Two new leaders take charge of battered SDSU programs

Emma Dejong

Karla Trautman, associate director of Extension, said she is watching SDSU accept and recover from a significant loss.

“Organizations are not unlike the individual who goes through those stages of grief,” she said. “We’ve seen our staff members since April go through [them].”

Trautman and Daniel Scholl, the new associate dean and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, have seen the effects first-hand. They were hired over the summer to take on leadership roles in organizations that have been significantly impacted by severe budget cuts. This will be Trautman’s 24th year working with South Dakota Extension, but Scholl comes from a slightly different background.

Scholl worked at the University of Montreal as an epidemiologist, researching disease transportation in animals and humans. He’s excited to oversee the research done in South Dakota with new resources and new limitations.

“We’ve got unique resources because we are where we are,” Scholl said of SDSU’s prime location for

Period of discovery

Prior to his job at Montreal, Scholl spent 10 years at Louisiana State University doing research and teaching. Before that, he was a faculty member in veterinary medicine at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

This will be the first time Scholl isn’t directly doing research, instead overseeing research at the experiment station as AES director. He holds a key role in communicating between university officials and stakeholders.

Scholl said one of his top priorities right now is getting to know the people he’s working with. He is especially fascinated with the opportunity to interact with stakeholders – people “outside of the campus who gain or lose depending on how we do our job,” he said.

“There are people who have a stake in what we do here,” he said. “We’re feeding South Dakotans; we’re feeding Americans; we’re feeding the world.”

He said that one of his biggest challenges will be “to promote a positive productive environment where people can produce their best work” during times of financial limitations – especially being so new to the position.

“It’s not possible to get a grasp of the entire program in detail to launch a vision,” Scholl said. “Between now and December, it’s a period of discovery.”

Challenge of a new system

SDSU Extension has gone through a complete restructuring that will finish by the end of October.

Trautman was hired in May to help Extension Director Barry Dunn implement the new system across South Dakota, a change that he expects to take months.

“Now until the end of the year, it will be about transition to the new Extension model,” Trautman said.

It involves hiring 65 field specialists after firing 110, and eight regional centers will replace Extension’s physical presence in each county.

“I think we’re just really optimistic about what the new system is going to be able to offer,” she said.

Trautman is not lacking when it comes to experience or knowledge about Extension, but overseeing a change of this magnitude is still challenging.

“We have to be able to prove that the new system will work, and we have to be able to do it in a short period of time,” she said.

Moving forward

The AES and SDSU Extension, as well as the entire university, are still adapting to a 10-percent budget reduction. In both operations, though, Scholl and Trautman are focused on moving forward.

“No matter what happened in the past, we can always find ways to optimize what we do in the future,” Scholl said.

Trautman said that they’ve been doing hundreds of interviews for the new positions and staff morale has been positive.

“They’ve really been optimistic, positive, energetic – ready to embrace the new system,” she said.

Regarding the grieving process, Trautman is hopeful.

“We’re beginning to see employees go through [the recovery stage],” Trautman said.