Letter from the Director - June 2016

June, 2016

Global Grand Challenges and Darwin

As we continue our march into the 21st century with all of its global grand challenges nipping at our heels, we might take some time to pause and reflect on the words of Darwin. “those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” It is far less about the survival of the fittest and much more about collaboration in the face of challenge. In Darwin’s words: "...those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."

This will be my last One to One letter as co-director of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety. It has been a good run and the capstone job of my career.  The impact of the Center’s programs and activities, have been enormous and they’ve resulted not from the actions of one person, but rather from the collaborative effort of many partners.  

For me, one of the most compelling activities of the Center is building capacity. This is more than building technical expertise. It means building relationship skills that foster collaboration and the ability to improvise around issues that matter; issues that are simply too complex to be solved with technical solutions.

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of co-teaching a course on Leadership to Address Global Grand Challenges: Focus on Food Systems.  Graduate students from three colleges, multiple disciplines, and several cultures came together to learn and practice the skills they will need to be adaptive and resilient in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The innovation I observed from this small group of students in the space of one week around global grand challenges was indeed impressive; and this was just the tip of the iceberg of center activities that are making a difference.  Let us not forget that innovation in the face of global challenge is about expanding the number and diversity of our interactions and remembering how to listen.  

Linda Valeri
Director of Operations
Center for Animal Health and Food Safety