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Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" album cover

A Dylanesque look at what lies ahead for two colleges:

bringing a little poetry to strategic planning

By Chuck Muscoplat and Carla Carlson

Published on October 19, 2005

(Editor's note: College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences (COAFES) colleagues Chuck Muscoplat, vice president and dean, and Carla Carlson, assistant vice president for agricultural policy, wrote the following essay for Perspectives, COAFES' electronic newsletter. They speak to the changes coming as part of strategic planning and the transformation of the University, specifically the integration of the College of Natural Resources and COAFES into a new, expanded college.)

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "There are two classes of poets--the poets by education and practice, these we respect; and the poets by nature, these we love."

Our own North Country poet that so many of us (of a certain age) love is Bob Dylan. The recent broadcasts of the Martin Scorsese's film biography No Direction Home was a nostalgic reminder for us of our youth and of living through contemporary history--the Cuban missile crisis ("A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall") and the 1963 march on Washington, with Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In." We'll leave it to others to debate the genre of Dylan's work, but his lyrics are indeed poetry, and some, "The Times They Are A-Changin," in particular, served as a rallying point for young people of the 1960s. Now, nearly 45 years after Minnesota-born Dylan first sang that song, we continue to live in changing and unpredictable times. Hurricanes and more hurricanes in the Gulf states. Heavy rains and mudslides in Guatemala. Earthquakes in Pakistan. Malnutrition and poverty the world over. The political debates over health care and education and energy policy in this country and many others. Each day, these issues and more are before us. And each day, at this University, our students are before us. We in the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences and our colleagues across this University are intent upon providing the highest quality education for our students. Students are the solutions for the future. Yet, we take Dylan's lyrics from "The Times They Are A-Changin'" as a sobering reminder of our responsibility to these students:

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'. Now, this college and this University are in the midst of great change. Collegiate and departmental structures will change. Campuses will change. Old ways will change. When your instinct is to resist change--to stand squarely blocking the new road--remember why we are about change. It is for the sons and daughters. It is for the highest quality, research-based education that this institution can provide to them. They are the new agents of change.

There will not be a College of Natural Resources. There will not be a College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences. Something new is unfolding:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'....

This story is yet to be written. But it will include wisdom over ignorance, future over past, swiftness over stall. It will be written by the young and those not yet born.

And, for the scholars and teachers and mentors, there is the legacy of the science of a single cell, the dwarf spring wheat that saved millions in India and Pakistan, the wind that makes energy, all manner of discovery...that's poetry, too.

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