OSU hires first female dean in college of agricultural sciences after ‘unheard of’ support


Wanyu Zhu, Photographer

Staci Simonich sitting in Strand Agriculture Hall. As of March 28, Simonich is the dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at OSU.

Sam Misa, News Contributor

Staci Simonich has been appointed the new dean of the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences, making history as the first female dean in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Prior to her start as dean, Simonich had been serving as the stand-in for former Dean Alan Sams, who left the college in January. Previously, she was executive associate dean, and in total she has worked with OSU for over 20 years.

Simonich officially became dean on March 28. According to Simonich, the job has been busier than before her promotion, but still similar to her previous responsibilities. Her first week included various interviews and meetings with people outside of the university.

“I’m very humbled to be in this position,” Simonich said. “When I was a first-generation student, growing up in Green Bay, Wis., never did I think that all these years later, I would be sitting in the chair I’m sitting in right now.”

In the selection process for replacing Sams, he was not able to have a say in selecting the new dean, but did serve as a reference and recommended Simonich for the role.

“I was asked if there were any people who I felt would be potential internal candidates. I said yes and provided a few names [including Simonich],” Sams said. “I was also asked to suggest people that should be included in the interview schedule for candidates to meet with. I had the best knowledge of key stakeholders and partners, particularly outside OSU, that needed to be included in the process.”

According to Sams, he is happy Simonich is his replacement due to her unique qualifications and the time they worked together when Simonich was executive associate dean, shaping the college’s new vision as well as helping initiate new programs.

“During that time she demonstrated excellent leadership skills and developed positive relationships across the college as well as with stakeholders outside OSU including industry, donors and elected officials,” Sams said. “She helped develop the college’s new vision and many of its programs initiated during that period.”

Sams also said Simonich has the needed balance to be the dean.

“Deans need to move through so many topics and levels on a continual basis every day and need to maintain balance across it all,” Sams said. “She has the technical knowledge to understand topics across the college. She can span the range of detail from academic bureaucracy to dealing with the general public. She has a good sense of the multiple objectives and constraints facing the college. She is an excellent leader.”

In addition, Sams said Simonich knows how to navigate the College of Agricultural Science’s various audiences.

“She is an excellent communicator and does a great job moving between the College’s many audience’s in doing so, from students to faculty and staff, as well as audiences both internal and external to the University,” Sams said.

One additional qualification that Simonich gained in recent years includes getting an MBA while still working as a professor in chemistry and toxicology. During that time Simonich also maintained a position as an administrator at OSU.

Sams said it was the support from all of the department heads and experiment station directors that landed her the position.

“As soon as we heard that the dean was leaving, [the department heads and I] all got together and wrote a letter to support Dr. Simonich not just to step in as acting department, acting dean, but as permanent dean,” said Department Head of Food Science and Technology Lisbeth Goddik.

Simonich said the spontaneous support she had might have surprised the provost and Goddik agreed.

“It’s really unheard of,” Goddik said. “Department heads normally have unique opinions and strong opinions. But to have every single department head within the College of Agricultural Sciences say we want Staci as dean, that’s a pretty strong statement to how capable she is.”

According to Goddik, Simonich cares deeply about the mission of the College of Agricultural Sciences as well.

“She’s very interested in us working with the stakeholders throughout the state of Oregon,” Goddik said. “So [working with] farmers, food industries, consumers and everybody who’s touched by food and agriculture in one way or another.”

Included in the list of stakeholders are 13 experiment stations across Oregon all of which are accessible to students for pursuing their own research.

“Now that we’re out of COVID-19, or getting out of COVID-19, the dean and also the faculty, staff, students—we need to get out in the state and be seen,” Simonich said. “[Simonich and her department needs to] see folks, listen to them and talk with them.”

According to Goddik and Sams, they are delighted Simonich is the first female dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“I think it’s significant,” Sams said. “That helps her understand and support all members of the college family but particularly women, underrepresented or marginalized groups. She is committed to supporting everyone.”

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