Elaine Turner named dean of UF's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida faculty member and administrator often lauded for her outstanding teaching skills has been named dean of the university’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Elaine Turner, senior associate dean for UF’s third -largest college, often known as CALS, has been interim dean of the school since early January, but becomes its dean effective April 11, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“Dr. Turner is a person who gets things done,” said Payne. “She is organized, she’s tireless, she never drops the ball and she’s got a career-long commitment to the highest-quality teaching.”
Offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 22 fields of study, CALS is one of the largest colleges of its kind in the nation, serving nearly 5,000 students in programs ranging from horticultural sciences to geomatics and resource economics.
Turner said among the college’s challenges are the sheer size and diversity of its academic offerings, a slate of what are now hundreds of courses offered online, and finding ways to best prepare students for success in an ever-morphing workplace.
She also hopes to help students find CALS earlier in their academic careers. The college has a higher-than-average number of students who transfer from other colleges.
“I think we have to find ways to make the opportunities we have known to students at even younger ages,” she said.
Turner has been CALS’ Undergraduate Teacher of the Year (2000-2001), its Undergraduate Advisor of the Year (2002-2003) and was named one of two UF honors professors of the year in 2003.
In 2004, she received the USDA’s National Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences, and in 2009, the Morton Wolfson Faculty Award for Outstanding Service to University of Florida Students.
She is part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ food science and human nutrition faculty. Turner has taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, most often teaching undergraduate courses in introductory and life cycle nutrition.
Turner said she hopes to be able to teach a course again, after settling in as dean.
“One of the things that can happen as you move up in college administration is that you create distance between yourself and students – and the students were your motivation for being there in the first place,” she said.
CALS has one of the longest histories among UF colleges, dating back to the 1884 opening of what was then known as Florida Agricultural College. The ceremonial mace in Turner’s office is inscribed with a long list of names of college leaders – many of them familiar ones, including Andrew Sledd, J. Wayne Reitz, Albert Murphree and Peter H. Rolfs.
Joining that list is a bit overwhelming, Turner said.
“It’s a huge honor. It’s a huge responsibility,” she said. “There’s a lot to live up to on that mace.”
A UF/IFAS faculty member since 1996, Turner taught at Clemson University from 1986-1996. She earned a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Kansas State University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in nutrition from Purdue University.