May 04, 2004

Dean candidates visiting campus

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The search for a new dean of agricultural sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has narrowed to three.

Finalists are Catherine K. Chan-Halbrendt, associate dean and associate director for research in the University of Hawaii at Manoa's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, George U. Liepa, head of Eastern Michigan University's Department of Human, Environmental and Consumer Resources, and Gary L. Minish, professor and former head of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences.

Campus visits are taking place through Monday, May 10.

"The search committee is trying to schedule a meeting for the afternoon of the 13th and, depending on what happens at that meeting, could forward our recommendation within a few days," said Richard A. Rivers, search committee co-chair.

Liepa arrived in Carbondale Sunday, May 2, and the following day spoke in open forum on the role SIUC could play in 21st-century agriculture.

Minish will arrive today (May 4). His presentation, slated to run from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 5, in Room 209 of the Agriculture Building, will focus on future directions for agricultural sciences at the university. Faculty, staff, administrative/professional and Civil Service workers, and external constituency representatives may attend.

Chan-Halbrendt will arrive Saturday, May 8, and will make her May 10 forum presentation, open to faculty, staff, administrative/professional and Civil Service workers and external constituency representatives, on leading the college into the future. Her forum will run from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in Room 209 of the Agriculture Building.

Here's a closer look at the three finalists.

As head of animal and poultry sciences at Virginia Tech, Minish managed teaching, research and extension programs, supervised a faculty of 30 along with 40 staff members, and supervised seven animal centers and four research and extension stations.

During his seven-year tenure in the job (1994 to 2001), undergraduate enrollments increased by 76 percent. Research productivity also rose, with faculty members bringing in more than $1.2 million in grants and publishing 93 refereed journal articles, 46 proceedings papers, eight book chapters and 27 abstracts during his final year.

He also maintained close ties with Virginia's seven major livestock and poultry industries, initiated the first Virginia Tech Livestock and Poultry Youth Weekend program on campus (which has grown into a major recruiting tool), drew up a strategic plan that served as a model for other college departments and resulted in the allocation of four new faculty positions, and fostered interdisciplinary working relationships with departments and agencies on and off campus.

During a two-year stint as the agriculture college's associate dean and director of development, he played a key role in funding three professorships and brought in $2.8 million.

"As dean of agricultural sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, I would strive to develop nationally recognized undergraduate and graduate teaching programs for all departments in the college and would consider it one of my major responsibilities to ensure that we hire, retain and motivate the highest quality faculty and staff possible," Minish said.

"I would strongly support and encourage research programs that enhance farm profitability and sustainability, food safety and quality, protection of the environment and natural resources and the quality of life for all citizens in Illinois and the region.

"I would work equally hard to foster a synergistic relationship with the college's constituent groups and related agriculture enterprises in Illinois. I am proud to have been raised on a Midwestern farm and graduated from two agriculturally oriented universities in the heartland that would serve me well in the dean's office and as a liaison with Illinois agriculture."

Minish joined Virginia Tech in 1966. He earned his bachelor's degree in animal science in 1962 from Iowa State University and his doctorate in animal nutrition in 1966 from Michigan State University.

In her current position at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Chan-Halbrendt directs the implementation of her college's strategic plan and generates resources for research. External grants and contracts have increased almost 66 percent -- from some $12 million to more than $20 million -- under her stewardship. She also has played a role in helping the college add more than 20 faculty positions. Before becoming associate dean in 2000, Chan-Halbrendt served four years as professor and chair of the University of Vermont's Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, a unit with more than 180 majors. She also taught for eight years at the University of Delaware and has served as a lecturer and researcher overseas through various federal agencies. In addition to her academic experience, Chan-Halbrendt worked as a senior biologist at Mobay Agricultural Chemical Co. and as an industry/economic analyst at Farmland Industries Inc., both in Kansas City. Chan-Halbrendt believes that education should be learner-oriented. "The skills set should include critical thinking, effective communication and interpersonal engagement, and leadership," she said. "Students will be exposed to modern equipment and technology. They will be given an opportunity for internships and experiential learning. Graduates will be well prepared for a productive career."

Research should focus on the needs of both industry and the regional communities, she said, while providing "opportunities for students to gain practical experience in problem solving and creating new knowledge."

Outreach should also play a role in the life of the college. "Everyone in the college is expected to provide some programs and services to the region (and perhaps even the state and the nation)," Chan-Halbrendt said.

An SIUC alumna, Chan-Halbrendt earned her bachelor's in microbiology in 1972 and her master's in plant and soil sciences in 1975. She did her doctorate in agricultural economics at the University of Missouri, completing her degree in 1986. She also has a management diploma in business administration from the American University in Cairo, Egypt.

Head of human, environmental and consumer resources since 1995, Liepa oversees 500 undergraduate students and more than 100 graduate students in four programs. During this time, the department has experienced significant increases in student credit hours, scholarships and scholarly production.

While at Eastern Michigan, Liepa obtained grants to develop a Textiles, Research and Training Institute that has generated nearly $2 million in donations, grants and contracts aimed at creating industrial applications for crop-based products; he headed that institute between 1996 and 1998.

Liepa also worked with the nutrition faculty to develop the Office of Nutrition Services, which provides inexpensive nutritional assessments and counseling to students, faculty and staff. He is currently working to establish a nutraceutical research program that would focus on finding unique uses for Michigan's agricultural products.

Liepa believes that a college of agricultural sciences should educate both internal and external communities about agricultural issues.

"This is important because people must know how to intelligently make decisions regarding topics that are critical to the agriculturally related health of the nation," he said.

He would also emphasize research-focused education at the undergraduate as well as the graduate level.

"Through the research process, agricultural colleges allow their faculty members and students to stay abreast of new findings in their specialty areas and insure that they stay competitive in international markets," Liepa said.

He also believes strongly in the value of active student organizations.

"By having faculty members emphasize service learning projects, students can be taught that teamwork and positive interaction with other people is critical if one wants to succeed in life," he said.

Liepa is a two-degree graduate of Drake University, earning his bachelor's in biology in 1968 and his master's in cell physiology in 1971. He earned his doctorate in animal science in 1976 from Iowa State University and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Heal Science Center from 1976 to 1979.