Strategic Plan

Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering Strategic Plan (2015-2020)

(Approved on Oct. 16, 2015)

 

Executive Summary

This strategic plan of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering is developed in line with the strategic plans of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the College of Engineering with the intent of growing the department and, at the same time, fulfilling the missions laid out in those two strategic plans. The Department has identified five strategic goals that will guide its progress over the next five years. All these goals encompass our functions and engagements in key areas including teaching, research, and extension to serve the people in Arkansas and beyond. With these goals, we will continue to build on our successes, strengthen areas that we believe are critical to Arkansas, and develop new opportunities to better serve our clients such as students, industries, and the public. BAEG recognizes that accomplishing the missions outlined in this strategic plan requires the passions, expertise, wisdom, and diligence of the students, staff, and faculty. As such, BAEG commits to fostering and retaining an inclusive professional environment that provides all of its members (students, staff, faculty) the opportunity and support necessary to excel in their respective areas of expertise.

BAEG Vision

Our vision is to be a leading Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department in the nation, providing engineering expertise to the public to create sustainable water, food and energy systems. Our programs will significantly contribute to the quality of life, economic development, and environmental stewardship for Arkansas and the world.

BAEG Mission

Our mission is to develop sustainable water, food, energy, and related systems through innovative teaching, research, extension, and economic development via technology transfer.

Goal 1 – Enhance the Research Program in sustainable water, food, energy and related systems

The BAEG’s Research Program is developed in alignment with the missions of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture (DOA) and the College of Engineering (COE). Our research activities will focus on basic and applied research that addresses the needs of human society in water, food and energy sustainability, which are considered the most critical issues affecting the quality of life in Arkansas and around the world. Our research program is also an integral component in the overall COE research portfolio that not only advances science and technology in biological and agricultural engineering, but also produces new generations of bachelors, masters, and doctorate graduates in biological engineering to advance sustainable water, food and energy systems. The productivity of our research program will be measured based upon the accomplishments of the full time equivalent (FTE) appointments for research, which will reflect the expectations of the BAEG community as a whole, not of each individual faculty member. One of the key performance indicators of our research program is whether it will successfully improve and promote the programs and members of the department for state, national and international recognition. Our research program is mission oriented with the ultimate goal of meeting the BAEG vision.

Indicators of success:

  • Number and value of research proposals submitted (multi-disciplinary, cross sectional)
  • Grants, contracts, gifts, and other resources secured (total and per equivalent faculty FTE)
  • Scholarly productivity indicated by peer-reviewed journal publications per equivalent faculty FTE
  • Awards and recognitions at all levels received per equivalent faculty FTE

Action items

  • Conduct SWOT analysis of research program and productivity
  • Enhance faculty’s capability of adapting to changing research priorities such as inviting experts/speakers or travel support to visit program directors
  • Update and improve research labs and facilities
  • Optimize individual faculty productivity based on appointment FTE
  • Provide travel support for faculty to develop multi-institutional, multi-state research collaborations
  • Provide support for improving quality of proposals such as participating in grant writing workshops and utilizing grant writing support staff
  • Implement a department research seminar series 

 

Goal 2 – Increase Economic Development Through Technology Transfer

The BAEG Economic Development/Tech Transfer Program is conducted in alignment with the missions of the DOA and COE. Our economic development activities will focus on converting the advances made from basic and applied research to economically sustainable applications that address the needs of human society in water, food and energy sustainability affecting the quality of life in Arkansas and around the world. Goals of this program are to create economic value and associated new products, jobs and companies from technology created through research.  Our Economic Development/Tech Transfer program is closely tied with our teaching program through class projects, student internships, and graduate programs to produce new generations of bachelors, masters, and doctorate graduates in biological engineering with real world engineering development and entrepreneurship experience to advance sustainable water, food and energy systems. The productivity of our Economic Development/Tech Transfer program will reflect the expectations of the BAEG community as a whole, not of each individual faculty member. One of the key performance indicators of our economic development/tech transfer program is if it successfully increases the jobs and money flowing into the Arkansas economy directly related to the technology developed by faculty members. Our economic development/tech transfer program is mission oriented with the ultimate goal of meeting the BAEG vision.

