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Sunday, June 16, 2024

UF continues searches for top leadership positions, deans

Updates on leadership positions within the colleges and departments

Within the past year, UF has filled positions from the shifting vacancies that followed after Ben Sasse was announced as UF’s new president in February 2023. 

As leadership positions have shifted over the past year, UF has been filling in the vacancies. 

Senior Vice President of IFAS

Robert Gilbert became interim senior vice president of UF/IFAS July 2023 after J. Scott Angle, the former director of IFAS, became the university’s interim provost. Sasse named Angle the permanent provost in January. 

A decision hasn’t been made yet about who the next permanent IFAS director will be but Gilbert said there is no ongoing search. He said he will continue to hold the position until July 2025 and wait to hear from President Sasse.

Gilbert started his career as a sugar cane researcher at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, where he eventually became the center director. Before taking the position, Gilbert served as the chair of the Agronomy department at UF/IFAS from 2014 until 2019 when he was appointed dean of research. 

“I’ve served in pretty much every role you can have going up the chain as faculty and administration,” Gilbert said. “My job is to make sure our enterprise is successful in research that we do in teaching that involves our students in CALS.”

Chief Financial Officer

After UF’s former Chief Financial Officer Chris Cowen left the university in July 2023 to become Cornell University’s CFO, Taylor Jantz started leading the CFO’s office. He was selected alongside Kevin Lintner to lead the office while UF searches for a permanent replacement.

Before he was interim CFO, Jantz worked as a director at Huron Consulting Group and assisted over 30 colleges and universities with financial projects. He graduated from Creighton University with a bachelor’s of business administration in economics and earned his master’s in higher education administration and policy from Vanderbilt University.

UF spokesperson Cynthia Roldan said the university “does not anticipate any changes” to the office of the Chief Financial Officer in the near future.

Honors Program director

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After former UF Honors Program director Mark Law was fired from the university for his “inadequate vision for the program,” his deputy, Melissa Johnson, became the program’s interim director. A search committee announced her as one of the three finalists last year, but the university hasn’t made a decision about who will be the permanent director as of June 9. 

UF spokesperson Cynthia Roldan said Johnson will continue to lead the Honors Program as interim director. The university is also exploring the possibility of establishing an honors college, according to Roldan.

Dean searches

UF is searching for deans across six of its 16 colleges, including the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Levin College of Law, among others.

Merritt McAlister became the interim dean of the Levin College of Law in June 2023. Since then, she has continued leading with a mindset of improvement for the college. 

“​Like the university, our college has been on a meteoric rise over the last decade, and I was particularly excited to be part of continuing that forward momentum for the law school,” McAlister said. “Deans keep lots of balls in the air and have lots of demands on their time. Sometimes we want to accomplish more than is possible in a day, a week, a month or a year.”

McAlister started working at UF in 2018 as a law professor, but before joining the faculty, she worked as a partner at King & Spalding, an Atlanta-based law firm. Along with her publications in notable law reviews, she was also on the American Law Institute and rewarded for her pro bono work on civil rights issues.

Jennifer Hunt started as the dean of the College of Medicine in January, replacing Colleen G. Koch. When Koch started the dean position in 2020, she was the first woman to hold the position in the history of the college. 

UF announced Hunt “brings a wealth of administrative experience to the role.”

Before accepting the position, she served as chair of the department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine at the College of Medicine. She was also the chief of staff at UF Health Shands. 

Hunt was also a big part of the UF Health and the College of Medicine's COVID-19 response. She was the leading force that ultimately ended up providing viral testing all over the university. 

“Under her guidance, the department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine went from performing 300 to 500 tests a day to an all-time high capability of performing over 9,000 tests in January 2021,” UF wrote in the announcement.

Jennifer Setlow began as interim dean of the College of the Arts in January, replacing Onye Ozuzu. Setlow was associate dean of the College of the Arts since 2017 before accepting the position.

Before starting at UF, she was the associate dean for students for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. In her career she has designed lighting all over the region, published books, and won several awards for her designs. 

David Richardson resigned as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences May 7 after 10 years in the role. Associate Dean Mary Watt will begin as interim dean starting July 1. Watt earned her bachelor's degree in foreign languages and literatures and earned her doctorate in Canadian studies and law at the University of Toronto.

Elaine Turner is the current dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and has been since 2014; however, a job search for the position was posted June 1.

Turner has been a CALS faculty member since 1996. She served as the associate dean of CALS prior to accepting the position as dean.

She’s earned awards such as teacher of the year, undergraduate adviser of the year and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agriculture Sciences, among others.

Dr. Dana Zimmel, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, is the search committee chair and Devan Brown, a UFHR talent consultant, will handle nominations and inquiries. Applications will be open from June 7 to July 21 and Zoom interviews are scheduled to take place Aug. 1 and Aug. 9. 

Contact Kamala Rossi at krossi@alligator.org. Follow her on X @kamalarossi.

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Kamala Rossi

Kamala Rossi is a fourth-year journalism major and the Santa Fe reporter for The Alligator. When she's not writing, Kamala can be found surfing, watching movies and reading.


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