UF/IFAS honors Turner, begins search for new dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

<p>Elaine Turner, Ph.D.</p>

Elaine Turner, Ph.D.

For the first time in a decade, the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has begun a search for a new dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). Elaine Turner, Ph.D., who has served as dean since 2014, will return to the faculty, with plans for her successor to start in January 2025.

“Dean Turner has been laser-focused on students, working tirelessly to support them and to ensure they have a rich and wonderful experience in CALS — both academically and otherwise,” said UF Provost Scott Angle, who served as senior vice president of UF/IFAS from 2020 to 2023. “She has also been very intentional in nurturing excellence in teaching among CALS faculty and launching innovative programs. We’ll miss her, but I’m confident we’ll find a great leader to continue CALS’ growth and success.”

UF/IFAS, with its strong leadership team, deploys solutions in agriculture and natural resources that impact teaching and research. The new dean will lead the 23 undergraduate and 25 graduate programs in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, which is the fourth-largest college at UF and one of the largest colleges of agriculture and related sciences in the United States (with nearly 6,600 students enrolled in Fall 2023). Dr. Dana Zimmel, dean of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, will chair the search committee for the college’s dean.

For Turner, serving as the dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences for the past 10 years has been a great honor, and she has been widely lauded for her accomplishments.

“Together, we have engaged CALS students in Gainesville, across Florida, and online; provided educational programs to develop an award-winning teaching faculty team; and celebrated the achievements of graduates earning nearly 30,000 degrees since I started working in the dean’s office,” said Turner, who has spent close to 20 years in various roles in the dean’s office, as interim associate dean, associate dean, senior associate dean, interim dean, and dean.

In 2016, under Turner’s leadership, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences launched an annual summer residential program called the Florida Youth Institute, which brings high school juniors and seniors to campus to learn about how they can help solve critical challenges related to global food security. A total of 271 students have completed the program.

Also under Turner’s leadership, several programs were created in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to support teaching faculty: the Roche Teaching Scholars, a mid-career faculty development program; the CALS Mentor Academy, which supports mentoring between faculty and students; and the Teaching Enhancement Symposium, which allows teaching faculty, staff, and graduate students to engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning, as well as sharing research and best practices.

As a member of the UF/IFAS faculty since 1996, Turner has taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, most often teaching undergraduate courses in introductory and life-cycle nutrition. She was named the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Undergraduate Teacher of the Year for 2000-2001, the college’s Undergraduate Advisor of the Year for 2002-2003, and a UF Honors Professor of the Year in 2003. 

Turner is a recipient of the USDA’s National Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences, and the Morton Wolfson Faculty Award for Outstanding Service to University of Florida Students. She holds a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Kansas State University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in nutrition from Purdue University.

Turner’s successor will be following a distinguished line of deans, as the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences 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 the dean’s office is inscribed with a long list of names of college leaders, including J. Wayne Reitz, Wilmon Newell, Peter Henry Rolfs, and Andrew Sledd.

“Serving as a college dean for a land-grant university has always been about providing access to education for all who seek it,” Turner said. “I’m proud to have worked with faculty and staff so focused on putting students first, ensuring the best possible educational experience.” 

Abby Weingarten June 20, 2024