College of Natural Sciences selects new dean

Bobby Blanchard

Linda Hicke, the newly appointed dean of the College of Natural Sciences, said she is looking forward to just about everything that Austin has to offer.

“The scope and activities and the happenings of the University are fundamental and exciting,” Hicke said. “I’m looking forward to Austin itself and I’ve heard tremendous things about the town.”

Hicke, who currently serves as associate vice president for research at Northwestern University, was appointed to the position of dean of College of Natural Sciences Tuesday afternoon. She will be taking over the position of Mary Ann Rankin, which has been filled by interim dean David Laude during the search for a new head of the college. Hicke said her first goal when she gets to UT is to learn everything she can about the college, which she said will require interaction with the faculty, staff and students.

“It’s a very large place, there is a tremendous amount going on and I want to spend a reasonable amount of time just learning about what people think is working really well at the college,” Hicke said. “I want to know what the strengths are, where are their opportunities to really leapfrog and grow, and what are some of the issues that need to be addressed,”

Hicke said she wanted to approach the issue of teaching large, introductory science classes at the University, which she said was going to be one of her challenges.

“There is a lot of research, and new approaches that have risen in the last decade or so,” Hicke said. “UT is at the forefront of many of those, but we need to implement those so we fundamentally make science classes super engaging and take advantage of everything that we’ve learned about how students really deeply engage with science.”

Hicke said she was ready to work around the budget cuts UT had been facing by focusing on the college’s priorities.

“One thing that I found that I think people need to do is think hard about what the top priorities really are,” Hicke said. “I think it is still possible to do a lot of budget cuts without fundamentally affecting the quality of research and education that is happening at the University.”

Chemistry professor Peter Rossky said Hicke had energy and an appreciation for modern interdisciplinary research.

“I think she can further accelerate the growth of the college and the participation of the scientist in the college and the frontiers of research,” Rossky said. “I also think that she has full appreciation of the importance of the undergraduate education, including undergraduate research, and the education of an individual going into modern science and medicine.” 

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: Dean of CNS addresses goals, future challenges