Had you told a young Ronnie Green that one day he would be standing before his colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a finalist to lead his institution, he would have, in his words, “thought you were crazy.”
So for Green, who grew up on a beef and dairy farm in southwest Virginia and who was the first in his family to earn a college degree, being a candidate to become UNL’s 20th chancellor admittedly feels a bit strange.
“Surreal is the word I’d use to describe it,” he said. “You kind of … ask, ‘How did this happen and how did we get here?’”
Green is vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Nebraska, vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at UNL. On March 3 he met with faculty, staff, and students in a series of open forums; research faculty and public forums are March 4. Provide feedback on Green’s forums here.
Green has been on the animal science faculties of Texas Tech and Colorado State, and as the national program leader for animal production research for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. He also was executive secretary of the White House’s interagency working group on animal genomics within the National Science and Technology Council, where he was one of the principal leaders in the international bovine, porcine and ovine genome sequencing projects. Prior to coming to UNL in 2010, Green was senior global director of technical services for Pfizer Animal Health’s animal genomics business.
He used his life story to illustrate the transformational power of a college education. But still, nearly six years after returning to UNL, where he earned his doctorate in the 1980s, he said it’s still hard for him to fully grasp the opportunities he’s received in higher education. The fourth and final chancellor finalist, Green said he wasn’t thinking about the job when he was approached about applying to replace current Chancellor Harvey Perlman, who plans to step down later this year.
But as he and his family began discussing the possibility and what he felt he might be able to contribute to UNL at this point in its history, Green realized that it was a “no-brainer” to throw his hat in the ring.
He sees a good university – good in areas, great in others and potentially great in still others, with a state that is behind it. And he sees a university that has the opportunity to be “much, much better” over the next decade, and should see itself as such.
“We are underestimating where we can be,” he said. “… We need to be a distinctive university in the Big Ten.”
Green suggested strategic growth, encouraging the university to consider growing enrollment to 35,000 students by 2025 – but carefully considering in what areas and levels the student body should and would need to grow.
He further advocated for doubling the university’s research expenditures, including through increased collaboration with the University of Nebraska Medical Center – which he referred to as “also a flagship campus” in the NU system, along with UNL – to reach $800 million in expenditures in the next 10 years. UNL and UNMC currently combine for $407 million.
He also shared goals of raising academic rigor, considering more partnerships in the private sector and approaching student affairs and academic affairs so it recognizes student development in and out of the classroom. All the while, he said, it is important to remain deeply connected to the state of Nebraska.
“Not every Big Ten school is still rooted heavily in its state,” he said.
NU System President Hank Bounds will make the final selection of the next UNL chancellor, subject to approval by the NU Board of Regents. Detailed and updated information on the chancellor search is available here.
University of Nebraska system officials are encouraging the UNL community to attend the forums and share its feedback on the finalists. Click here to submit thoughts on Green’s visit.
To review the finalists’ campus visits, click here.