UMN considers merging colleges of ag and biological sciences

Agronomy -- Research and Genetics
Let's join fields. (UMN photo)

This in from the U:

U of M to explore potential new college to combine agriculture, life sciences and environment

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson announced Wednesday that she will appoint a task force to examine the potential creation of a new college for the U of M Twin Cities.

The college would integrate faculty and staff principally from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) and the College of Biological Sciences (CBS).

This morning’s retirement announcement from CBS Dean Robert Elde, along with Allen Levine’s decision to step down as the dean of CFANS in June and the appointment of Brian Buhr as interim dean, marks this as a time of change for the two colleges. Such transitions in college leadership customarily involve consideration of the colleges’ current and future directions.

The possibility of a college of agriculture, environmental, and life sciences has been under discussion for some time by both Dean Elde and former Dean Levine. The two colleges, CBS and CFANS, already have a number of cross-appointments and working alliances, and the retiring deans had proposed greater alignment.

Hanson will place searches for new deans on hold for at least the fall 2013 semester. The appointment of a task force and the announcement of a process for seeking broad stakeholder input are expected in the coming weeks.

"I will ask the task force to consider whether a new college devoted to agriculture, life sciences, and the environment might consolidate the strengths of the University in ways that would advance our academic mission and our engagement with local and global communities," Hanson said. "The leadership transitions in CBS and CFANS make this discussion timely, but the consideration of such a college is driven principally by the direction of the life sciences, especially around genomics, and trends in research and higher education in agriculture, biological and natural resource sciences."

Interim CFANS Dean Brian Buhr said that the exploration of closer alignment between the two colleges is consistent with "the synergy that already exists between the two colleges and the changing needs of stakeholders in agriculture and industry. Consideration of a new consolidated structure will position us more strongly to advance research and outreach to stakeholders and communities across the state and globally."

Hanson stressed that no decision will be made "until we have consulted all stakeholders and thoroughly weighed all of the issues from many vantage points. We need to determine whether the benefits and synergies enhance current strengths in both CFANS and CBS."

The consideration of a new college, a process supported by U President Eric Kaler, will be one of many conversations that will unfold in tandem with the broader strategic planning process on the Twin Cities campus. These efforts will help position the University of Minnesota for the future and advance the U’s academic mission.

"The explosion of biological knowledge in the era of genomics has led to unprecedented opportunities," CBS Dean Robert Elde said. "The enhanced collaboration between CFANS and CBS in a new college could strengthen the impact and excellence of our research, and better prepare students to translate basic knowledge into applied solutions to pressing problems in agriculture, environmental sciences, and medicine, among other areas."

During this exploration period, students will not experience any disruption in their current schedules, majors or services in either college, Hanson said.

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