Prepared by: Ralph Richardson, DVM, is dean of the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine. He can be contacted at 785-532-5660 or firstname.lastname@example.org
OPINION: NBAF IS A PERFECT FIT FOR A COLLEGE TOWN
MANHATTAN -- Much has been written about the advantages and disadvantages of locating the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, on the mainland of the United States. Further discussions have been held about the pros and cons of locating this facility in Kansas, near our nation's epicenter for beef production.
One point of agreement by all interested parties is that the United States does need a new, advanced facility to replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. What have not been central to most public discussions are the reasons why a college town like Manhattan, Kan., and a university like Kansas State University create an ideal setting for the NBAF.
As a result of federal support, K-State has a long and rich history for addressing the needs of agriculture. We have a responsibility to hold true to that heritage. Originally named Kansas State Agricultural College, K-State is one of the first -- if not the first -- land-grant institutions created under the Morrill Act of 1862. Land-grant universities are institutions of higher education that have been designated by each state to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. These acts support the liberal and practical education of working classes of people with an express emphasis on agriculture, military tactics, the mechanical arts and home economics.
The mission of the land-grant universities was expanded by the Hatch Acts of 1887, which provided federal funds to states to establish a series of agricultural experiment stations under the direction of each state's land-grant college. What greater academic heritage could we wish for to support the bio- and agro-defense needs of our country?
Top-notch research faculty members are attracted to universities where good science, modern facilities and a supportive environment exist. K-State has been known as a great place to work for nearly 150 years and, particularly in the past decade, has become known as one of the leading institutions in the country where scientists can pursue research in food safety, infectious diseases, animal health and productivity, and public health.
As a result of focusing on these important areas of research, K-State is already attracting outstanding faculty members to campus. Since 1999, the number of scientists working in these areas has increased from about 125 to more than 150.
One of the university's newest faculty members is Juergen Richt, a specialist in emerging viral diseases, who moved to K-State from his former position as lead scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Disease Center and has been named as a Regents Distinguished Professor by the Kansas Board of Regents, a Kansas Eminent Scholar in Animal Health by the Kansas Bioscience Authority, and lead investigator of the animal facility for K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute, or BRI, in Pat Roberts Hall.
Although they would not be traditional faculty members, NBAF researchers in Manhattan -- coupled with the animal health and comparative medicine work forces associated with the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, the medical schools of Kansas City and the K-State Olathe Innovation Campus -- will create a critical mass of scientists that will catapult K-State to the world's hub of animal health and food safety investigators. Such outstanding researchers and teachers will make K-State a better academic institution and Manhattan a better community. Because prospective faculty members want to be part of a progressive program, future faculty recruitment will be enhanced.
Students are the reason universities exist, and K-State is home to some of the best and the brightest. If you don't believe that, just ask President Jon Wefald about K-State's Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater and Udall scholarship winners. Preparing students to address the agricultural and biological threats that face our world fits well with the educational mission of K-State. Whether they are undergraduate, graduate or professional students, they come from around the world and, at least for a while, make Manhattan their home.
Why do they come? The reasons are many, but signature programs are key factors in attracting and retaining outstanding students. Already the BRI has brought great recognition to K-State and has increased student interest in infectious disease research and public health. With the NBAF, K-State students will be even more aware that important research is going on in our community. With that increased awareness, some will be drawn into careers that will make them educators or research scientists, and make them more engaged in biosecurity programs for their communities, states, our nation and the world. In addition, access to federal laboratories and role-model researchers will be markedly enhanced, particularly compared to the current ability to gain access to the scientists and aging facilities at Plum Island.
The next generation of scientists will emerge from a background that understands agriculture, animal diseases and food production. K-State graduates will have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this wave of work force development. When they leave our community, K-State graduates will help make this world a better place.
Great faculty members, fantastic students, outstanding programs and facilities -- what more could anyone ask for to make a wonderful university and community even better? The NBAF will elevate Manhattan's commitment to education and create an environment that will make it an even more wonderful place to live. Generating new knowledge through research, enhancing opportunities through education, and building programs that meet societal needs are foundational responsibilities for land-grant institutions. The NBAF needs to be located in close proximity to a major university, and I cannot think of a better one than Kansas State University.