Inspiring Ideas: College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

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Innovative teaching. Encouraging demeanor. A passion for the subject. Contagious enthusiasm. All of these traits help inspire students to great ideas. Here are two faculty members from the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources whose teaching, research, and community service are both inspired and inspiring.

Brad Collett

Just thirteen years ago, Brad Collett was an honors student at UT, working on his bachelor’s degree in ornamental horticulture and landscape design.

He’s now an assistant professor of plant sciences and interim chair of UT’s graduate Landscape Architecture Program.

“I always had thought that at some point in my career I would seek an opportunity to share my passion for landscape architecture with aspiring professionals,” he said. “To have the opportunity to do this here at UT, a place about which I am equally passionate, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Collett joined the faculty in 2011 to help grow the new master’s degree in landscape architecture, an interdisciplinary program of the College of Architecture and Design and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

He brought to the position a broad professional experience gained from six years as a senior associate at a firm in Orlando, Florida. There, he managed master planning and landscape architecture projects and helped direct the firm’s sustainable design initiatives.

“What inspired me as student in the landscape design program is quite similar to what now drives me as a member of the landscape architecture faculty—a passionate belief that through responsible planning of landscapes and creative, innovative design of the built environment, we can have a profound impact on quality of life and the sustainability of natural resources,” Collett said.

Collett said he arrived at UT in 1997 without any idea of what field he wanted to study. He credits the insight of “excellent undergraduate advisors” who helped him discover and cultivate his interests.

“I am so grateful to these individuals who recognized my interests in service to the community, environmental sciences, and creative arts that are fundamental to the profession of landscape architecture,” he said.

He earned his master’s in landscape architecture from The Ohio State University in 2004.

UT’s Landscape Architecture Program began in 2008 after years of work from the campus community and professionals across the state. The Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB) granted the program full accreditation last August, making it the only accredited landscape architecture program in the state.

“Brad Collett has been extraordinary in galvanizing the combined efforts of faculty, staff, and students to get the landscape architecture program accredited. The commitment of the leadership and level of excellence displayed by this relatively young program were lauded by the visiting team,” said Caula Beyl, dean of the college.

Collett said the accreditation means a bright future for the program.

“We seek to continue to grow our program by attracting even more exceptional and passionate students,” he said.

The program’s faculty and students have been a part of several inspiring outreach programs and collaborations such as the New Norris House, the Living Light house, and Plan East Tennessee, a regional community planning initiative.

“Brad also has supported a culture of service learning with students engaged in providing input on storm water issues in Knoxville and Knox County, thus positively impacting our community,” Beyl said.

Brad and his wife, Nicki, have two young children and enjoy visiting family in Ohio and North Carolina.

Lannett Edwards

From funny videos to group competitions and love songs, Lannett Edwards inspires the laughs that lead to learning.

The animal science professor’s unique approach to teaching reproduction has left her students with fond memories.

“I never knew there were so many country songs that could be related to reproduction—and Dr. Edwards used them all,” noted former student Elizabeth Johnson. “I still can’t listen to Brad Paisely’s Waiting on a Woman, without thinking of sperm sitting in the oviduct waiting on the follicle to ovulate.”

Professor Edwards teaches graduate seminars and reproductive physiology to undergraduates and directs the department’s graduate studies.

She enjoys finding different approaches to delivering the many scientific facts. And her students enjoy how much effort she puts into it.

“Each new lecture she teaches is a blank canvas waiting to be turned into a masterpiece of knowledge and enthusiasm for a science,” said Johnson, who is now studying to be a veterinarian.

Edwards enjoys guiding her students.

“I want to teach the undergrads that they can accomplish anything if they make the effort,” she said. “The graduate level is more about the content and realizing that everything they are learning is meaningful and to not get so caught up in the nitpicky details. It really is about agriculture, where they fit in, and how it will open doors for them.”

“Lannett Edwards is not only a talented and innovative teacher, but she also has helped to develop a much needed course in research ethics for the life sciences, a topic of great national interest for graduate students,” Beyl said. “As the graduate director for animal science, she has instituted a set of best practices focused on tracking progression of students toward degree completion that has become a model for the college.”

Edwards earned a bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University, a master’s degree from Mississippi State University, and a doctorate from the University of Florida.

A postdoctoral fellowship with the US Department of Agriculture gave her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with researcher Ian Wilmut in Edinburgh, Scotland. He led the team that successfully cloned the sheep, Dolly, who was the first mammal cloned from an adult cell.

Just a few years later, in 2000, Edwards and her husband, Neal Schrick, also made international news by successfully cloning Milly, a Jersey cow, at UT. Schrick, professor of animal science, is now department head.

Edwards grew up in rural Houston County, Tennessee. She was a 4-Her and learned the value of hard work from her dairy-farming grandparents.

“I loved that type of life, the hard work and the getting up early aspect,” she said. “I grew up with those agricultural influences and appreciating where food comes from, especially dairy.”

Edwards hopes to share the same simple pleasures with her children, Laney, age ten, and Tyler, twelve. They are developing a small farm in Sevier County.

And while she’s inspired so many students, she can’t point to just one source of inspiration. Her mom motivates and guides her through her challenging career and busy life.

She also still thinks a lot about Dolly, the sheep, and how she set the course for her research.

“Even after her death, Dolly reminds me that the impossible is possible.”

C O N T A C T :

Karen Simsen (865-974-5186, karen.simsen@utk.edu)

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