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Jahn to step down as UW-Madison ag and life sciences dean

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin and Provost Paul M. DeLuca Jr. today (Oct. 28) announced that Molly Jahn, who has led UW-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences since 2006, will step down as dean of the college, effective Jan. 1.

Jahn, a plant geneticist who came to Wisconsin from Cornell University, plans to assume her faculty position in the departments of agronomy and genetics on Jan. 2. She will serve half time as a special adviser to the provost and chancellor for sustainability sciences, a post she will hold through July 31. At that time, she will return to the faculty full-time.

"Now is the time for a change in leadership for the college," says Martin. "Dean Jahn has re-energized CALS. She has enhanced our relationships with Wisconsin's agricultural community, helped grow the research enterprise and put the college in a position for future success."

Jahn is noted for her research on breeding new vegetable varieties for use around the world and on gene discovery in crop plants such as peppers and cucumbers with a focus on economically important plant traits. She succeeded Elton Aberle, who retired in September 2005, and was the first woman to lead UW-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

"I was recruited to lead the college toward a 21st century vision for excellence and impact in agricultural and life sciences, and in the past four years, we have seen tremendous achievement toward that goal," says Jahn. "I'm very proud to have been a part of this chapter in the college's illustrious history, and I feel that the college is in an outstanding position as I take on a new challenge in my career.
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"I am enthusiastic about the opportunity now to focus on contributing to the university's broader efforts in sustainability sciences. This work will build on our accomplishments in CALS, my scholarly interests and my recent experience in federal government, and I look forward to helping our university leadership in this critical area."

During Jahn's time as dean:
  • the college's structural deficit was erased.
  • the college's extramural funding increased by 71 percent (from $80.7 million in 2006-07 to $138.2 million in 2009-10).
  • she led the effort to secure a $130 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to establish the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center on campus.
  • she oversaw several key building projects, including construction of a new dairy facility at CALS' Arlington Research Station, a new addition to the Biochemistry Building, the remodeling of Babcock Hall and the opening of the Microbial Sciences Building, and recently led planning of the soon-to-be-constructed Wisconsin Energy Institute.
  • the college's degree structure was revised, consolidating multiple pre-existing degree paths into one bachelor of science degree. Jahn was instrumental in supporting a campus-level initiative to add a major in environmental sciences and stronger intercollege partnerships in the biology curriculum.
  • she oversaw the hiring of 52 CALS faculty members.
  • and she created the Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarship Fund to ease the financial burden for rural students to enroll in UW-Madison. To date, more than $100,000 in need-based aid has been raised as part of this fund. In addition, more than $1.5 million has been raised to support graduate study in fields such as plant breeding and genetics.
Jahn recently took a brief leave from the university to provide interim leadership as deputy and acting undersecretary of research, education and economics for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is one of UW-Madison's largest colleges and one of its most visible given the university's land grant status and the importance of agriculture to the state's economy. An interim dean will be named within the next few weeks, and a nationwide search for Jahn's successor will commence immediately.

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