UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — While the two-year search to find new Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences dean Richard Roush was a long one, his broad range of experience stood out from other candidates.
“That is not a knock on the other candidates,” said Blannie Bowen, vice president of academic affairs and part of the 18-member selection committee.
“But it was a combination of the skill set, plus being a good match. Not many universities have ag colleges, beyond Penn State, Ohio State, Purdue. So the pool is limited.”
The search was chaired by William Easterling, dean of the PSU College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and made up of university faculty members and one student.
Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones announced Roush’s appointment July 2, pending approval by the university board of trustees at its July 11 meeting.
Roush’s appointment is effective Oct. 1, 2014.
Roush is currently the dean and a professor at University of Melbourne’s Melbourne School of Land and Environment in Australia.
Jones said Roush “has a tremendously exciting vision related to the academic profile of the college, and he brings a considerable breadth and depth of knowledge and experience to the position.”
Roush replaces Bruce McPheron, who left Penn State in November 2012 to become vice president for agricultural administration and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State University, his undergraduate alma mater.
Since McPheron’s departure, Barbara Christ, senior associate dean and professor, has served as interim dean of the college.
During his announcement, Jones also thanked Christ for her service and willingness to stay on as interim dean until Roush’s arrival, noting that Christ has provided “steady guidance as we conducted our search.”
Picking from the top
Bowen said a number of talented department heads and associate deans were considered in the three rounds of searching, but it was not until the committee decided to concentrate on sitting deans that the process began to gain serious traction.
“If we would have known then what we did now, with regard to the position, we probably would have started there,” he said. “This is a very large job. There are a lot of very important things we do as far as feeding Pennsylvania and the whole United States.”
Bowen said Roush will be charged with leading the PSU College of Agricultural Sciences in “visualizing for the next 10 years where we are going as a land-grant university.”
Bowen said the search committee was looking for a person able to relate to both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as research entities and other stakeholders throughout the state.
“We need someone who will be a national leader with a sense of history and what needs to happen in the future,” Bowen said.
“One thing that is very important is that (Roush) has worked at large land-grant universities like Mississippi, Cornell, and the University of Melbourne.”
Roush said he is excited to be working for a university poised to address challenges facing agriculture such as feeding a projected 9 billion people without further damaging the environment, as well as opportunities for greater export income.
“The breadth and depth of Penn State puts us in a great place to help meet these challenges and opportunities, for the benefit of the state, nation and the planet,” Roush said.
Roush has served in his current position at the University of Melbourne since 2006, leading an academic staff of 95 that generates between $20 million and $22 million in annual research income.
Roush received his bachelor of science degree in entomology from the University of California-Davis in 1976, and his doctorate in entomology from the University of California-Berkeley, in 1979.
From 1981 to 1986, he was a faculty member and researcher at Mississippi State University; an associate professor at Cornell University until 1995; and associate professor at Australia’s University of Adelaide from 1995 through 2003.
From 1998 to 2003, he was CEO of Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre for Weed Management. For three years, from 2003 to 2006, he directed the statewide Integrated Pest Management Program at the University of California, also serving as interim director of the school’s Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Program from 2004-06.
Since 1987, Roush has consulted for corporations such as Eli Lilly, DuPont, Monsanto and Dow on the management and prevention of resistance to conventional and biological pesticides, and genetically transformed plants.
Over his career, he has received more than 25 personal grants for research totaling more than $3.6 million. Roush also received a research grant in Australia for $20.3 million ($19.1 million, U.S.).
A member of the Entomological Society of America since 1979, he also was a founding member of the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture, which was established in 2007.
Roush has written nearly 100 articles in refereed journals and contributed to more than 30 books. He’s been a reviewer for multiple journals, including Evolution, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Economic Entomology.
With research expenditures approaching $97 million annually, Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences is one of the most research active among its peer institutions, and serves 3,000 undergraduate student, as well as graduate students through its nine academic departments.
Bowen said one comment made by Roush to the selection committee early in the interview process will resonate with students and the community as a whole.
“This is a world-renowned researcher, living in Australia, and he made the point of how important the support of Cooperative Extension is, and how U.S. agriculture depends on it,” Bowen said. “He [Roush] said you don’t realize how important that is — and the 4-H and community programs, too — until you go to another continent like Australia.”