Engineering and Natural Sciences dean named first VP for Research

January 25, 2008

By hammersmith

[Source: Lisa Nelson, Director, NAU Public Affairs] – With a goal to underpin Northern Arizona University’s distinctive research profile, Laura Huenneke has been named NAU’s vice president for Research.

Huenneke, who has served as founding dean of the NAU College of Engineering and Natural Sciences since 2004, will assume her new post after an interim dean is named for the college. Her appointment is contingent upon approval by the Arizona Board of Regents, which is expected in March.

“Laura’s background and accomplishments as a scientist and as an academic administrator have prepared her well for this position,” said NAU President John Haeger. “Her knowledge of state initiatives in science, engineering, math and economic development readies her to advance the role of vice president for Research at NAU.”

Prior to joining NAU in 2003 as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Huenneke was chair of the Department of Biology at New Mexico State University, where she was named a Regents’ Professor.

“It’s a tremendously exciting opportunity to help the university expand the scope and impact of its scholarship and research,” Huenneke said. “I’m eager to see us use our research activity to reinforce our identity as one of the state’s three research universities. The kind of scholarship and research we do really distinguishes us from our sister institutions.”

In particular, Huenneke cited NAU’s focus on applied research that is rooted in “our place, our region and our partners.” She also noted NAU’s strong record of success with undergraduate research and master’s programs.

During her career, Huenneke has worked on faculty development, including a focus on helping early-career faculty build their capabilities and records as researchers. As dean, she has been involved with major construction projects for engineering and science buildings and has led strategic planning for the college.

Huenneke also has been engaged with regional economic development through the Northern Arizona Bioscience Roadmap, a regional focus of the state’s commitment to the biosciences. Additionally, she is a board member for the Coconino County Sustainable Economic Development Initiative, which includes corporate, nonprofit, governmental and educational representatives.

As a researcher in plant ecology, conservation biology and ecosystem science, Huenneke has published more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. She was the lead investigator of the Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research Site, a multimillion dollar consortium of university and federal investigators. She also managed significant external funding from the National Science Foundation, the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey and other sources. Huenneke has international experience in research collaborations with colleagues in South Africa, Argentina, Australia, the United Kingdom and Mexico, and in training graduate and postdoctoral students from Mexico and China.

Huenneke served on the Research and Graduate Education Task Force at NAU, which recommended to the president in 2006 the separation of the positions of vice provost for Research and dean of the Graduate College. That recommendation ultimately led to the search for a vice president for Research.