Looking back, moving forward

It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since Dr. Christy Bratcher took the helm as director of AUFSI. What challenges has she faced, and what experiences as director have been most rewarding? Keep reading to find out.

How did you initially feel when you found out (over a year ago) that you were chosen as director?
I was excited for the opportunity to help others get more research funding and disseminate their research, but nervous about continuing my faculty job responsibilities in addition to being director.

What do you see as AUFSI’s main role within the university?
I see our role as promoting the research enterprise, whether it’s putting together interdisciplinary teams or disseminating research through media outlets. When you can get information to the media, it gains more recognition for researchers and in turn brings in more research opportunities.

What has been the most rewarding part of this job?
I would say working with a variety of different people outside of my normal research partners and just having more opportunities, including more personal opportunities because I interact with more people. Also, I’m learning about people doing research in areas like aquaponics … I’ve been able to see more areas of research, especially within College of Agriculture, but in other colleges, too.

What has been the most challenging?
The balancing act has been the most challenging part – continuing my same teaching load and even picking up some classes, continuing with my research, and helping others with their research programs.

What have you learned about yourself through this director’s position?
I’ve learned I need to tackle problems as they arise instead of waiting for them to resolve themselves…. I’ve also learned that my natural conflict management style is just ignoring (the problem), and that’s not the way to be a good leader. I have begun being more proactive instead of procrastinating because now other people’s jobs rely on me… I have to respect their working hours and get things done at a reasonable time instead of continuing with my own previous middle-of-the-night working hours.

What new projects or opportunities for collaboration are on the horizon for you and AUFSI?  ​
I think there is an exciting opportunity for a “leafy greens” working group/partnership with Western Growers and U.S. Foods in response to the recent food safety concerns with romaine lettuce, in particular. A representative from U.S. Foods reached out to me and seems interested in me providing CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) expertise as it relates to safely growing leafy greens. I would also like to work with Auburn’s RFID (radiofrequency identification) lab as well as the Hunger Solutions Institute in the College of Human Sciences. Of course, we want to continue our strong partnerships with our Obesity, Aquaponics, Salmonella, and Antimicrobial Resistance Working Groups….we have stayed very busy writing grants for these groups this year, and I’m looking forward to finding out which ones were funded.

What is your goal for the upcoming affiliate faculty luncheon on Sept. 12? 
I am excited to get the faces of our staff in front of more faculty members so we can not only get familiar with more research programs but the faculty members can get more familiar with us. I want them to feel comfortable reaching out to us.