Five CAFNR programs receive Program of Distinction designation

The five new programs met rigorous criteria to earn the prestigious designation.

Five research programs are joining the ranks of MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) Programs of Distinction, a designation that points to programs that help define CAFNR’s impact on Missouri’s agricultural and natural resources economies and provide understanding for how CAFNR is addressing the challenges presented in our state.

These five programs have met a rigorous set of criteria to join the ranks of the existing seven Programs of Distinction. These are research, teaching and extension programs that stand out among the many nationally and internationally recognized programs within CAFNR and align with the college’s Drive to Distinction — its five-year strategic plan.

“Each of these programs is highly-deserving of this honor,” said Shibu Jose, CAFNR associate dean for research. “I am continually amazed and incredibly proud of the work of our faculty, staff and students here in CAFNR. The faculty leading these programs exemplify a drive to answer questions and solve problems faced by Missourians and beyond, and I am thankful for their dedication and the legacies they are building.”

The newly designated Programs of Distinction are:

  • The Center for Regenerative Agriculture, directed by Rob Myers, extension professor, Division of Plant Science and Technology
    The mission of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture is to catalyze resilient and equitable food and agricultural systems that improve the health, vitality and prosperity of farmers and their communities. The emergence of regenerative agriculture responds to the pressing need for sustainable, equitable and resilient food systems amidst climate challenges. Originating from efforts at the University of Missouri, the Center for Regenerative Agriculture, established in 2021, pioneers research, education and extension initiatives. It focuses on cover crops, soil health, livestock grazing and other conservation practices, aiming to transform agricultural practices. The center collaborates with  the MU Center for Agroforestry and diverse stakeholders, including farmers, landowners and companies, to disseminate knowledge and foster community prosperity.
  • The Center for Tree Ring Science (CTRS), directed by Michael C. Stambaugh, associate professor, School of Natural Resources
    CTRS, initiated in 1968 and recognized as a research center in 2021, conducts multidisciplinary research spanning various fields including natural resources, climatology, archaeology and more. Its scholarly accomplishments include over 150 published papers and technical reports, along with extensive tree-ring and fire history data archives. The program’s impact extends to informing environmental and global climate change discussions, aiding in natural resource management decisions and supporting economic development through ecosystem management and wood-related research. Recognized nationally and internationally, it collaborates with entities like the U.S. Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy, providing valuable data and expertise for informed decision-making and advancing scientific understanding.
  • Financial Research Institute (FRI), directed by Michael Sykuta, associate professor, Division of Applied Social Sciences
    Established in 1988, FRI specializes in applied financial research focusing on regulated public utilities, particularly those regulated by the Missouri Public Service Commission. Recognized nationally, FRI collaborates with industry leaders and regulatory associations, facilitating effective regulatory policy through forums, symposiums and executive education programs. Its annual Public Utility Symposium draws industry professionals and features top-level executives and regulators. FRI has expanded to offer executive education, webinars and a leadership institute. With a recent administrative relocation, FRI aims to enhance research capacity and academic programs while maintaining industry partnerships. Funded by industry sponsorships and registration fees, FRI seeks additional grant funding for scholarly research. FRI addresses regulatory policies impacting economic development, human health and environmental quality.
  • Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership (GICL), directed by Keri Jacobs, associate professor and Robert D. Partridge Chair in Cooperative Leadership, Division of Applied Social Sciences
    GICL’s rich history rooted in agriculture, serving farmers and their patron-owned entities since 1971. Originally established to address a need for sophisticated governance and management training for agricultural cooperatives, GICL has evolved into a nationally recognized institution offering executive and emerging leader education. Its flagship programs, the Summer Institute and Board Chair & CEO Conference, attract industry professionals from around the globe. Steered by Mizzou faculty expertise, GICL remains committed to translating emerging knowledge in economics and management sciences to its audience. With over 2,600 alumni globally, GICL actively engages hundreds of cooperative directors annually. Aligned with CAFNR’s strategic priorities, GICL empowers rural communities and showcases CAFNR’s leadership in agricultural cooperatives. Supported by prominent industry partners, GICL continues to make a significant impact on agricultural cooperatives, the rural communities the serve and the agricultural sector nationally.
  • Missouri Climate Center (MCC), directed by Zachary Leasor, assistant professor, School of Natural Resources
    MCC, established in 1995, is a vital entity for atmospheric and climate science research and extension, serving Missouri’s agriculture and natural resources sectors. Led by Zack Leasor, the MCC coordinates and collects weather observations, produces value-added climate products, monitors climate change, and applies research tools to predict climatic changes and their impacts. Through flagship programs like the Missouri Mesonet, the MCC provides real-time weather data and valuable tools for agriculture, receiving millions of website visits annually. With a strong history of grant acquisition and publications, the MCC has made significant impacts in climate monitoring, research and outreach, and is recognized nationally as an American Association of State Climatologists Recognized State Climate Office. Collaborations with state agencies and partners demonstrate the MCC’s crucial role in addressing weather-related challenges.