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Checking in With Dean Forbes | June 2017

A monthly Q&A With College of Biological Sciences Dean Valery Forbes.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

There’s lots of good news to share. The CBS Conservatory will receive $4.4 million in public funding toward a new facility. We still have private dollars to raise to cover our portion of the total cost, but this marks the beginning of a new era for this important teaching and research resource. We are also building capacity in key areas with the recent hires of three new microbiology tenure-track faculty in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and a physiology teaching faculty member in the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning. Speaking of faculty, this spring an unprecedented number of faculty received awards and recognition, and the accolades keep coming. Meg Titus, a faculty member in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development, received the University’s 2016-17 Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education Award. Three of EEB’s most distinguished faculty members were recognized (in addition to a long list of other EEB faculty members earlier this spring). David Tilman was elected to the Royal Society of London. The Cincinnati Zoo gave its Wildlife Conservation Award to Craig Packer. And Jessica Hellmann received the National Adaptation Forum’s Climate Adaptation Award. All of this recognition is a nice prelude to EEB’s upcoming 50th anniversary celebration this fall.

What are you most looking forward to in the coming weeks?

Next week, I moderate a panel discussion with some excellent science communicators at the Science Museum of Minnesota on a timely and important topic — why facts don’t seem to matter.  I’m looking forward to the conversation. I’m also looking forward to meeting our incoming students at Nature of Life. I will teach a module on “Communicating science to challenging audiences” at the first three sessions of Nature of Life. It’s one of my favorite official duties!

What do you want to make sure the CBS community knows right now?

We are poised to welcome our largest incoming class to date this fall. It’s critical that we continue to create new and better opportunities for our students to engage beyond the classroom as our student body grows. With that in mind, this spring I visited learning abroad programs in Copenhagen and Glasgow to explore opportunities to develop STEM courses that will make it easier for our students to spend time abroad. Science is necessarily international in orientation, which makes learning abroad a particularly valuable experience for our students. I spoke with several UMN students spending this semester in Copenhagen, and they described their experience as “life-changing”.

Anything else on your mind?

An announcement about the next director of Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories is coming soon. Thank you to all who participated in the process of selecting a new leader for Itasca. Stay tuned!


June, 2017