacements, particularly at a public institution, is an involved process. It has been fun (most of the time) to be involved in these processes. As I look at the five faculty we have hired as replacements during my tenure as director, I’m certain they will continue the tradition of a high level of performance set by their predecessors in the various disciplines.
Insight No. 2 – Housing: When I interviewed for the director position back in 2013, a message I heard loud and clear from the faculty at the Center was the need for on-site housing accommodations, primarily for graduate students. I have always been an advocate for graduate student training, primarily because successful graduate students lead to successful faculty accomplishments. So, when I arrived on the job, we began in earnest to explore options for a solution to housing needs. We put together a plan to use local contractors, no state funding, and were able to build two multi-unit, dormitory-style manufactured buildings constructed by Family Built Homes of Gering. These units each have six bedrooms with separate bathrooms and a common area for kitchen and laundry needs. Now that we have been using these for almost three years, we have found them to be a very useful resource for the overall objectives at the Center.
Insight No. 3 - Good People: Far and away, one of the great components of my time as director has been the opportunity to get to know and work with the great people here in the North Platte Valley and the entire Nebraska Panhandle. Robynn and I have built some wonderful friendships here. The people are friendly, open, honest in heart, and just overall quality people. The “Nebraska Nice” moniker truly describes the citizens of this end of the state. The support you give to the people and programs at the Center are amazing and appreciated. Thanks for being who, and what, you are.
Insight No. 4 - Commitment to Clientele Needs: One characteristic I have seen over and over again is the true dedication by university personnel to meet the needs of those we serve. We are known as a “Research and Extension” Center. In short, this means our job is to discover new information important to western Nebraska, then to extend that information to all. One example of this that sticks out in my mind was the supportive response given by personnel at the Center when the irrigation canal tunnel collapsed last summer. We appreciated the chance to host informational meetings and provide crop-water-use information to growers during that time. The three primary focus areas of our commitment to clientele are with crops, livestock and youth. I, like you, continually witness how our faculty and staff strive to discover and extend information that is useful to you as stakeholders. This commitment will continue.
So, as I wrap-up the final installment of “Jack’s Insights” It has been a good ride. Nebraska is a good place to be. Robynn and I will to stay around the Panhandle for a while, maybe longer. Robynn will continue to teach at WNCC and to take care of me. Perhaps there are other things in my future where I can contribute my experience and network to a worthwhile effort. Thanks for your support, and I’ll see you around. “Happy Trails to you, until we meet again.”