The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the University of Arkansas at Monticello have announced Michael Blazier as the next Dean for the UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center. He will assume his duties July 1.
UAM Chancellor Peggy Doss and UA System Vice President for Agriculture Mark Cochran made the announcement Tuesday on a Zoom call to college faculty. Both Cochran and Doss thanked the search committee for providing top-tier candidates. Each also extended their thanks and appreciation to Robert Ficklin, Sturgis endowed professor of forest biology, for his leadership as interim dean.
Doss said the position is distinctive in the breadth of its oversight and in its opportunities to unite resources, people, and objectives.
“There are a number of vital priorities right now for our university, division, the system, and beyond,” she said. “Dr. Blazier is exactly the visionary to serve as an enthusiastic, collaborative partner between and among institutions.”
Doss emphasized the importance of his role to the state and its economic future.
“With his expertise, I see Dr. Blazier as an innovative leader to ensure strong academic programs, crucial research, and extension services for Arkansas and the region,” she said.
Blazier comes from Louisiana State University, where he has served for 18 years as a forestry project leader at the LSU AgCenter Hill Farm Research Station and professor. He is experienced as a statewide forestry extension specialist and holds dozens of peer-reviewed publications. He holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Louisiana Tech University, as well as a master’s and Ph.D. in forestry fields from Oklahoma State University.
Blazier will serve as only the second dean of the College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources. Dr. Philip Tappe, the college’s first dean, retired in December after nearly 30 years with UAM.
Blazier grew up in West Monroe, Louisiana, less than 90 miles from the Monticello campus.
"Since early in my career, I've collaborated regularly with UAM faculty, and I've always been impressed with their teamwork, perseverance in getting research funding and implementing the projects, and the resources they had available to conduct the research,” he said.
“I also have family ties to the area, so I look at this position as a chance to work with a great group of faculty and staff with the added benefit of doing so on my ‘home turf,’” he said. “Add to that the natural and agricultural resources Arkansas offers – and the opportunities to help the College and Center achieve high impacts in their mission seem endless."
The UAM forestry program is approaching its next reaccreditation by the Society for American Foresters, a process Blazier will closely oversee. UAM offers the only SAF-accredited forestry studies in Arkansas.
With an extensive background in forest research and extension projects, Blazier expects similar opportunities to oversee innovative research activities.
"I've focused on forest plantation management and agri-forestry where we co-mingled tree growth and cattle production,” he said. “We have done that with row crops and trees. We have looked at different lines of ecological restoration on bottomland hardwoods, longleaf pine, and shortleaf pine."
Blazier said he seeks to support research that is timely and relevant to the immediate area, bringing research results directly to forest practitioners, natural resource professionals, and landowners who can put recommended practices into action. Blazier was responsible for managing 500 acres of Louisiana timber at the Hill Farm Research Station, where there is also a 300-head cattle herd.
In addition to leading an academic unit at UAM, Blazier will serve as the director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center. The center serves as the research arm for the Division of Agriculture with respect to forestry. Projects such as forest health, climate, watershed protection, and wildlife habitat have featured as recent focus areas. The center facilitates much of the grant writing for forestry research in the state. It is primarily located on the University of Arkansas at Monticello campus, but center faculty members extend to Little Rock, Fayetteville, Hope, Pine Tree, and Batesville.
“Dr. Blazier is bringing a wealth of experience in research, extension and teaching, which will be an asset to the college and the Arkansas Forest Resources Center,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture, for the University of Arkansas System. “He has already worked with the faculty and our stakeholders in the state. He is also very familiar with the management issues of our southern forests. We are very excited about the leadership that he will provide to the programs in forestry, wildlife and agriculture.”
Blazier arrives at the Monticello campus as UAM and the Division of Agriculture embark on a waterfowl laboratory partnership with Five Oaks Ag Research and Education Center. The partnership provides an opportunity for conservation and wildlife habitat professionals and private landowners to observe and understand the evolving strategies for preserving and improving the wetland ecosystem within the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Students will engage with research in a geographically unique environment and earn a credential made possible through the collaboration. Beginning this fall, the first students will enroll in coursework toward a graduate certificate in waterfowl habitat and recreation management, a program that emerged in part through industry demand for the specialized training.
Blazier said he and his family look forward to settling in the familiar southeast Arkansas area and connecting with the welcoming community. His wife, Stacy, is an accomplished pathologist in the poultry industry, and their twin 17-year-old boys will begin their senior year of high school this fall.