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College of Agriculture and Natural Resources searches for new dean

November 28, 2011

A search for a new dean just now getting underway could better position the more than 150-year-old College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the future.

Officials in the college recently announced a search for a new dean, an individual who must act as “a visionary leader” for the oldest college at MSU, which recently has seen a change in leadership and financial setbacks, said Phil Robertson, professor of crop and soil sciences and chair of the search committee.

“I think the biggest qualification is someone who can bring a number of points of view bearing on where the college should be heading in the future,” he said. “It’s a tall order, but it’s one that’s not certainly impossible.”

Doug Buhler currently is serving as interim dean of the college, after being selected by the Board of Trustees in February.

He replaced then-Dean Jeffrey Armstrong, who departed MSU a month later to become president at California Polytechnic State University.

Before leaving MSU, Armstrong proposed in November 2010 to consolidate the college’s 13 departments into eight, cut 25 percent of administrative staff and potentially reduce the size of south campus farms — all of which were in light of declining student enrollment and state agricultural aid. His proposals were not well-received by students of the college.

Considering the search for a dean just now is underway, no applications have been received nor do officials expect to receive any during the next few weeks, Robertson said.

Until then, the search committee — made up of at least 15 individuals, including an undergraduate and graduate student from the college — will focus on the timeline to review applications in January 2012, interview candidates in February and ultimately discuss possible deans in late March, he said.

Not having prior association with MSU will not disqualify a candidate from consideration, Robertson said.

As interim dean, Buhler said in an email that he does not wish to become dean, but his role during the process might increase if candidates ask about the position and his perspectives of the college.

“When I accepted the position of interim dean, I did so with the understanding that I would not be a candidate,” he said.

Environmental studies and agriscience senior Amy Miller transferred to MSU during fall 2008, and ever since she said she has had nothing but praise for the faculty, staff, its programs and her fellow Spartans.

During her time, she has seen new classes with subject matters including organic farming, urban agriculture and others crop up.

For the college to successfully move into the future under the leadership of a new dean, these teachings are essential, Miller said.

“The new person will have some big shoes to fill, but hopefully (they) will be able to be open minded about (new) practices,” she said. “This school is built on agriculture, and it’s just great to see it thrive.”

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