Stafford named first female dean of College of Natural Resources

Branden Peterson

On Oct. 1, Susan Stafford readied herself for a busy year.

It was her first day of work as dean of the College of Natural Resources. Stafford, 49, is the seventh dean of the college.

“It’s a very exciting time for our college,” said Stafford, who is the first female dean of the college. “We have a great opportunity, and my goal is to take the college to the next level.”

Stafford most recently was head of the forest sciences department at Colorado State University. She has nearly 20 years of teaching experience with the department of forest science at Oregon State University.

Stafford is also a former division director at the National Science Foundation.

For Melvin Baughman, associate dean of the College of Natural Resources, Stafford is the third dean he worked with since his arrival in 1982.

Baughman said when he first met Stafford he was immediately impressed with her.

“The first thing that struck me was how she was very personable, very welcoming and eager to learn about the college and what the role of people in the dean’s office is,” Baughman said.

“My goal for the first couple months is to get out there and listen. I want to hear what people have on their mind,” Stafford said.

Stafford said she’s still getting accustomed to her new position.

Though on the job for less than 30 days, Stafford also said she is quickly learning from her associates where people want improvements in the college. First on her to-do list is getting more students to attend class at her college every day.

With approximately 600 students in the college, Stafford said she believes awareness is the first step to bringing in more students. Hoping to expand enrollment by 30 percent in the near future, the new dean said she is confident she can help increase enrollment at the college by more than 200 students.

“We need to amplify our presence. I believe there are students who, if they knew of our programs earlier, they would come here,” Stafford said.

Stafford fills the vacancy of nine-year college dean Al Sullivan.

Understanding the financial crunch many colleges are currently experiencing, Stafford said she is working with a financial advisor to make sure the College of Natural Resources makes the best use of its resources.

“My philosophy and my background has always been about collaboration and bringing people together,” Stafford said. “This is a time when we can’t do things by ourselves. We need to find our partners, and the colleges and agencies to find solutions to the common problems we have.

“I’m open to all ideas. The challenge we have is no greater and no less than what others have around the country,” she said.

The College of Natural Resources has six undergraduate majors and four graduate programs. The undergraduate programs of forestry, fisheries and wildlife and natural resources management are ranked in the top 10 nationally.

“I view these jobs as all-out sprints,” Stafford said about her new position. “You just don’t want to let grass grow under your feet.”


Branden Peterson covers the St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]