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Search for New Purdue Ag Dean Underway

Ag enrollment for fall up 10% at Purdue.

A committee of 17 members representing not only Purdue abut also other ag leaders across Indiana will pick the next dean for the Purdue University College of Agriculture. The beginning of the search was announced last week.

Academia sometimes moves slowly. However, inside sources tell Indiana Prairie Farmer that the goal is to bring in a new dean by January '09. That may seem like a lengthy process, but as college searches for important positions go, that would be a rather fast-moving selection and naming process.

Replacing Dean Randy Woodson became necessary after he resigned earlier this spring to become provost of the entire university. He was named after another speedy selection process. The provost is essentially a vice-president, and for all practical purposes, second in command behind the president of the university. Woodson's new duties give him a chance to provide input on all academic programs at Purdue, not just agriculture.

Meanwhile, Jay Akridge, a Kansas native, serves as interim dean. He arrived at Purdue in the early '80s to do post graduate work, and remained once it was finished. An ag economist by trade, he has concentrated on working with ag-based companies to develop more efficient ways of doing business. In an interview recently, Akridge likened his former responsibilities as similar to Extension, except he's supervising staff providing assistance to companies, not farmers per se. The term Purdue has adopted for this kind of work over the past decade or so is 'engagement.'

Akridge was uncommitted when asked if he would throw his hat into the ring to be considered for the full-time dean position. He said he had not made that decision yet.

"My goal now is to keep the operation that former deans have built here operating smoothly until the new dean arrives," he says.

One of those accomplishments of the Purdue ag program under the leadership fo the past two deans, including Woodson and Vic Lechtenberg, perhaps aided by the farm economy, is an uptick in student enrollment in agriculture at Purdue. After bottoming out in the mid'80s, student enrollment has trended upward, and is projected to be as much as 10% higher for the fall '08 semester than a year ago. Total enrolment in the College of Agriculture is somewhere around 2,500.

"This fall's total enrollment won't be a record, but it continues an upward trend we've seen over the past few years," Akridge says. Enrollment peaked when farming was in its earlier hey-day before the crash in the early '80s.

Meanwhile, Woodson assumed his new duties as provost of Purdue on May 1. Akridge moved into the Interim Dean slot on the same day. Watch for further updates on the selection process.

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