Announcement from Robert M. Goodman, Executive Dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
I am delighted to announce the appointment, effective immediately, of Professor Laura Lawson as our new Dean of Agriculture and Urban Programs at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
Laura succeeds Professor Mark Robson who has ably served as the inaugural Dean in this position since it was created in late 2008. Please join me in thanking Mark for his service; he played a key role in the project to reinvent our teaching in agriculture though revision and reinvigoration of what is now the major in Agriculture and Food Systems. He also played important roles in recruitment and advising of students, and teaching of several courses offered through the major. He did this while sustaining a very active research program that involved a large commitment to international travel and scholarship. As previously announced, Mark is now the chair of the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology.
Laura has already presented me with an expansive vision of the roles of the Office of Agriculture and Urban Programs (OAUP) under her leadership. This office is charged with supporting academic and outreach efforts that bridge urban and suburban communities with agriculture so as to enhance the economy, landscape and culture of New Jersey. In particular, it will seek to identify, support and enrich opportunities in agriculture in the State of New Jersey and to extend Rutgers’ influence globally in this area. The office will serve as an intellectual meeting place for students, faculty, staff and the larger community to come together around academic and collaborative projects in many areas, including urban agriculture, broadly defined.
OAUP will work closely with Rutgers Cooperative Extension to connect the resources of the university to the larger community through instruction and outreach. The office will work with academic programs from multiple disciplines in the school and Rutgers at large to connect students with farmers and communities seeking to develop and expand agricultural and food system endeavors. In cooperation with the Office of Academic Programs, OAUP will have responsibility for the major in Agriculture and Food Systems and the future development of other academic programs at Rutgers, deemed important and needed. Better integration of Rutgers NJAES farms, farming and business incubator programs in the food system with our academic programs is another emerging goal of this office. Success for this office over the coming years will be measured by how well it contributes through teaching, outreach and collaborative work to the future vitality, creativity and human capital supporting NJ agriculture and its food system. OAUP will build and sustain a robust program serving as the instructional leg of our school’s commitment to the land-grant mission of teaching, research and extension in the areas of agriculture and food-focused urban programs.
There will be a several-month transition period during which Laura will continue her primary responsibility as chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture. Decisions about future leadership of the department and the location of the OAUP offices will be taken shortly and announced in due course.
Laura joined Rutgers from the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010 as Professor and Chair of our Department of Landscape Architecture. She has worked closely with faculty and staff to revitalize the department. This has included a glowing accreditation review for the undergraduate landscape architecture program as well as the successful initial accreditation of the new Masters of Landscape Architecture. Student enrollments have grown due to an infusion of new energy, revised curriculum, and increased course offerings. Laura oversaw the $2+ million renovation of Blake Hall over the course of two years. She has worked closely with the development office to create new endowments for the department as well.
Laura’s scholarship includes historical and contemporary urban agriculture and community open space, with particular focus on community gardens and the needs and opportunities within low-income communities. Her book, City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in America (University of California Press, 2005) provides a historical review of urban gardening programs in the U.S. She is also co-author of Greening Cities, Growing Communities: Urban Community Gardens in Seattle (University of Washington Press, 2009), which won a Great Places Award in 2010. She has authored numerous articles and chapters in edited books that address urban gardening, service-learning and civic engagement design pedagogy.
Laura is also a committed and gifted teacher. She teaches the popular Environmental Design Analysis (EDA) course every fall and has taught community design and service-learning studios for many years. Her seminars address landscape architecture research methods, social issues in design and planning, and the public landscape.
Please join me in congratulating Laura and welcoming her to this new leadership role at Rutgers.