Three merging colleges seek one dean to lead

Jamie VanGeest

There will be a new dean for a new school that is a key piece in the University’s plan to become a leading world research institution.

The University announced this week it will search for a dean for the college that will be formed when the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, the College of Natural Resources, and the College of Human Ecology’s department of food science and nutrition merge in July.

“My goal is to have a new dean named by then,” said Tom Sullivan, University executive vice president and provost.

Sullivan informed all three schools Wednesday that he is taking nominations for a dean search committee. The University also is considering hiring a national search firm in the hunt for a new dean.

The current deans of the schools, Charles Muscoplat of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences and Susan Stafford of the College of Natural Resources, will continue in their roles until June 30.

Muscoplat will continue to serve as vice president for agricultural policy at the University, while Stafford is exploring options in and outside the University.

Sullivan said anyone within the University is invited to apply for the new position, and the current deans will be a part of the interviewing and advising team.

The faculty members from the three merging schools have a variety of opinions regarding the merge and the search for a new dean.

Deborah Allan, a soil, water and climate professor, said many were hesitant about the merger at first, but now people are hoping it could be an opportunity for new developments.

It’s also a chance to get to know and work with people from the other colleges, she said.

Allan said finding a new person for dean rather than choosing one of the current deans is a good idea. There could be hard feelings between colleges if one dean was picked over the other for the new position, she said.

“It’s a different position, a different job description now,” Allan said.

Ray Newman, director of graduate studies in water resources from the College of Natural Resources, said there could be some benefits to the merger.

Newman said the task force recommendations on the merger seemed reasonable, but the question is how things will turn out once they are implemented.

Newman said one could argue at this time of transition that it might not be the best moment to find a new dean who will have to get up to speed quickly.

The colleges could look for a dean in one year or create a cooperative position between the schools, he said.

Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, a professor for the department of food science and nutrition, said the merger between the colleges is a good thing because many of the departments within the three schools overlap.

Diez-Gonzalez said he thinks Stafford probably still is a candidate for the new position.