March 17, 2010

Barbara Knuth to Take Over As Dean of Graduate School

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Prof. Barbara Knuth, natural resource policy and management, who is currently senior associate dean in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, will replace Prof. Alison Power, ecology and evolutionary biology, as the new dean of the Cornell Graduate School for a five-year term, effective July 1, Provost Kent Fuchs announced on Tuesday. The Executive Committee of the Cornell Board of Trustees approved Knuth’s appointment last Friday.

In addition to planning and supervising several of the department’s programs as senior associate dean of CALS, Knuth served as the associate director of the Human Dimensions Resource Unit, where she coordinated research into understanding general attitudes toward the environment and natural resources.

Knuth said she has two major goals that she hopes to accomplish in her time as graduate school dean.

First, she said she would like to explore whether she can play a larger role in the University’s capital campaign so that graduate fellowships can be better supported.

Second, Knuth said that she would like to improve the way that graduate field assistants — who have been traditionally tasked with maintaining graduate school records, helping to support the faculty and dealing with student issues — operate.

Despite their important roles, Knuth said that field assistants are generally not formally educated and trained for their jobs — something that Knuth believes needs to be changed.

“We can set up a professional development program to help them do their jobs better, to serve graduate students better,” she stated.

Knuth will also be asked to take over some of the responsibilities previously held by Deputy Provost David Harris, who recently accepted a position with the Obama administration and is taking an indefinite leave from the University. She said that she would help oversee undergraduate admissions, paying special attention to supporting the University’s commitment to “multicultural diversity.”

Fuchs, who recommended Knuth to the Board of Trustees, told the University that he was “delighted that Barbara Knuth has agreed to accept this new role in the central administration and with the Graduate School.”

He added, “She has a record of truly outstanding leadership as senior associate dean and previously as department chair.”

Power, the outgoing Graduate School dean, will step down on June 30 at the completion of her second full term. She plans to return to her previous position within the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Original Author: Ben Gitlin