Fall 2022

In Vivo

Dean Glenda Gillapsy standing in front of brick buildings on Henry Mall.
Photo by Michael P. King


Greetings, readers of Grow — my fellow lovers of the agricultural and life sciences! Welcome to the fall 2022 issue. It’s my honor and privilege to be sending you this message through our magazine. But it’s my first time “here,” so it seems only proper that I should tell you a little bit about myself and how I plan to work with others to promote excellence in CALS.

As some of you already know, I became the new dean of the college in August. I come to UW from Virginia Tech, where I was a professor in the Department of Biochemistry for 24 years, the last seven of which I served as chair. Like the biochemistry department here at CALS, my former academic home at VT was also housed in the university’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. And VT, like UW, is also a land-grant college, with a tripartite mission of research, education, and extension. So, while my geographical setting has changed, I find myself in familiar territory in terms of college and institutional goals.

My research has mostly focused on phosphate signaling in plants, and it could be described as both basic and applied. On one hand, I explore how plants communicate. But I also investigate methods for remediation of phosphate, which is a serious pollutant that sometimes results from agricultural activity.

That’s a little about my academic interests. But, to help you get to know me, I want to tell you more about where I typically spend my time and energy.

Throughout my career, I’ve placed a heavy emphasis on undergraduate and graduate education. At VT, for example, I helped lead efforts to modernize the curriculum, and I worked on a teaching and mentoring initiative aimed at diversifying the scientific workforce. Outreach and extension (vital parts of the storied Wisconsin Idea here at UW) have also been top priorities of mine. I’m proud to have been involved with high school outreach programs that help young scholars find their love of science early. I also helped create a federally funded partnership that gives undergrads a chance to interact directly with farmers and connect basic science in the lab with applied science at agricultural research stations.

That’s some of the background I bring with me as I step into this new role. And I’m excited by what I see here. My predecessor, Kate VandenBosch, stepped down from the deanship following a decade at the helm of the college, and CALS accomplished a great deal under her leadership. I now find myself in a truly exceptional place rich with possibilities, looking to carry on in the college’s tradition of success.

CALS has a stellar overall reputation. It’s renowned for its research, and there’s a willingness to innovate in education here. I see talented and experienced leaders throughout the college’s departments, centers, and units. This includes a new team focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion that is committed to making CALS an even more welcoming place. The college also benefits from the strong support of its alumni, donors, and other stakeholders throughout the state. And I could go on.

Many of these strengths, highlighted in the pages of this magazine, dovetail with my past efforts and with the areas where I hope to focus and collaborate as dean of CALS. How that focus and collaboration happen will be decided and refined as I spend my first weeks and months on campus listening and learning. That includes hearing from students, faculty, and staff but also alumni, donors, representatives of industries connected to CALS, and other members of our college community. I look forward to your thoughts and ideas.

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