SPOKESMAN REVIEW – CHAD SOKOL – Washington State University has chosen a renowned biologist to oversee its agriculture research and education programs across the state.
In a news release Tuesday, the university named André-Denis Girard Wright as dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.
CAHNRS is one of WSU’s largest colleges, with about 1,200 staff and faculty members and nearly 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year, the news release said. The college includes 16 academic schools and departments, four research and extension centers and 40 country and tribal extension offices across the state.
In 2016, CAHNRS secured more than $83 million in public and private grants, accounting for more than 40 percent of WSU’s outside research funding, the news release said. The college’s scientists are key players in Washington’s various agriculture sectors, including wheat and tree fruit.
Wright’s first day on the job will be June 1. He will come to WSU from the University of Arizona, where he’s spent three years as director of the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences – a much smaller department than CAHNRS, with about 120 staff and faculty members.
After earning his doctorate in zoology from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, in 1998, Wright spent 11 years as a researcher for the Australian science agency known as CSIRO and served on the faculty of two universities in Australia. From 2009 to 2014, he was chairman of the animal sciences department at the University of Vermont.
Wright has published 104 peer-reviewed papers and contributed to 18 book chapters, in addition to dozens of lectures and conference papers, the news release said. Much of his research has focused on livestock and eco-friendly food production methods, including ways to reduce the amount of methane produced by grazing cattle.
In recent years, he has begun examining gut bacteria and immune responses in humans and other animals. In 2008, a new species of ciliated protozoa, Apokeronopsis wrighti, was named after Wright in recognition of his contributions to microbiology.
In an interview last year with Arizona Agriculture, a trade magazine published by the Arizona Farm Bureau, Wright said he changed his major from math to biology during his junior year at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Inspired by the doctors who treated his mother for serious back injuries, Wright said he set his sights on medical school before discovering a passion for research and “finding answers to unanswered questions.”
Wright was selected to lead CAHNRS after a nationwide search. He was one of four finalists who visited WSU’s Pullman campus in November and December. The others were Gregory Lardy of North Dakota State University, Gary Thompson of Pennsylvania State University and John Kirby of the University of Rhode Island.
It was WSU’s second attempt to recruit a new dean to replace Ron Mittelhammer, who is retiring after four years in that position. The student newspaper, the Daily Evergreen, reported that earlier last year two of the first three candidates withdrew their names from consideration and that WSU provost Dan Bernardo opted not to hire the third.
The Evergreen also reported in September that a number of CAHNRS faculty members have in recent years clashed with administrators over research funding and what the faculty members described as unfairly negative performance reviews, among other issues.
Bernardo, who spent eight years as the CAHNRS dean before Mittelhammer, gave Wright a glowing review.
“Dr. Wright brings the ideal skillset to lead the next chapter in the evolution of CAHNRS,” Bernardo said in the news release. “He has extensive academic and administrative experience at multiple land-grant universities and possesses an impeccable record of scholarly accomplishment. He is also much praised for his collaborative and engaging leadership style.”
Posted By Chad Sokol
Wed., Jan. 17, 2018, 6 a.m.
Picture: Spokesman Review – André-Denis Girard Wright as dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. (Washington State University)