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Attitude makes a difference: an interview with featured guest Robert J. Gustafson.

Robert J. Gustafson is a successful professional with 33 years experience. He has served as a faculty member at two universities and as a department chair for 11 years. He is currently associate dean for academic affairs and student services at the Ohio State University. He has served in various leadership positions in ASAE, including president of ASAE (2003-04) and is an ASAE Fellow. He is involved with other professional associations and participates in international research and education activities.


Panigrahi: What challenges does our professional Society face today?

Gustafson: How to evolve with the changing needs of agricultural, food, and biological engineering. We need to move with the needs of society and industry. For example, biological engineering has rapidly expanded in recent years. We are going through changes in the profession to accommodate this change.

Panigrahi: How do you think our Society should plan to appeal to a broader domain?

Gustafson: Our Society is already made up of practicing engineers from heterogeneous groups. We need to focus on adding value for our agricultural and biological engineering members. One advantage we have is that we are relatively small in size, and people know each other. This makes networking easier. As a part of our approach, promotional and informational items are being developed and used to increase awareness of our Society, e.g. our staff did an excellent job by facilitating a segment on the show, "Voices of Vision" for public television.

Panigrahi: We are losing young professional members. What do we need to do?

Gustafson: We need to market our profession aggressively at the individual, university, department, and/or Society level. People think ASAE is a diverse Society. Actually, other societies are very diverse. ASAE is small and faces constraints as it maintains a tax-exempt status. We need to be aggressive in capturing opportunity. ASAE failed to capture "biological engineering" fully when the concept was developing. Now many other societies claim biological engineering efforts within their missions. Societies like ASEE, ASME, and AICHE have a consistent presence in Washington, D.C. We need to reach out to political entities and decision makers. It takes substantial resources, a significant mobilization effort, and effective planning.

Panigrahi: Our Society is going to celebrate its 100th year. Any plans for celebrations?

Gustafson: Lyle Stevens of Deere & Co. is leading the effort. There will be an appropriate celebration in the form of activities throughout the year and at the annual meeting. It is an opportunity both external and internal for our Society.

Panigrahi: What characteristics are employers looking for from our agricultural and biological engineering graduates?

Gustafson: Employers value the work ethic of our students. They are looking for work and co-curricular experiences. Our programs provide a well-rounded education with flexibility. With the growth of the bioscience industry, biological/biosystems engineering components will provide options for our students who are prepared for these new opportunities.

Panigrahi: You have been involved with academic administration for some time. How do you suggest we deal with perceptions about our program within the university?

Gustafson: Department leadership and faculty need to get actively involved in interdisciplinary activities and faculty governance. Working with people and providing contributions can lead to a positive image for our programs.

Panigrahi: What are your secrets of success?

Gustafson: I have been blessed with being at the places where opportunities were. I have found that an engineering training/mindset is excellent training for administrative positions. Working with people with different priorities is a challenge. Time and priority management are very critical. I read a lot of literature and engage myself in professional development and continuous learning. My international experiences, although brief, also have been very rewarding and helpful.

Panigrahi: Any suggestions for our members?

Gustafson: Look for and take advantage of opportunities for leadership at the workplace and in ASAE. Having your own personal philosophy is critical. Be alert for opportunities. At the same time, knowing one's limitations, and setting realistic goals, is also important. Career decisions need to be based on introspection and careful evaluation. Finally, no matter where you work, you will work with people. Dealing with people with an appropriate attitude and demeanor can make a lot of difference.

ASAE member Suranjan Panigrahi is an associate professor in the department of agricultural and biosystems engineering at North Dakota State University, Fargo, N.D. To suggest an individual to be featured in a future issue, e-mail
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Title Annotation:Inspiring Success
Author:Panigrahi, Suranjan
Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Article Type:Interview
Date:Sep 1, 2004
Previous Article:Welcome new members.
Next Article:Intervention strategies: decreasing human illnesses attributed to foods derived from animals.

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