Prospective deans visit Ag school
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 02:04
Two candidates vying for the dean of the university’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources spoke to faculty on campus recently, concluding their interview process.
In an hour-long event on April 17 in Townsend Hall, university alumnus Edward Ashworth explained his plans and goals for the college if hired. He said continuing to conduct research in the college is important.
“A key part of Delaware’s mission is active learning,” Ashworth said. “They have a long tradition of being involved in research.”
Ashworth, who is currently dean of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture and director of the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station at the University of Maine, said his main reasons for applying were two-fold. He said he wants to ensure students have the same opportunities he did as an undergraduate and help the university maintain the positive direction in which he feels it is heading.
“The university as a whole is strong and vibrant,” Ashworth said.
Charles Riordan, the university’s vice provost for graduate and professional education and the head of the search committee, began the event by introducing Ashworth. Then the candidate presented, followed by a question and answer session with the professors and students in attendance.
He highlighted lab work, fieldwork and study abroad programs as factors that make the university a dynamic learning environment.
Ashworth said he would emphasize the university as a land-grant facility, which is an institution that has state-funded land used for research. He cited the university’s partnerships with the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and the Delaware Environmental Institute.
Land-grant schools also participate in cooperative extension, which allows the public to benefit from the university’s research. The university holds workshops and events that teach eco-friendly behavior, as well as conducting an internship program. Ashworth commended university officials on their work with the public.
“Delaware is a poster child for an engaged school,” Ashworth said.
Ashworth stressed the importance of faculty communication, and said that he would listen to his colleagues’ opinions and strategies to solve problems as dean.
“I don’t expect you to come to me with a problem and ask how to fix it,” he said. “I expect you to come with a problem, the possible solutions and what you think would be best.”
It’s important for the college to increase funds and research, said Mark Parcells, an animal and food sciences and biological sciences professor. He asked how Ashworth would raise money through commodity groups, which are businesses and state programs that provide money for university research and grants.
Ashworth said the nursing program at the University of Maine has received funding from research facilities, but did not mention specific plans he has if hired at the university.
“The current dean has been pretty visible in the state and interacts with commodity groups in a meaningful way,” Parcells said. “It would be nice to see someone who has a track record of doing that.”
Mark Rieger, the associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida, spoke on Monday.
He handed out pamphlets highlighting his goals for his potential deanship at the university, which included reaching a new audience to augment the number of agriculture students, increasing research and utilizing the cooperative extension program.
Rieger gave examples of his accomplishments at Florida, including his reorganization of the plant science major and his cooperative extension projects that integrate technology into teaching strategies, among other topics.
Rieger said how he would invest in the university’s strongest programs.
“Define and capitalize your unique strengths,” Rieger said.
He would also work with other land-grant institutions, such as Pennsylvania State University, to ensure all areas within the agriculture program would be equally represented.
“Quality is more important than quantity,” he said. “That will be the running theme of what I’ll do here.”
At Florida, Rieger employs a similar budgeting strategy to that of the university. He said the strategy could allow a dean to be flexible when allocating funds.
When asked about his communication with university community members, Rieger said he strives for transparency and wants to ensure problems are easily understood.
“You need to make it relevant to them,” he said. “Put it in their terms.”
He said he enjoys frequently meeting with chairs of departments individually.
Rieger also teaches a weekly orientation class for honors-level students at Florida and said it is the highlight of his week. He hopes participate in a similar class at the university if he is named dean.
Animal and food sciences professor Sue Snider said understanding the importance of the cooperative extension program within the state is an important job for the dean. She appreciated the importance Rieger gave to communication among professors.
“I was impressed with his emphasis on communication and using the needs of the constituents in communicating,” Snider said.
Ashley Fry, a graduate student in the counseling in higher education program, attended the presentation and said it’s intriguing to see the interview process as a current student and as a future administrator.
“It’s interesting to see the different styles and visions and how they communicate those to us,” Fry said.
Faculty and students can complete a survey, which will be utilized in the final decision, about the potential candidates on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources website.