Indicators of success:

  • Retained assignment of invention disclosures by Patent and Copyright Committee, provisional patent filings, patent filings, patent issued.
  • Creation of startup companies, licensing agreements based on UAS IP
  • SBIR and STTP grants received
  • Private investment attracted to UA owned startup companies to commercialize technology based on UAS IP
  • New products created and sold based on UAS IP
  • Jobs created based on the development, manufacture and sale of products stemming from UAS IP.
  • Licensing income to UAS  

Action items

  • Identify emerging strengths and potential strengths where the movement or addition of resources could speed up the growth in these areas.
  • Keep abreast of needs of stakeholders in Arkansas so departmental efforts and the needs of the State are appropriately matched.
  • Encourage faculty with appropriate research results to participate in economic development through technology transfer.

 

Goal 3 – Graduate competent engineers for sustainable water, food, energy, and related systems. 

The Undergraduate Education Program (including distance education) is a central component in the overarching BAEG function and responsibility, i.e., to produce graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Engineering who are competent for effectively applying engineering principles and technologies to biological systems and phenomena (plants, animals, humans, microbes, and the environment) in order to design and create sustainable water, food and energy systems, and/or solve existing problems in such systems. Graduates will have demonstrated proficiency in basic engineering skills, technical knowledge, and professional skills. As biological engineers, the students will be well prepared for future challenges in Arkansas and the world that can be addressed by life-long learning and professional contributions to society through sustained and ethical accomplishments. These students are expected to make significant contributions to the most pressing problems facing the human society today, i.e., water quality and quantity, food security and safety, energy availability, and climate change. To achieve this goal, we will strengthen our recruiting effort and bring in a diverse body of high-quality students who are motivated and engaged in learning. We will improve our curricula by increasing academic rigor and practicing ethics and integrity.

Indicators of success:

  • Student enrollment and diversity
  • Number of graduates taking FE exams
  • Awards in undergrad competition at local, regional, and national levels
  • Undergrad graduation and career placement rate
  • Undergrad retention rate
  • Teaching evaluation scores
  • Undergrad student credit hours
  • Undergrad ACT/GPA scores

Action items

  • Implement the continuous quality improvement plan for ABET accreditation
  • Strengthen the marketing efforts to increase success in recruitment including College of Engineering and Division of Agriculture System connections
  • Improve student engagement in advising and career guidance
  • Strengthen bridges with industries and alumni to improve the opportunities for our undergrad students of internships, coops  and jobs
  • Provide partial reimbursement of FE Exam fees to students who pass
  • Coordinate course activities in each semester across Biological Engineering
  • Provide teaching resources and training opportunities

 

Goal 4 – Graduate professionals competent in conducting research in sustainable water, food, energy, and related systems

The BAEG’s Graduate Education Program (including distance education) is designed to 1) enhance the capacity for research and teaching in biological engineering and 2) educate MS and PhD students to prepare them for future challenges faced by Arkansas and the world regarding sustainable water, food and energy systems, including creation of knowledge through basic and applied research, life-long learning, and professional contributions to society through sustained and ethical accomplishments. Our key challenge in operating a successful graduate program rests with the difficulties in attracting quality graduates to our program. Therefore, in the upcoming years, our effort will be focused on increasing graduate students enrollment in the department (especially PhD students), improving the quality of our students, and increasing the diversity of our graduate student population. This effort is in line with the COE strategic plan in which increasing doctoral students is considered the priority. Admittedly, improving the graduate program will require faculty to be actively engaged in student mentoring and collaborating with scientists and engineers outside the department both on and off campus. The other major impediment to having more graduate students is the financial support for nonresident tuition, which hinders recruitment of high caliber students from outside state or country. Faculty members are reluctant to make a long-term financial commitment unless they have multi-year grants. New avenues to support graduate students with nonresident tuitions need to be explored. 

