Plant pathology prof named interim dean

by Amy Olson

Phil Larsen, a plant pathology professor, has been named interim dean of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences.
Larsen will replace Mike Martin as dean of the college, and become acting vice president for agricultural policy and director of the University’s agricultural experiment station. Martin will leave the University in October to become vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Robert Bruininks, the University’s executive vice president and provost, is expected to name a search committee soon to permanently replace Martin.
The committee will review the backgrounds of applicants and nominees before forwarding a recommendation to the Board of Regents. The search is expected to last nearly a year.
Larsen will begin assuming the role of interim dean Oct. 1. Larsen said he expects to take over most of the duties by the middle of October as Martin wraps up his tenure at the University.
Martin said Larsen’s familiarity with the state and reputation for being conscientious will make the transition easier for both the University and the agricultural community in Minnesota.
“Folks know him and trust him,” Martin said. “He’s a great guy and a good replacement.”
Delores Huebner, administrative director of the plant pathology program, said Larsen’s hard work and ability to communicate will make him a good interim dean.
“It’s hard to lose a good leader like Mike Martin,” Huebner said. “Phil’s an excellent choice.”
Larsen said he and Martin are working together to make the transfer as easy as possible.
“There are some good people in place to make the transition,” Larsen said.
Larsen said he intends to continue the initiatives Martin began during his tenure as dean, including increasing enrollment in the college, making the transition to semesters and working with Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn., to build the joint degree in agriculture management and agronomy.
“The program is an exciting partnership between the University and MnSCU,” Larsen said. Martin said the program’s success led University President Mark Yudof to describe it as “the posterchild for University partnerships.”
Larsen said the partnership between Southwest State University — part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system — and the University will remain a high priority in his administration. The partnership allows students to take agronomy classes at Southwest State but earn a degree from the University.
Martin said the initiative began as part of a plan to better serve the southwestern part of the state. Last spring, the first group of students finished their first year of classes under the program.
Larsen said the universities share two jointly paid faculty members who teach at Southwest State and work at the University’s Southwest Experiment Station in Lamberton, Minn., located 20 miles from Marshall.
Although Martin has already begun to assume his duties in Florida and said he is confident the college is in good hands under Larsen’s leadership, his impending departure doesn’t seem real to him.
“One feels strange seeing their own job being advertised,” Martin said.