Ag deans paint bleak budget picture

Dan Bernardo Matthew Weaver/Capital Press Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences Dean Dan Bernardo addresses the budget situation during the session.

Agriculture will remain a top priority at Washington State University after its provost, a former leader of the agricultural college, departs next spring, he says.

Washington State University provost Dan Bernardo announced last week his decision to leave once a replacement is found, slated for the end of the spring semester.

Bernardo served as dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences from 2005 to 2013, before moving into the provost position.

“Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a couple signals from my body that I might need to slow down a little bit,” Bernardo, 60, told the Capital Press. “This is a job that requires a tremendous amount of effort and energy and I just feel that energy waning a little bit.”

Part of the process in selecting a new provost will be finding someone who respects WSU’s mission as a land-grant university with strong agricultural programs, Bernardo said.

Bernardo praised current CAHNRS Dean Andre-Denis Wright and WSU President Kirk Schulz.

“I think it’s safe to say the food and agriculture industry will remain a high priority for Washington State University,” he said.

After his replacement comes on board, Bernardo will work part-time, about 60 percent of his current workload, averaging three days a week. He will serve as a special assistant to Schulz on various projects that would require “constant administrative attention.”

“Some of those are projects that I have within my scope now, but unfortunately, I have about 15 of those balls I’m trying to juggle,” Bernardo said. “This would allow me to take three or four of them and some others the president might have and just dedicate my attention to those.”

The projects for Schulz would likely not have an agricultural connection, he said.

“If there’s opportunities or needs, I’m always there to help,” he said.

Bernardo recalls his time as dean fondly. He said Wright has the best job at WSU.

“I can probably say that better than anybody, because I’ve had just about every job at (WSU),” he said with a laugh. “Whatever I can do to support (Wright), the college and the industry, I’ll certainly be there for them.”

Bernardo also filled in as interim president for a year upon the death of Elson Floyd in 2015 until Schulz was hired. The years as dean of the agricultural college were the highlight of Bernardo’s professional life, he said, crediting industry support and relationships with farmers that he says make Washington the envy of just about every other state.

“When you think about a lot of the fractured relationships that we inherited, where we’ve come over the last two decades is truly amazing,” he said. “I just appreciate so much the producers particularly, because that was instrumental. That was the defining achievement, certainly, in my tenure in CAHNRS.”

Field Reporter, Spokane

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