Indicators of success

  • Number of graduate students (especially PhD students)
  • Student honors, awards, scholarships, fellowships
  • Number of peer-reviewed journal publications by graduate students
  • Funding (from industry, state, and federal agencies) to support graduate students
  • Post degree placement of graduate students
  • Number of presentations by graduate students at national and international meetings

Action items

  • Intensify our efforts in advertising the BAEG graduate program
  • Provide travel funds to faculty to recruit at other institutions
  • Increase graduate course offerings in the department
  • Provide travel funds to high quality applicants for campus visits
  • Alleviate requirements for engineering course credits to attract students in broad majors
  • Establish department research/teaching assistantships as bridging support for highly competent students when faculty do not have upfront funds or run out funds over the course of training
  • Encourage PhD students to publish and apply to jobs in academia as his/her career
  • Encourage students to apply for grants, awards, fellowships, etc. 

 

Goal 5 – Deliver High Impact Extension, Technical Transfer and Outreach Program in sustainable water, food, energy and related systems

The BAEG’s Extension, Technical Transfer, Non-traditional Education, and Outreach Program is to provide technical knowledge, enhance technology transfer, develop intellectual properties, and support and educate the citizens of Arkansas, farming communities, equipment manufacturers, government agencies, and environmental groups regarding the needs of water, food and energy sustainability in Arkansas and the world. The mission of this program is closely reflecting the mission of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture laid out in the Division’s Strategic Plan. To accomplish this mission is not solely the responsibility of the faculty with predominant Cooperative Extension Service appointments, but rather is shared by the entire BAEG community because solving real-world problems requires a synthesis of expertise from engineering, sciences, and management; and joint efforts of research, education and extension. Our strategy will continue to rely on extension engineers to identify problems in water, food, and energy sustainability related to agricultural, rural, and urban environment. We will take a team approach with support from the departmental, Division, and University faculty and our constituencies to solve the identified problems. We will continue to improve the access of our clientele to the broad range of expertise available from the BAEG as a whole so that they can address their problems effectively and efficiently.

Indicators of success

  • Participation in development and utilization of Division of Agriculture education materials
  • Grants, contracts, gifts, and other resources secured (total and per equivalent faculty FTE)
  • Adoption of technology and practices and behavioral changes by clientele
  • Water and energy uses, food safety, and greenhouse gas reduction in food and fiber production by farmers as a result of education and technology transfer
  • Collaborations with governmental agency, industry, environmental, and public representatives in dealing with issues in resource use
  • Number of extension outcomes that generate impacts

Action items

  • Conduct SWOT analysis of extension programs, productivity, and impacts
  • Provide support for improving quality of proposals such as participating in grant writing workshops and utilizing grant writing support staff
  • Enhance collaborations and communications between extension, research, and teaching faculty
  • Continue to adapt extension programs to meet stakeholders’ needs
  • Seek extension faculty and support positions for BAEG priority areas
  • Transfer research based information out to stakeholders through extension outlets
  • Provide travel support for faculty to develop multi-institutional, multi-state extension collaborations

 

Goal 6 – Improve Faculty/Staff Development

Faculty are the critical resource necessary for the department’s current function and future growth. The BAEG’s Faculty/Staff Development Program is to support the institutional needs of DOA and COE, and to encourage the professional growth of the faculty and staff. To improve the functionality of the existing faculty, the department will support opportunities of professional development and improvement in research, teaching, and extension for all incumbent faculty members. In the meantime, acquisition of new positions will be the first and foremost priority in the department strategic investment. In parallel to the recruitment of new faculty members, development and retention of outstanding faculty and staff in the department will be equally important. The current mentoring mechanism for junior faculty will be strengthened and implemented.  

Indicators of success:

  • Number of professional development events, CPD, PE licensure and certification, attended per FTE for faculty and staff
  • Number of OCDA pursued by faculty
  • Number of staff receiving continuing education, advanced degrees, and training
  • Number of faculty promoted and/or tenured
  • Number of faculty under active mentoring program

Action items

  • Provide funds to each faculty member to attend professional conferences, CPD, workshops, symposia of their choosing (one event per year, domestic only, funds cannot be used for other purposes)
  • Pursue revenues and/or opportunities to facilitate faculty/staff professional growth
  • Encourage faculty members to take sabbatical leaves (if schedule allows) to improve/expand research capacities
  • Support professional development opportunities not only in specific fields of faculty expertise, but also in a broader spectrum, including international activities, leadership, team-building, ethics and integrity, and diversity

BAE Strategic Plan - Pdf