April 27, 2012

Achenbach named interim Science dean

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A veteran faculty member and administrator with more than 20 years at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will become the interim dean of the College of Science, pending approval by the SIU Board of Trustees.

Laurie Achenbach, professor in the Department of Microbiology and associate dean for research and graduate programs in the College of Science, will take the reins Aug. 16. 

“Dr. Achenbach brings outstanding teaching, research and administrative credentials to the position,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said.  “She is dedicated to advancing the college and our University, and I look forward to her many contributions as interim dean.”

Achenbach earned her doctorate in genetics and development in 1988 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1982 at Northern Michigan University.

Achenbach began her professional experience with teaching and research assistantships at the University of Illinois from 1983 to 1987. She continued her work there as a post-doctorate research associate until 1990 before becoming a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition at SIU Carbondale that year.

Achenbach became a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1991 and an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology 1991, serving in that role until 1997 when she became an associate professor.  She was appointed professor in 2002. Achenbach has also served as associate dean for research and graduate programs in the College of Science since 2007.

Achenbach said tight fiscal times will present challenges for the University and its mission.

“I'm looking forward to the challenges presented by our changing economic environment,” Achenbach said.  “We must fully realize the opportunities that these challenges represent.  Most importantly, we must work together as a college to define our future and reach our goals.”

Achenbach said she will focus on getting quality people -- both faculty and students -- into the college as well as look for opportunities to develop new programs that combine science disciplines in new ways.

“Our strength is our research and academic programs.  In the short term, these must be maintained by continuing to hire nationally recognized researchers who are also excellent teachers,” she said.  “We also need to expand our recruitment and retention activities as the foundation for increased enrollments in the College of Science.  In the long term, our challenge is to be creative in developing interdisciplinary programs that prepare our students for frontiers in science yet to be explored.”

Achenbach has served in a variety of administrative roles over the years, including serving as chair of the Higher Learning Commission Focus Visit Report Committee and as a member of the Board Negotiation Team for Faculty Administration contract.  She also served as a member of Commencement Implementation Team and the Center for Teaching Excellence Transition Team this year. She is a member of the Strategic Plan Core Committee and has served on the Student Conduct Code Special Review Committee, the International Advisory Board, and the Graduate Enrollment Working Group, and as the chair of the Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Search Committee in 2010, among others.

Achenbach is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Microbiology, the American Phytopathological Society and the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society. In 2009, she won the Scholar Award from Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society for the SIU Carbondale Chapter. She is a member of the National Golden Key Honor Society, the University Fellowship for University of Illinois and the Board of Control Scholarships at Northern Michigan University.

Achenbach said the SIU Carbondale College of Science has an important role to play on campus and in the Southern Illinois community at large.

“The College of Science has the opportunity to engage other colleges on campus in forging new, productive relationships that benefit both our students and our faculty,” she said.  “A powerful mission for the College of Science is to expand outreach both locally and globally.  Through this venue, we can demonstrate SIU Carbondale’s strengths and instill increased appreciation for science in solving some of the world's problems.”