Without a permanent leader, the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources has struggled for three years to find a sense of continuity among budget reductions that cut its degrees and threatened to close it, according to university administrators.
But now, about three years after the college lost its dean, University of Nevada, Reno interim Provost Heather Hardy is looking for people to sit on a search committee to find a replacement.
“Having a permanent dean means that some of the uncertainty about the college’s future is going away,” wrote Mark Walker, chair of the college’s natural resources and environmental science department in an email. “The uncertainty has affected morale. A new dean can help pull the college together to develop one or more common directions for the future.”
The college’s dean search took much longer than the recent search for the Reynolds School of Journalism. When former journalism Dean Jerry Ceppos left the school for a position at Louisiana State University in April of last year, the search for a replacement was underway within a month.
However, when former CABNR Dean David Thawley was permanently injured after falling off a ladder in 2009, it was in the middle of budget turmoil that threatened to shut down the college.
“It was not a good time to hire a permanent dean,” UNR interim President Marc Johnson said.
Instead, administrators opted to name Ron Pardini, the associate director of the agricultural experiment station, as a temporary leader. Pardini faced a storm as budget cuts eliminated majors and created a perception that CABNR had disappeared — a problem he still struggles with today.
“It is a challenge because (our) students are leaving the state,” he said. “I think we’re having a brain drain in (agriculture) students because they think our programs are closed.”
That will be one of the main challenges of whomever is selected as the next dean, Pardini said. He also emphasized collaboration with federal and state agencies as well as the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in order to properly support programs and services in the college.
Johnson said he doesn’t expect the college to face heavy budget cuts in the near future. At the same time, faculty members in CABNR shouldn’t expect an increase in funding. So, like the rest of the university, the new dean will need to be able to grow programs based on limited resources.
Walker agreed that the new leader will need to be good at finding resources to support existing programs.
Pardini said he is considering applying for the permanent dean position. Johnson said he hopes to have candidates on campus for interviews in the fall and have a new dean appointed in the first half of next year.