New dean of CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences hopes to bring business expertise to ag students | MyWindsorNow.com

New dean of CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences hopes to bring business expertise to ag students

Nikki Work
nwork@greeleytribune.com

Ajay Menon, the new dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University, presented his vision for the college and fielded questions from producers Thursday afternoon at the Weld County Extension office in Greeley. Menon does not have an agricultural background, but hopes to bring his expertise in business to the college.

Ajay Menon is very aware of the hole in his resume.

The new dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University joked about his lack of an ag background during his discussion with producers and officials Thursday afternoon at the Weld County Extension office. Since Menon was named the dean in June, the former dean of the College of Business has been immersing himself in the Colorado ag community, trying to learn as much as he can.

He knows, though, that all the lessons in the world can't replace the knowledge of industry experts, who he has been working to bring into his team at CSU. Even if he doesn't know the best methods for weaning a cow or the best ways to irrigate, Menon does know this — agriculture is serious business. And he knows business.

"If agriculture is a big business, we have to look at it from a business perspective," Menon said. He plans to use his business background to bring an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation to the college.

“Finally, I’m working on something that is really, really profound. ... I have a passion for a few things, and feeding people is one of these passions.

— Ajay Menon, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University

One of his goals during his three-year tenure as dean is to build the framework for an ag innovation center, where new ideas are fostered and young people can gain access to mentorships, capital and other startup resources.

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"He has the right experience on the business and academic sides — and the right relationships with major producer and commodity groups on the agricultural side — to lead our faculty and prepare our students to compete effectively in an evolving global marketplace," said CSU president Tony Frank in a release in June.

Menon said he also hopes to foster an environment that is inclusive of all the diverse industries in Colorado, from corn to cattle to horticulture and more.

Coming from 13 years at the dean of the business college and more than 20 in the marketing department at CSU, Menon said he is excited to get involved with the study upon which CSU was founded. He knows he has important work boots to fill.

"Finally, I'm working on something that is really, really profound," he said. "I have a passion for a few things, and feeding people is one of these passions."

Menon, who was born in India and moved to the U.S. after getting his bachelor's degree in chemistry in Bombay, said he has seen firsthand how a lack of pesticides, technology and infrastructure can affect ag productivity. Worldwide, nearly half the crops in the field don't ever make it to the table, he said.

He doesn't want to only focus on meeting the growing food needs of the world, though. He said he hopes to emphasize Colorado's role in the global market.

"Colorado State University doesn't sit in isolation. We should be Colorado-informed for global impact," he said.

He used the analogy that too often, people are so busy looking over the mountains that they miss the valleys. It doesn't make sense to be better informed with what's happening in China than what's happening 50 miles east of Greeley, he said.

To an audience filled with area farmers and ranchers, as well as officials like four of the five Weld County commissioners, Menon admitted that he doesn't have all the answers, nor does he have all the plans in place. His plans for the college are still a work in progress.

He wants his college to tackle big issues such as food security in the face of a dangerous world, the effects of climate change and how to address challenges in health and wellness. He wants to ensure students learn about everything from water issues to how to best finance a new combine.

He hopes to streamline the research at the college with the experimental field stations and extension offices to create the foster the best agricultural development for the state possible.

Most of all, he wants to ensure the ag college is serving students and keeping its promise — preparing them for productive careers in agriculture. He said the producers and businesses in the area are key to this. Colorado's ag industry needs to know that CSU graduates are coming into the workforce with an ivy-league level education and a blue collar work ethic, he said.

"It's about that kid who comes to us with dreams that their grandparents shared with them," Menon said. "We basically give flight to their dream, and agriculture needs them to go back and build this. We need them."

Feedback for the college

Ajay Menon, the new dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University, encourages producers to reach out to him and the other officials in the college with feedback on the most important issues in Colorado agriculture, as well as the resources CSU can offer to help. To reach Menon, email him at ajay.menon@colostate.edu.

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