CBS starts search for new dean

Thomas Hays will serve as interim dean; a replacement will be appointed by 2015.

by Blair Emerson

The University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences announced Wednesday that Thomas Hays will serve as interim dean beginning July 1, according to an email sent to CBS students, faculty and staff.

A search committee composed mainly of University deans, faculty members and students will conduct a nationwide search for current CBS Dean Robert Elde’s permanent replacement. Appointment of a new dean is expected by July 2015.

Elde announced in September that he would step down from his post this
summer, helping prompt talks of merging CBS and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, which also had its dean position in flux.

University leaders weighed a merger for months but scrapped the idea in February after finding that most stakeholders opposed it.

When merger talks died off, leaders from both colleges said they plan to work more closely in the future. As interim dean, Hays said he will continue CBS’ collaboration with other colleges, including CFANS.

“I think that engaging the other colleges on campus is important on all fronts,” he said.

Mostafa Kaveh, College of Science and Engineering associate dean and search committee member, said it’s crucial for whoever is chosen to lead CBS to push for more crossover between the colleges with research and curriculum.

Collaborations have been useful so far, he said.

“It’s something that we’ve been doing increasingly and I expect with the next dean,” he said.

Elde said the new dean will be charged with mentoring faculty members so they work together.

“It’s all about capitalizing on the incredible strength of our own college as well as the other colleges here at the University,” Elde said. “I think Tom will do that, and I think that is where our future is brightest.”

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson said in an email that Hays has already strengthened research programs in CBS, something he’s expected to continue as interim dean.

“The CBS already has a very strong research program, and he’s a very capable scientist,” said genetics, cell biology and development assistant professor Anindya Bagchi. “I’m very optimistic that he will do justice and even better the research environment at the CBS.”

Hays became a University faculty member more than two decades ago and is currently an associate dean for research and graduate education and a professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development.

“He really understands the importance of the teaching mission of our college,” said David Greenstein, a professor in Hays’ department.

Few details about the search committee’s plan were available Wednesday, but its chair — College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Trevor Ames — said the search process will evolve in the next few weeks.

He said the committee will likely discuss with Hanson what it’s looking for in a permanent dean.

“We’re looking for a person that can lead us into the future [and] to capitalize on the new technologies and the new things that are happening in biology, for both teaching and research,” said Gary Muehlbauer, search committee member and agronomy and plant genetics professor.