Clutter reflects on his career and his leadership in agricultural research | Nebraska today
When Archie Clutter arrived at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a graduate student in 1981, his plan was to get a master’s degree in cattle farming and then return to the family farm in Iowa.
After arriving on East Campus and earning a master’s degree in beef cattle farming under Merlyn Nielsen, Clutter began exploring with Nielsen’s research to improve pig reproduction, including creating a colony of mice that they used to model litter size in pigs. He was also able to begin working with scientists in Nebraska and WE Meat Animal Research Center at the Clay Center.
He never returned to the farm. Eventually he sold the small herd of cattle he had maintained in Iowa and later earned his doctorate from Nebraska in 1986.
His time in Nebraska was the start of a successful career in genetics that spanned both academia and private industry and eventually brought Clutter back to the University of Nebraska, this time to serve dean and director of the university’s agricultural research division.
After 11 years at the helm ARDwhich is part of the university’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Clutter will retire at the end of 2022.
“When I first came back here in 2011, I thought, ‘I can walk around here and imagine it’s 1981,'” Clutter said.
Eleven years later, it’s harder to imagine the East Campus of 40 years ago. The campus has seen the construction of the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center, the Massengale Residential Center, and other construction projects, as well as major union and library renovations.
The Agricultural Research Division has also changed since 2011. Research funding has grown steadily over the past decade, culminating in nearly $71 million in externally sponsored research funding in the fiscal year. 2022 – the highest annual total in IANR the story. On average, externally sponsored search grew by 6% per year between 2013 and 2022.
“Under Dean Clutter’s leadership, our agricultural research division has increased its impact on improving food security and shaping a healthy global future,” said Chancellor Ronnie Green, who was vice-chancellor of IANR when Clutter became ARD Dean in 2011. “His commitment to science and collaboration were essential for the role, and he always lived up to it.”
As funding grew, Clutter and the ARD remained true to the university’s land-grant mission. Clutter and others ARD and IANR leaders have cultivated strong relationships with Nebraska farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders to listen to their ideas and challenges, and the division has invested in IANRat its three research, extension, and education centers across the state, as well as other research centers statewide. Clutter quickly established himself as someone willing to listen to growers, said Lisa Lunz, president of the Nebraska ag Agricultural Builders of Nebraska advocacy group.
“I appreciated Dr. Clutter’s focus on research that serves Nebraska, and his willingness to listen to stakeholders across the state on their ideas for moving agriculture forward,” Lunz said. “It was wonderful working with him, and I really want to thank him for his work with growers and others involved in Nebraska’s agriculture industry.”
Clutter first became aware of the strong relationship between IANR and the Nebraska State Agricultural Industry as a graduate student.
“It was unique among land-grant universities,” Clutter said. “I knew there was a lot of support here. I knew about state support for agriculture, and I knew about support for IANR.”
After completing his doctorate in 1986, Clutter returned to Iowa for a postdoctoral fellowship at Iowa State, where he worked on developing genetic improvement tools for dairy cattle. He has only been back in Iowa for a year, but he meets other young researchers whose paths he will continue to cross throughout his career.
“I met an incredible group of current and former students and post-docs during my time at UIS,” he said.
Among them was Mark Boggess, the director of WE Mark at Clay Center, and John Pollak, WE Mark‘s, who until recently led the university’s beef initiative now known as the Beef Innovation Hub.
In 1987, Clutter accepted a tenure-track position in the Department of Animal Science at Oklahoma State University. There he again studied pigs and looked specifically at the underlying genetic reasons for differences in appetite and food intake. He also taught courses, including an undergraduate genetics lecture that thousands of students attended during his 13 years in this position. Throughout his career, he has crossed paths with many former students who were introduced to genetics through this class.
His passion remained research, and in 2000 Clutter accepted a position as a swine genetics researcher at Monsanto. A few years later, Monsanto spun off its animal research division, which was taken over by a French company and became Choice Genetics. Clutter helped with the divestiture, then accepted a position as vice president of research and development at Choice. Through this process, he established laboratories, hired researchers, and managed the research division’s strategic priorities, which included improving poultry populations in addition to swine. These experiences prepared him for his next move.
Clutter loved being on a college campus, and he enjoyed both the breadth and the collaborative nature of academic research. He had fond memories of IANRand Ronnie Green, also a cattle geneticist whom Clutter had first met as a graduate student, had recently become the university’s vice chancellor for IANR. All of these factors drew Clutter to Nebraska.
Shortly after starting, Clutter joined Green and other IANR leaders who had begun to think about the most strategic way to increase their capacity by hiring new faculty members. They started to hire the IANR community in identifying challenges and opportunities related to agriculture and food systems that IANR is uniquely positioned to address needed expertise and current gaps in existing capabilities, all as a means of prioritizing new positions and building strong cross-disciplinary teams.
“We recognized early on that addressing the challenges of the future of food production and food security was going to require a systems approach, and through community discussions we were able to identify key faculty hires that were going to be needed. for us to have as much impact. as possible,” Clutter said. “It was a really unique way to look at hiring. It was unique then, and it’s still a unique approach.
A decade later, IANR still uses an evolving version of this model to strategize and drive hiring, and Clutter believes the approach has been a huge factor in ARDthe upward trajectory of and IANR‘s reputation for faculty excellence.
“It’s all driven by the talent we have here,” Clutter said, “both the talent that was here in 2011 and the talent that we’ve continued to be able to bring on board.”
As he prepares for the next chapter, Clutter looks forward to spending more time with his family, including his wife, Abby, and playing golf and fishing. But he plans to stay connected to agriculture and natural resources as he enters retirement and his successor, Derek McLean, enters the ARD Dean’s role on January 1.
The clutter has left a big mark on agriculture and natural resources research in Nebraska, said Mike Boehm, A Vice President and Vice Chancellor of Harlan for IANRand he leaves the ARD ready for its next chapter of success.
“Dr. Clutter has been an incredible leader for the past 11 years, and he leaves a legacy of incredible professors doing exceptional interdisciplinary work in support of critically important questions,” Boehm said. “The Research Division agriculture will benefit from his dedication to science, agriculture and natural resources, and to Nebraska for decades to come.”
A retirement reception for Clutter will be held from 3-5 p.m. on Monday, November 14 in the Great Plains Hall of the Eastern Nebraska Union. Everyone is welcome.