University considers merger of CBS and CFANS

Alexi Gusso

The University announced Wednesday that it will consider creating a new college integrating the College of Biological Sciences and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

Earlier in the day, CBS Dean Robert Elde announced that he will retire at the end of June after 18 years in the position. CFANS Dean Allen Levine stepped down in August and has been replaced by interim dean Brian Buhr.

Karen Hanson, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, announced in a press release that she will place a hold on the search for new deans while appointing a task force to examine the possibility of creating a new college.

 “I will ask the task force to consider whether a new college devoted to agriculture, life sciences, and the environment might consolidate the strengths of the University in ways that would advance our academic mission and our engagement with local and global communities,” Hanson said in a statement.

Elde and Levine had previously discussed the possibility of a new college, and President Eric Kaler supports the consideration process, according to the press release.

Elde, a neuroscience professor, joined the University faculty in 1977 after getting his Ph.D. from the school three years earlier. He was named dean of CBS in 1995.

In an e-mail to CBS students, Elde said he’ll miss the “thrill of discoveries” and “the collaborations that have given life to new ideas and new ways of thinking.”

Scott Lanyon, head of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, said Elde excelled at putting the University’s best interest first.

“He’s a big picture kind of person,” Lanyon said. “That’s very refreshing.”

Lanyon said Elde made it a priority to improve the quality of undergraduate education at CBS during his time as dean.

“He’s rightfully proud of where we’ve come.”

During his time as a professor, Elde oversaw creation of the Nature of Life program, an annual three-day summer orientation for first-year CBS students. Through the program, Elde worked firsthand with students, assisting them with lab preparation and field work.

Genetics and cell biology junior Samantha Franco was a peer mentor for the Nature of Life program and worked closely with Elde.

“He was very hands-on, kind, and was always looking to help a student,” Franco said.

As a first-generation college student, Franco said Elde was an inspiration, helping her realize that graduating in four years and landing a career was possible.

“It’s really sad to lose him,” she said. “He knows students by name … we are important to him and he makes that known.”