Auburn names new dean of agriculture, head of AAES

Auburn University Provost Thomas Hanley has announced the appointment of Michael J. Weiss, a career entomologist, as dean of AU's College of Agriculture and director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.

Weiss comes to Auburn from the University of Idaho, where he is a professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences. He had also been interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Idaho.

“Weiss' background in agriculture sciences and research are impressive,” said Hanley. “Among the things that resonated with me were the volume and quality of his scholarly works and his ability to attract external funding.

“I believe the College of Agriculture and the Experiment Station have found a first rate administrator and faculty member who understands the importance of basic research and its application for the benefit of Alabamians.”

Weiss, 49, will succeed interim Dean John Jensen. He said he looked forward to working with Jensen “to assist me in becoming familiar with Alabama and Alabama Agriculture.”

“My wife, Cindy and I are very much honored and humbled to be asked to join the Auburn Community,” said Weiss. “Auburn's College of Agriculture has outstanding students, taught by a dedicated faculty who are supported by a superb staff. To become part of that over 100-year tradition is truly an opportunity of a lifetime.

“The Agricultural Experiment Station has supported superior research programs to address the needs of all Alabamians for over 100 years. Without question, the Experiment Station will continue to be relevant to all Alabamians for the next 100 years as the research program continues to find the answers to today's problems and solutions for tomorrow's challenges.”

A native of St. Paul, Minn., Weiss got his bachelor's degree at Purdue University, a master's degree at Ohio State and his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska — all in entomology.

Funding for AAES has been an ongoing issue at Auburn the past several years, a problem that Weiss says he understands.

“While the College and Experiment Station will always be faced with challenges, it is important to keep them in perspective and not lose sight of our over-riding mission of providing access to a high quality education in the agricultural and supporting sciences that results in a ‘society-ready graduate,’ discovering new knowledge and finding ways to apply existing knowledge to solve issues both in the state and nation, and ensuring we are using research based knowledge to develop educational programs that serve the needs of the state, region, and nation,” he said.

Weiss said AU and AAES should continue to work with its existing partners, Alabama A&M University and Tuskegee University, while developing new partnerships “to allow us to help all Alabamians improve their lives and economic well being.”

“I was attracted to Auburn for several reasons, the outstanding reputation of the faculty in the College of Agriculture and their commitment to the land-grant mission of teaching, research, and Extension-outreach, very strong support from Alabamians for the university and in particular the College of Agriculture and Agricultural Experiment Station, the opportunity to lead both the College and the Experiment Station, and a chance to contribute in moving both the College and Experiment Station to the next level of excellence,” he said.

Weiss began his academic career as an assistant professor of entomology at Montana State University in 1983. He joined the faculty at North Dakota State University in 1985 and advanced to full professor in 1996.

Joining the faculty of the University of Idaho in 2002, Weiss was named head of the Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences and professor of entomology. He served a stint as acting associate dean before being named dean of the college in March 2003.

Auburn University is a comprehensive research institution with more than 23,000 students and 6,500 faculty and staff. Ranked among the top 50 public universities nationally, Auburn is Alabama's largest educational institution, offering more than 230 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs.

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