Changes in Leadership Won't Affect Purdue Programs

Purdue talent proving popular as Dean choices for other schools.

Published on: Jun 11, 2009

Several important cogs in the leadership assembly of the College of Agriculture and Purdue University Extension will be changing soon. The main reason is that other universities with ag schools are shopping at Purdue for talented individuals to lead their ag schools as Deans.

Craig Beyrouty, former head of the Agronomy Department, is headed to Colorado. Sonny Ramaswamy is on his way to Oregon. And three candidates for the Dean's position at Virginia Tech are all Purdue people. That choice has yet to be announced.

"The only good thing there is that we won't lose all three," jokes Jay Akridge, Dean of the College of Agriculture. And while it's an honor and indication that the Purdue ag college is rich with talent with so many other schools coming there to find people, it's keeping things challenging for the Dean. He assures, however, that Purdue academic and Extension programs won't suffer.

One of the first questions might be abut agronomy, where efforts have recently been made to bolster the plant breeding capability of the department. Will this adversely affect that effort?

"If anything we're going to increase our efforts to turn out qualified students in the plant breeding area," Akridge says. "The demand for plant breeders is extremely high right now, and we're moving forward to help meet the demand."

Purdue is in a good position, with one of the few plant breeding courses of study in the country offered at the undergraduate level. The program was featured in the January cover story of Indiana Prairie Farmer.

And Akridge is leaving no doubt as to his intentions there. Herb Ohm, the nationally recognized wheat breeder, will serve as interim department head of the Purdue Agronomy Department. However, he's made it clear, AKridge says, that it's only a one-year situation. Ohm's first love is a combination of plant breeding and working with students. Having Ohm serve as interim head gives time for a proper search, Akridge implies.

Meanwhile, new faces are arriving at Purdue. Jim Mintert is in his second week as assistant director of Extension, in charge of agriculture and natural resources. He replaces Tom Jordan, who chose to go back to a position in weed science in the Purdue Botany Department. Mintert, most recently an ag economist at Kansas State University, did part of his graduate training at Purdue. He will work with Chuck Hibberd, Director of Extension. Hibberd replaced Dave Petritz some 18 months ago. Petritz remains part of the Purdue team, however, acting as coordinator for the new Beck Ag Center.

Confused yet? Here's one more change. Chris Sigurdson changed hats and moved into another position with Purdue, outside of the College of Agriculture. He was department head of the Ag Communications Department. Word on the street is that there will be a national search for a new head for that department. In the meantime, Beth Forbes is interim head. Ag Communications is the communications arm that tells the public in layman's language about developments in Purdue research.