Ag School deanship candidates to visit
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 02:04
The three final candidates for dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will visit campus for interviews this month before the search committee makes its final decision by the end of spring semester.
In September, Robin Morgan announced she would be stepping down as dean of the college. She has completed two five-year terms as dean and intends to return to teaching within the college.
Charles Riordan, vice provost for graduate and professional education at the university, is heading the search committee, which began reviewing applications last fall. Riordan said dozens of candidates applied.
“We did a national search to find the best possible candidates,” Riordan said.
After a series of 90-minute interviews in March with eight top candidates, the committee narrowed the choice to three candidates.
Applicants will visit the Newark campus and the university’s satellite campuses this month.
“This is a critical part of the process,” Riordan said. “They talk to students, faculty and professors.”
The three remaining candidates are Edward Ashworth, Cameron Hackney and Mark Rieger.
Ashworth is in his sixth year as the dean of natural sciences, forestry and agriculture at the University of Maine, and in total has been a professor for more than 30 years. He is a 1973 university graduate with a bachelor’s degree in plant science, and later worked as a plant physiologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
He has worked at five different land grant institutions, which are universities that receive government funding for land use for educational purposes, throughout his career. The university is classified as such.
As an undergraduate, Ashworth said he found assistance from strong mentors that helped further his career. He said he applied to be dean as a way of returning the favor to the school that allowed him to succeed.
“I want to continue the legacy of faculty taking an interest in students and making a difference,” Ashworth said. “The opportunity to give back was very appealing.”
Ashworth said he wants to continue to help the agriculture school grow.
“The programs are stronger than when I was a student,” he said. “It’s an exciting possibility to be a part of an effort to continue these strong programs and try to work to make them even stronger.”
Hackney serves as special assistant to the provost at West Virginia University and was the dean of the agriculture school for 11 years. He has taught for more than 30 years and was superintendent for the Seafood Research and Extension Center at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
He has previously worked with faculty at the university. Hackney said he is a student-centered administrator who supports study abroad programs in particular at the university.
“The college is truly an academic college,” Hackney said. “Morgan has done an excellent job. She has done some truly remarkable things with the staff.”
Hackney said he was impressed with the faculty and research at the university. He also said 30,000 jobs in the state are in the agriculture industry, and that he would take advantage of opportunities to pair students with local agricultural companies.
After serving in several different academic positions, Hackney said he has enjoyed his position as a dean the most.
“I’ll be at Delaware as long as they’ll have me,” he said.
Rieger is the associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in horticulture in 1982 and has taught at the University of Georgia and the University of Florida for 20 years.
Rieger said he was nominated anonymously to apply for the job.
“It’s a great opportunity for a deanship,” Rieger said. “It’s what I’ve been looking for.”
He said his knowledge of the region and its agricultural problems will carry over to the university, where he hopes to design programs specifically relevant to the area. He said his initial interviews went well and that he was impressed with the faculty at the university.
“I felt very welcome at Delaware,” he said. “Choosing a dean is difficult to do. The committee was fair, had the right attitude and [was] genuine. I was encouraged with the people I met there.”
After the three candidates make their rounds on campus, the committee will assess their strengths and weaknesses based on the interviews and interactions with students and faculty, Riordan said. The evaluations are then given to university President Patrick Harker and Provost Tom Apple for a final decision. The newly hired dean will begin duties in July.
“I feel very good about the candidates—the committee is unanimous in their excitement,” Riordan said. “We are optimistic that each candidate has the potential to be successful.”