In the wake of the announcement that he will retire from his position as chancellor in November, Brady Deaton, with the University of Missouri Board of Curators, has presented plans for his next venture. Deaton will serve as executive director of an institute focused on global food security, water safety and environmental sustainability, which will be named for the chancellor and his wife, Dr. Anne Deaton. The Deatons are lifelong advocates of — and participants in — improving the quality of life for people around the globe.
In a meeting peppered by standing ovations for the Deatons, on Friday the Board of Curators unanimously approved the new Brady and Anne Deaton Institute for University Leadership in International Development, to be housed at the University of Missouri.
Feeding the world
The world’s population, currently 7 billion people, is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, resulting in a potentially catastrophic global food shortage. Though many governmental and nongovernmental agencies already have programs in place to reduce hunger, gaps in knowledge hinder their long-term effectiveness. Bolstered by Mizzou's plant-science and public-policy expertise, as well as its international reach, the institute Deaton envisions will support broad interdisciplinary research addressing poverty, hunger and nutritional inadequacies throughout the world — and offering solutions.
“People’s lives are in the balance,” says Deaton, whose career and volunteer undertakings have involved working with poor communities in the U.S. and abroad. “If you look at the faces of the hungry children in these settings, it inspires your commitment to do something about it and draw on the great strengths we have scientifically and educationally.”
Deaton holds a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate in agricultural economics, and he serves as chair of the presidentially appointed Board for International Food and Agricultural Development. He asserts that advances in economic growth alleviate poverty more effectively than any other targeted mechanism and that agricultural growth, in particular, can double the rate of poverty reduction.
The institute, he says, will help.
“Some of the most needy people in the world will benefit from it,” Deaton says. “It’s fundamental to what we are doing in this country and our future in the world.”
While aiding the world's most impoverished people, Deaton says, the institute also helps Missourians. Tigers stand to gain from the work done by researchers and international collaborators in what he describes as a "boomerang effect."
Such a center on our campus can buoy Mizzou scientists, elevate the prestige of Mizzou programs and position Mizzou as a key leader in current global affairs. It also can influence the approach MU educators take to shaping the curriculum and, Deaton says, "grounding the University of Missouri's international programs in solid philosophical and ethical principles."
Working to solve problems on a global scale, he says, fundamentally transforms the nature of a Mizzou education.
“The heart of what we’re doing ultimately has to help shape our own culture,” Deaton says, affecting “the quality of citizenship that we are dedicated to in working with our undergraduate, professional and graduate students — and then reaching out to shape the population and how it feels and thinks and moves.”
For Deaton, the institute represents the culmination of a career in research, education, agriculture and international affairs.
"It's sort of an emotional moment for me here," the chancellor told the Board of Curators as they moved to approve the plan. "I'm very excited about these next steps."