July 02, 2008

College of Science names part-time associate deans

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two longtime faculty members are now serving as part-time associate deans in the College of Science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Karen Renzaglia, associate professor in the Department of Plant Biology, and Laurie Ann Achenbach, professor in the Department of Microbiology, will each spend a third of their time performing specialized tasks as associate deans. Their positions began July 1.

Jay C. Means, dean of the College of Science, said the two faculty members bring experience and expertise to their new positions.

“We did a search and got two top-notch people. So I went to the provost and asked to have two people for a smaller percentage of their time and he agreed,” Means said. “We are excited about this arrangement and I know both will do an excellent job.”

Previously, Means said the associate dean’s position focused on budget and operations. He wanted to change that.

“I’m pretty good at budget and operations, so what we really needed were more people working on the critical areas of developing our graduate programs and the research needed to support that, as well as doing things that will help us recruit and retain more undergraduates.”

Achenbach has served as interim associate dean since October. In her new permanent position, associate dean for research and graduate education, she will concentrate on increasing funding for graduate and faculty research and encouraging interdisciplinary research efforts both within and outside of the college.

“We’ll be trying to increase these collaborations and focus on networking,” Achenbach said. “Most federal agencies now look favorably on your application for grants if you can show you’re using this interdisciplinary approach.”

Achenbach also will examine taking a best practices approach to graduate student recruiting, as well as focusing on better communication among graduate students, undergraduates, faculty and staff.

“As interim associate dean, I really got to like this job,” she explained. “I’m really looking forward to this now because there’s always something challenging in front of you.”

A Minnesota native, Achenbach earned her doctorate in biology in 1988 at the University of Illinois. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1982 at Northern Michigan University, graduating Magna cum Laude.

After working as a post-doctorate research associate at the U of I, Achenbach came to SIUC in 1990 as a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition. She later joined the Department of Chemistry as a visiting assistant professor and in 1991 became an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology. She became a professor in that department in 2002.

Renzaglia will serve as associate dean for undergraduate research, curriculum development and outreach. She will focus on undergraduate and academic affairs, building the programs and infrastructure aimed at providing students the best possible educational opportunities.

“We have an excellent faculty in the College of Science and nowadays students really need that research experience to get into graduate school,” Renzaglia said. “We’ll be helping students get that experience.”

Renzaglia also will work with school systems and teachers in primary, middle and high schools to prepare students to pursue science degrees. Outreach to students at various ages is a key effort for the college, she said.

“We want to ensure there is a continuum of training throughout their education,” she said. “That’s when you can attract them by creating that spark, and that’s also when you can lose them. So we want to get them engaged with plenty of hands-on exercises and learning.”

Renzaglia has deep SIUC roots, starting as an undergraduate. She earned her bachelor’s degree in botany at SIUC in 1975, graduating Summa cum Laude. She earned a master’s degree in botany in 1977 and her doctorate in botany in 1981, all at SIUC, winning graduate fellowships and the Dissertation Research Award in the process.

Renzaglia worked as research scientist and faculty member at several universities before joining the SIUC faculty as a visiting research professor and instructor in the Department of Plant Biology in 1996. She was director and founder of the REACH program on campus in 2000 and began the McNair Scholars program at SIUC in 2003 and served as its director through 2007.

“I am thrilled by this opportunity in the College of Science,” she said. “We have an incredible faculty and excellent students and I look forward to working with them as we move ahead.”