Turner named dean of agriculture college at UF
Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 at 4:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 31, 2014 at 4:34 p.m.
Award-winning faculty member Elaine Turner has been appointed dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida, starting April 11.
The announcement was made Monday, three months after Turner was named interim dean following the departure of Teri Balser after nearly three years in that position.
“Dr. Turner is a person who gets things done,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural sciences at UF. “She is organized, she’s tireless, she never drops the ball, and she’s got a career-long commitment to the highest-quality teaching.”
Turner said the college faces the challenge of providing the highest quality of education possible given the resources available. Collaborating with other colleges and departments within the college of agriculture is key to ensuring UF is not duplicating similar content in multiple ways, she said.
One recent example of that interdisciplinary cooperation is the creation of a marine sciences program with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Interdisciplinary participation is definitely part of our future,” Turner said.
Natural resources is a particular area of growing interest among students, Turner said.
“There is a need to pay more attention to natural resources management and how it affects quality-of-life issues,” Turner said.
Turner, 53, joined the UF faculty in 1999 after nearly a decade at Clemson University. She was the undergraduate teacher of the year for 2000-01 and undergraduate adviser of the year for 2002-03. Turner was named one of two UF honors professors in 2003.
She received the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences in 2004. In 2009, three years after becoming a full professor, Turner received UF’s Morton Wolfson Faculty Award for Outstanding Service to Students.
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has nearly 5,000 students in 22 fields including agricultural, natural resources, family, youth, consumer and biological sciences. Its history dates to 1884.
Turner said her goal as dean is to ensure the college is developing students who can step into the positions being left open by a generation of aging baby boomers on the edge of retirement who make up a large portion of executives and managers in agricultural and life sciences professions.
Balser stepped down as dean in December to take a new role helping to shape the undergraduate curriculum for the entire university. She was hired as dean in July 2010, replacing interim Dean Mark Rieger. Balser had been tasked with reimagining the agricultural education program.
Balser said she will focus on developing ideas and proposals on how to best support the teaching effort and improve the student experience.
“Creating a climate where teachers feel empowered to do their best work is my biggest goal, my truest passion,” Balser said.
Turner said the college will continue initiatives started by Balser, including the Challenge 2050 Project. “We are formalizing that as a certificate program,” Turner said.
The Challenge 2050 project is challenging students to solve the problems of the future — natural resources management, food security, and air and water quality.
“It’s all about how to feed a growing population while at the same time protecting our natural resources,” Turner said.