Michelle Baker, professor in the Department of Biology and the USU Ecology Center, has been selected to serve as dean of Utah State University’s College of Science. Baker, who joined USU in 1999, has served as interim dean since Jan. 1, 2021, following the retirement of Dean Maura Hagan, who served from 2015-2020.
“It is my great pleasure to announce that Dr. Michelle Baker has accepted the offer to become the next Dean of the College of Science,” said USU Provost Larry Smith. “She will use her outstanding leadership talent to lead the college to an exciting future aligned with the critically important land-grant mission of this university and its R1 stature.”
Baker said she is “excited to continue” in her role at the college’s helm.
“Our college is well-positioned to become a research-centric academic leader, with strengths in data science and machine learning, tectonics and geologic hazards, space weather, human health, global change and sustainability, and more,” she says. “I look forward to continuing to support and promote this work that is critical to our state and nation.”
Baker previously served as the college’s associate dean for research and faculty. Promoted to full professor in 2011, her research focuses on physical, chemical and biological processes that affect water quality. Baker’s work has taken her from the Jordan River in Salt Lake City to Kenya’s Mara River and many places in between.
From 2014-2018, Baker successfully led the statewide, six-year National Research Foundation-funded iUTAH EPSCoR initiative, aimed at strengthening science networks for Utah’s water future. She received Utah’s Governor’s Medal for Excellence in Science and Technology, the state’s top STEM award, in 2015. Baker was awarded the state’s prestigious Pioneers of Progress Award in 2017, in recognition of her contributions to water science in Utah.
While serving as interim dean, Baker was lauded for her efforts in establishing the college’s JEDI-STEM Collaboratory. The initiative addresses the need for greater justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the college and throughout the university, including a recent cluster-hire of five faculty positions to increase diversity among faculty ranks.
The College of Science includes the academic departments of Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Computer Science, Geosciences, Mathematics & Statistics, and Physics.
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