CORVALLIS - Oregon State University announced today a plan to revitalize its College of Science, punctuating its plan by appointing Sherman H. "Sherm" Bloomer as dean following a national search.
Bloomer has served for two years as interim dean of the college. He arrived at OSU in 1995 as a professor and chair of the Department of Geosciences within the College of Science.
OSU plans to propel the College of Science into one of the university's premier teaching and research units - one that is recognized for its excellence, according to Tim White, OSU provost and executive vice president.
"The College of Science has several truly outstanding teaching and research faculty and programs," White said, "but budget constraints and, to a certain extent, an antiquated structure have kept the college from reaching its full potential. We will work with the faculty and leadership of the college to address those issues and make the College of Science one of the best programs of its kind."
White said that, concurrent with the appointment of Bloomer, OSU will fully retire a debt the college incurred prior to Bloomer's appointment as interim dean in 1999. The college was to have paid off that debt over the next decade. Instead, White said, those funds, which amount to $1.5 million, and others will be used by the college to provide more support for students, faculty and staff in the basic biological, mathematical and physical sciences.
OSU also is committed to working with the College of Science to hire 4-5 key senior faculty to launch strong research programs in areas of strategic scientific priority. Those areas include biomolecular research, earth and environmental sciences, ecology and organismal biology, and materials science.
"The specific focus of these initiatives will be crafted through discussions with members of the college and as part of a wider university discussion on research directions," Bloomer said. "They build upon existing areas of excellence and, by increasing the critical mass of faculty in these areas, OSU will have an opportunity for distinction in these important areas."
The College of Science has an annual total budget of $37 million, including educational and general budget, as well as extramural research funding. Bloomer said the college will identify $500,000 from its educational and general budget through innovation that will be reallocated to academic programs within the college.
"The goal is to reinvest the money in specific, targeted ways to help us achieve our teaching and research goals," Bloomer said. "One possibility might be to invest more funds in graduate student stipends, which would increase our ability to attract the best students, put more teaching assistants in our classrooms, and boost our research support."
Additional funds for investment in the College of Science may be available from both internal and external sources, White said, including a matching gift program called the Renaissance Fund for the College of Science.
As dean of the College of Science, Bloomer will oversee one of the major academic units at OSU. The college has 12 departments that offer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, and includes special pre-professional programs in health and medicine.
Bloomer came to OSU from Boston University, where he was a faculty member and administrator in the Department of Earth Sciences from 1987-95. He also spent four years at Duke University.
An internationally recognized expert on convergent margins and oceanic crust, Bloomer has led several oceanographic expeditions in the western Pacific Ocean. He has worked under the auspices of the Ocean Drilling Program, and serves as a member of one of the scientific advisory boards for that prestigious international research program.
"Sherm Bloomer was chosen to lead the College of Science after a national search because his vision and leadership will help the college and its distinguished faculty achieve eminence as they pursue opportunities for science in the new century," White said. "There is strong support for him, not only from within the college, but from throughout the university and the scientific community."
Bloomer is a graduate of Rice University, where he was a National Merit Scholar. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego, through the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
One of his goals as dean of the College of Science, he says, is to promote research and encourage it to permeate into every layer of the college, from the freshmen classrooms to the laboratories of senior scientists.
"We need to find ways to bring research into the classroom - and particularly the introductory and non-major classroom," Bloomer said. "Admittedly, that is a challenge. But when students get personally involved with research, and exposed to cutting-edge science that affects people's lives, it is invigorating. I've literally seen them transformed by the experience.
"That's the kind of energy and future I'd like to see in the College of Science."