Teaching the science of brewing

Man stands in barley.
Matt McCarroll, director of the Fermentation Science Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, stands in a field of barley planted on university property last fall in anticipation of a new malting facility to be delivered to the FSI this year. The malting facility is just one of several major new developments at the fledgling program, which is aimed at training the professional brewers, vintners and distillers of tomorrow for key jobs in those growing industries. (Photo by Steve Buhman)

SIU’s mission statement covers a broad range of aspirations and goals. Whenever possible, we should design our programs, courses and extracurricular offerings to fulfill multiple aspects of this complex statement.

Today, I would like to talk about a particular program that blends different facets of our mission while still being relevant to the interests of modern college students: the Fermentation Science Institute.

This institute offers students the opportunity to learn about the business, process and science of creating beer, wine and spirits as well as foods that rely on the fermentation process. Now, I know many potential students may stop reading right there. “Beer? Sign me up!” At the same time, many parents may worry about how intensive or practical a bachelor’s degree in fermentation may be.

Multidisciplinary program rigorous and innovative

I would caution both groups to stop and take a serious look at our fermentation science program. It is intensive and interdisciplinary, involving faculty from the College of Science, College of Agricultural Sciences, School of Medicine and the College of Engineering.

Faculty and students in the program not only learn the ins and outs of creating delicious brews and managing a business, but they also actively participate in both hands-on practical and theoretical research.

Growing industry offers a range of job prospects

Jobs in this field are growing as interest in local and craft beer, wine and spirits has increased.

In January, The Atlantic explored the ways craft breweries have revamped an entire sector of the economy. In that article, the author cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the explosive growth of brewery jobs: “Between 2008 and 2016, the number of brewery establishments expanded by a factor of six, and the number of brewery workers grew by 120 percent.”

Career prospects for graduates are strong and expected to continue growing in the future.

Partnerships create economic boost

As I said earlier, the Fermentation Science Institute touches on multiple aspects of our mission statement, delivering on the promise of innovation in research and creativity and outstanding teaching focused on nurturing student success. In addition, it has tremendous potential to serve as a regional economic catalyst.

We recently announced that the institute hopes to add a production-scale brewery, which will help local craft brewers bring their creations to market while providing hands-on educational opportunities for students.

In addition, the service lab allows local fermentation-based businesses to access laboratory and analytical services from SIU and technical assistance for growers and producers.

This is just one of the many programs that will help SIU thrive as the economy grows and changes in the 21st Century. I hope you are as excited as I am to see what they have in store.

The benefits of attending a research university

Just in case you haven’t noticed, SIU has amazing students. Our mission is to give them equally amazing opportunities to contribute to the discovery of new knowledge through research and creative activities.

One way we support student research is through REACH grants and Tedrick Undergraduate Research Fellowships. These competitive grant programs provide undergraduate students with funding to complete research and creative projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

More than 30 students earn grants

Yesterday, we announced that more than 30 students have won these prestigious undergraduate research grants and will begin work on their projects this fall.

The topics of their projects are wide-ranging and impressive. Here are just a few:

  • “Arsenic Filtration from Contaminated Water”
  • “Veterans and Their Reintegration to Civilian Lifestyle: The Roles of Communities and Recreational Activities”
  • “Flash Drought in the United States: Drivers, Causes, and Predictability”
  • “Units: An Exploration of Modular Construction”
  • “Use of Combined DHF and Environmental Enrichment in the Treatment of Pediatric Frontal Brain Injury”
  • “Modulation of Bone Marrow Functions During Salmonella typhimurium Infection”

I encourage you to learn more about the proposals from these remarkable students. Each of them — as well as other students across campus who engage in research and creative efforts in our laboratories, classrooms and other facilities — will gain experience that will make them more competitive and successful after they graduate.

A personalized experience

Opportunities like the REACH grants and Tedrick fellowships demonstrate the value of attending a research university. Our students benefit from hands-on, experiential learning mentored by nationally and internationally recognized faculty. And they don’t get lost as they might at a larger institution. This is why I continue to say that SIU stands out because we can provide an elite, personalized private university experience at a public university cost.

We cannot do this without the commitment of our faculty and the support of our friends. The new Tedrick fellowships, for example, are possible thanks to a generous donation from SIU alumni Roger and Sally Tedrick.

I know you share my thanks to the Tedricks and my pride in our students.

Statement on July 16, 2018, meeting of the SIU Board of Trustees

As I have said in the past, I believe that system leadership questions were between the board and the president. I am pleased these questions have been resolved.

I look forward to working with Dr. Dorsey, our colleagues at Edwardsville and the Board of Trustees to reinforce and build on the strengths of the SIU system and its campuses.

I also look forward to continuing the acceleration of the advancement of SIU Carbondale in collaboration with our strong faculty, staff, alumni, friends and community members. While there is work to be done, we have much to be proud of. I look forward to celebrating past achievements and future directions when we mark our 150th anniversary next year.

