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Ohio State’s new animal sciences chair lays out priorities
The new chair of Ohio State University’s Department of Animal Sciences has only been in his position for a month but already has a long list of areas that he wants to focus on.
“This is a pretty unique opportunity with Ohio State University being a great institution and Ohio having a large population and the breadth of agriculture in the state. The value added industry in Ohio is exciting,” said Dr. Ronald Kensinger, the new animal sciences chair.
Kensinger, who started at the beginning of January, most recently served as department head and professor of the Department of Animal Sciences at Oklahoma State University.
Previously he was professor of animal nutrition/physiology and associate director of the Intercollege Graduate Program in Nutrition at Penn State University. He has a bachelor’s degree in animal science and master’s in dairy science from the University of Illinois-Urbana and a doctorate in animal science from the University of Florida.
“I’ve spent many years in Big 10 institutions and there’s a certain quality and excitement in the Big 10 schools,” he said. “Ohio State has outstanding students and faculty and is a large Tier 1 research institution.”
The college has identified key areas important to the general public and needs to continue working on them, he said. Those areas include research, biofuels and high fiber materials, animal welfare and Extension.
He said Extension is looking for ways to closer align itself with the state’s agriculture industry and still maintain its independence as is being done with its inserts in issues of Buckeye Farm News.
Another priority area is finding ways to keep food reasonably priced and healthy.
“One billion citizens go to bed hungry and 2 billion show signs of iron deficiency or anemia, and it’s importantto get safe food to the people who need it,” he said.
Kensinger said a personal goal is to have the college focus more on genetics and molecular genetics.
“Genetic markers are being used more and more, and we need to be training students in this area to match where the industry is going,” he said.
Kensinger’s short-term goals are to increase funding in the scholarship fund and consolidate some of the undergraduate and teaching programs and out-of-classroom experiences. He said Ohio State will keep farm facilitiesnear the main campus and not shift the entire operation to its Wooster facility because “it’s too darn far.”
“There’s no question. We will not move our entire operation to Wooster,” he said. “To have a consistent teaching program, you have to have facilities within driving distance.”
Replacing or improving the university’s farm facilities, in particular swine, is Kensinger’s long-term goal.
He noted that a building used for beef cattle collapsed last year at the farm near Don Scott Airport and needs to be replaced.
Ohio State’s agriculture students need to be more willing to interact with consumers about how food is produced, he said.
“When I was growing up, I admired the farmers as great stewards of the land and water and am surprised today by the amount of criticism. While some of the complaints are valid, we are just one part of the equation,” he said. “We have got to produce students who are more articulate and more worldly and can communicate to the public why we do the things we do.”
Kensinger, who has lived in five states, said he was impressed with Ohio’s agricultural community.
“I’ve never been in a state where so many different ag commodity groups get along and work together so well. I think Ohio Farm Bureau leadership has played a role in that and am looking to be a good friend of Ohio Farm Bureau,” he said.