Bin Wu has been responding to real-world problems related to industrial systems design for twenty years. “When we talk about industrial system design,” he explains, “we are talking about how to put facilities, people, and information systems together so that this system can function for whatever purpose it was designed to serve,” whether to manufacture or to supply. Traditionally, says Wu, when designing an industrial system our main consideration was always productivity – how to produce or manufacture things more efficiently. Three years ago, however, the MU Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering received a wake-up call that changed the direction of his work.
José Garcia puts on and takes off many hats during the average week, owing to the extension, teaching, and research dimensions of his work as Extension Assistant Professor in Rural Sociology. For instance, as Coordinator of the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program at MU (CFSSA), Garcia spends most of his time doing outreach with rural communities throughout the state. A common misunderstanding some people have about the term “sustainable agriculture” is that it rejects technology, harkening back to an earlier time when people worked mainly with their hands. Quite the contrary, Garcia clarifies: sustainable agriculture uses the most recent technology in its approach to farming (and to food itself), in which economic viability and environmental impact, along with social responsibility, are at the center of every decision. In relation to this last dimension, approaches to sustainable agriculture ask such questions as the following: “How socially responsible are farmers? What is the impact of their operations on communities, families, and workers? And how connected to the community are they? ” Garcia explains the complexity of the situation: “All of those kinds of things need to be taken into consideration when making decisions because food and agriculture are totally connected to people, to communities, and to laborers.” Thus Garcia provides information and training to people about various aspects of agriculture – whether that involves farms, factories, schools, or other community organizations. He hopes to see a ripple effect, with the information he gives to various community educators in Missouri being spread throughout the state.
Dr. Hannah Alexander describes efforts to remedy the “collective failure” of the scientific community to make their findings and advances more understandable to the general public.
Increasingly, says Rikoon, what drives his work is the pursuit of “a seamless connection” among the activities of research, teaching, and extension. While his research and teaching clearly inform each other, Rikoon explains that outreach has become a larger part of that mix.
Cone teaches first-level genetics to biology and biochemistry students. “It is a lot of fun to teach introductory genetics,” she says, her enthusiasm obvious. She also teaches a capstone genetics course called “Human Inherited Diseases,” which explores the underlying molecular basis of certain inherited diseases in humans. “I’m not a human geneticist,” Cone specifies, “but I’ve learned about human genetics by teaching that class.” In addition to her teaching and research, Cone has done several major outreach projects.
In this segment, faculty members talk about how their research and creative activity contribute to better teaching, as well as the relationship between these two aspects of their work. Frequently, the two endeavors intersect, profitting both. Carmen Chicone remarks, “If you are actively involved in your subject, you’re bound to be a much better teacher.”
Following years principally involved in research, Wu now spends more time working with both students and the public on energy efficiency and the environment. As he puts it, “I feel very strongly that every one of us needs to do something and behave in responsible ways, individually or collectively, [to] do something about it.” As an educator, Wu gets the message out to his students, who he says are the future: , “It’s really a very fulfilling thing to do. I have been a professor for all of my professional life—doing research, writing books and other publications, and teaching. I can honestly say that what I’m doing now regarding energy efficiency is absolutely the most fulfilling.”
Officially opened on September 1, 2006, the Missouri Industrial Assessment Center’s purpose “is to be the center in the state to provide services and resources to promote energy efficiency, particularly industrial energy efficiency.” The IAC carries out activities in the areas of research, education, and outreach. Since its establishment, the IAC has been busy conducting energy audits and workshops for manufacturing organizations throughout the state. Because the IAC provides practical experience for students, helps manufacturers improve energy efficiency, and develops best practices in industry, Wu calls it a “win, win, win situation.”
Garcia describes a few projects within the realm of sustainable agriculture. For example, Garcia trains extension educators on various sustainability issues. The educators may then go back to their communities and work directly with farmers and workers, “so that those farmers are more exposed to sustainable agriculture issues, including, for example, sustainable agriculture practices, natural resources, conservation issues, and funding opportunities for sustainable agriculture projects for their farms.” Garcia works as well with MU’s community of students, staff, and faculty, offering a monthly seminar called, “What’s New in Sustainable Food and Farming.”
Most of Jose Garcia’s work involves doing outreach and teaching about sustainable agriculture to various groups of people, from farmers in rural Missouri communities to students, faculty, and staff at MU. There are three dimensions emphasized by use of the term “sustainable agriculture” explains Garcia. “Because food and agriculture are totally connected to people and to communities and to laborers,” sustainable agriculture refers to an approach to farming and food, in which economic viability, environmental impact, and social responsibility are considered in any decision.