Moving forward on a new academic structure

On Tuesday, the Faculty Senate approved RMEs, or program change plans, for six proposed new schools, another step forward in the revitalization of our academic structure. The schools are:

  • Applied Engineering and Technology.
  • Biological Sciences.
  • Computing.
  • Earth Systems and Sustainability.
  • Health Sciences.
  • Psychology and Behavioral Sciences.

A special senate committee that is conducting initial reviews of the program change plans has asked the provost’s office for more information or modifications related to four other plans.

I greatly appreciate the time and effort that faculty members have invested in their thoughtful review of the program change plans. I am also grateful for the work of the provost’s office under the leadership of Interim Provost Meera Komarraju, who has been shepherding the process since her appointment in April.

We have posted an update of where each school is in the process, and we will also post an update on the full structure as it stands, even as it continues to evolve, in the days ahead.

Continuing our revitalization efforts

While there are important steps still ahead of us and we are still discussing several proposals submitted as alternatives, I’m pleased that through this collaborative process, our re-envisioning of our academic programs is beginning to take shape.

Similarly, our other revitalization efforts, many outlined in April’s eight-month update, continue moving forward. A few examples:

  • We continue to work on the concept of a makerspace to support student research, innovation and creativity. Science Dean Scott Ishman is now leading the initiative.
  • We are also formalizing an e-sports, or electronic sports, initiative. E-sports are popular with students and provide opportunities for friendly competition on campus and with other institutions.
  • We continue to work on fall 2018 enrollment. About 250 new students are expected at Saturday’s freshman orientation, and active outreach and support continues for both admitted and returning students who have not yet registered for classes. While we know enrollment will be down, it will be down less than we anticipated eight months ago due to the diligence and efforts of the enrollment management and student affairs teams, as well as our faculty, staff and academic leaders in our departments, schools and colleges. The SIU Foundation and SIU Alumni Association also stepped forward, providing resources to support recruitment efforts. We continue to take every step possible to both to minimize the decline and position ourselves for future years.
  • In fact, all hands are also on deck to launch the recruitment cycle for fall 2019. We are deploying new strategies and materials and reinforcing everything we do. Open house numbers continue to rise, a signal that we are projecting a renewed energy at SIU. As I’ve said before, enrollment will not rebound overnight or even in a year, but we can make steady progress if we remain focused on our goals.
  • Finally, we are preparing to announce our fundraising results for fiscal year 2018. While I won’t spoil the announcement, I can share that donor support of SIU increased by about 25 percent over the previous year. I thank all of our alumni, friends, faculty and staff who demonstrate their confidence in SIU and support our students through their gifts.

Looking ahead

With so much happening in the world around us, it might be easy to become distracted from our mission. I remain confident that our outlook is positive and we have much to be proud of.

Every day, I learn about faculty whose work brings credit to our reputation and students who are finding success because of the many opportunities they find at SIU. These are the real stories that speak to who we are as a university. Please join me in telling them.

Making a difference in Southern Illinois

When faculty research leads to community impact, everyone benefits. Two grants provide strong examples of how research supported by external funding helps us fulfill our mission.

Helping STEM teachers

A recent grant from the National Science Foundation will help SIU continue to enhance the teaching of STEM subjects to junior high and high school students in Southern Illinois and beyond. SIU faculty from multiple disciplines will work with selected teachers, who will conduct summer research projects and participate in other professional development activities.

The newly trained “master teacher leaders” will in turn share their knowledge with other teachers, expanding the number of content experts in schools. The ultimate goal is to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and draw students into STEM fields.

Karen Renzaglia, plant biology, is principal investigator on the grant. Her co-investigators include SIU experts in plant biology, zoology, teacher leadership, effective STEM pedagogy and sustainability and environmental science.

Reducing gun violence

Tammy Kochel sits near her computer
Tammy Kochel, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, receives a grant in partnership with the Springfield Police Department to start a focused deterrence program. The program works to decrease gun-related violence in the community. (Photo by Steve Buhman)

A joint, three-year grant to SIU and the Springfield police department addresses gun violence through a “focused deterrence” program that can serve as a model for other communities. The goal is to connect with individuals who are past or potential gun offenders and help them find an alternative path.

In June, following a year of research and planning by Tammy Kochel of SIU’s criminology and criminal justice faculty and her students, eight individuals participated in an interventional meeting and heard first-hand about the impact of gun violence. At the end of the meeting, they were given resources to assist them.

“That might be getting a GED, help getting a job, daycare, housing, mental health, substance abuse — a whole range of possible services,” according to Dr. Kochel.

Improving communities

Both of these projects improve our communities through the creation and exchange of knowledge – helping us fulfill the promise of our mission statement. These are just two examples of the outstanding work our faculty members undertake every day on behalf of Southern Illinois.