Monday Morning Memo: 12-06-10

Dean's Message

Dear Faculty and Staff:

In the last week, the College leadership team has been working with the University leadership to integrate the draft University Strategic Plan "Action 2015: Education First" into our plans for the College's future. On November 29, we, along with 170 other university leaders participated in a one-day Academic Affairs Retreat, to discuss this plan as well as the state budget environment. If you have not had a chance to read and comment on the plan, I ask that you do so through the mechanism sent out in an email last week. You will find that it significantly reframes the message about how we go about our work at Texas A&M and sets specific metrics for how we will attain our goals.

Now is the busiest time in the academic calendar – the end of the semester with holiday celebrations mixed in with the rush to study for and grade finals. I hope you all find that extra burst of energy inside to finish strongly!

Kate Miller
Dean, College of Geosciences

Monday Morning Memo: 11-15-10

Dean's Message

Dear Faculty and Staff:

First, I want to announce officially the appointment of Dr. Jack Baldauf as executive associate dean and associate dean for research, and Dr. Don Collins as department head for Environmental Programs, both effective Nov. 1. This office received notification of final approval a few days ago. More information about these appointments can be found in the news section of the Geosciences website.

I am sure you feel as I do that the fall semester just began. During these months, much of my weekend time is devoted to home football games. I mention this because events on game day give us the opportunity to meet and thank former students and donors. For the Oct. 16 weekend, for example, our director of development, Diane Barron, organized an event for Howard Karren '51, to celebrate his 80th birthday. Families and friends flew in from around the country for lunch before kick-off. Afterward, I joined Mr. Karren, and his two sons Charles and Geoff in the president's box to watch the game. Dr. Bruce Herbert and Dr. Mark Everett (both G&G) are holders of two endowed professorships made possible by Mr. Karren and his wife, Peggy.

The Geology and Geophysics department was also the focus during the recent annual meeting of GEODAC, the departmental advisory council. The meeting's outcomes are encouraging in terms of the council's support of our goals and initiatives. Specifically, the group

  • endorsed our mission as a Tier One research university
  • pledged continued support of and enthusiasm for our recruitment and diversity pipeline strategy, especially for programs such as G-Camp, which many of GEODAC members' companies help fund
  • supported the IGERT proposal that Dr. Fred Chester presented to the group.

Texas A&M University on Oct. 28 recognized, among other System components, the Department of Oceanography, GERG and Texas Sea Grant by presenting them with the 2010 Newsmaker Award for contributions to the media during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Before the reception, a panel discussed "The Gulf Oil Spill: Lessons Learned, And What Lies Ahead." Panelists from Geosciences were Dr. Piers Chapman and Dr. John Kessler (Oceanography), Dr. Norman Guinasso (GERG), and Dr. Logan Respass (Texas Sea Grant).

And finally a reminder that we will convene for the annual Fall College Meeting 2010 at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 16, in Rudder 301. Join me as we honor colleagues who will receive the Dean's Distinguished Achievement Awards and the Association of Former Students Teaching Awards. I will also update you on the state of the College.

Kate Miller
Dean, College of Geosciences


Monday Morning Memo: 10-25-10


Even though things did not go well with our Aggie football team the weekend, other events associated with the weekend of Oct. 14–16 reflected the many positive things happening in the College. The weekend began with a workshop on the Berg-Hughes Center’s progress. Two of our College’s donors were recognized as distinguished alumni by AFS. In addition the College sponsored events that welcomed prospective students and that honored scholarship donors and their recipients.

Berg-Hughes Center
Friday, Oct. 14, Dr. Andreas Kronenberg (G&G), department head, welcomed donors and industry leaders to a meeting organized by Diane Baron, development director. Dr. Ernest Mancini (G&G), center director, gave an overview of Berg-Hughes’ accomplishments to date and outlined plans and goals for the next stage. Dr. Michael Pope and Dr. Yue Feng Sun and graduate students Hamid Adesokan, Yujia Li, and Casey Jolley gave presentations on their research, emphasizing applications relevant to the oil-and-gas industry and the benefits of integrative solutions.

As an attendee, I was very proud of the way our faculty and students, showcased the outstanding research and educational opportunities the center is now providing. Current Berg-Hughes benefactors, Dudley Hughes ’51 and Dan Allen Hughes ’80, attended as well as oil-and-gas industry leaders John Hastings ’85 and Will Green ’53, both of whom have also committed to support the center.

Association of Former Students Gala
Following the Berg-Hughes workshop, several of us attended the gala dinner held in honor of Texas A&M’s distinguished graduates. For the second time in the College’s history, one of its graduates, Dudley Hughes ’51, was named a Distinguished Alumni. Michel Halbouty ’30 is the only other Geosciences’ graduate to receive this designation. Although not a graduate of the College, Charles Soltis ’55 (Engineering) was also honored. Many of our students and faculty members have benefited from studying and researching at the Soltis Center in the Costa Rican rain forest. Dr. Doug Sherman (Geography) provided some of the narration for the video that accompanied Soltis’ recognition.

The College just completed hosting the second annual iGeo program, designed to recruit students from groups under-represented in science to the College. I cannot say enough positive things about this program, organized by our director of recruitment Dr. Sonia Garcia, so I will let the facts speak for themselves:

  • 15 students out of 47 applicants were selected to attend with 14 participating
  • Average GPA of 4.25 (weighted for AP courses)
  • Average 1590 (including essay) SAT score
  • Six were the first generation to attend college

The 10 females and four males are mostly from the Houston and Austin areas. They were on campus for three days, going to lectures, touring the campus, meeting faculty, and attending sessions on financial aid and the admissions process. They would all make excellent Geosciences students, and I look forward to seeing them at Convocation next fall. The 2009 inaugural program hosted six juniors and six seniors, and four of the seniors are now freshman in the College. These four served as dorm hosts for this year’s class. We are on our way to establishing our own Aggie tradition.

I want to thank all the faculty and staff who made this experience meaningful for these students. This is some of the most important work you do.

Scholarship breakfast
This year, for the first time, scholarship donors and their recipients were honored at a breakfast, held at Texas A&M Foundation’s Hagler Center. Fifteen scholarship donors met their students during a relaxed, informal buffet, providing an excellent opportunity for dialog among our donors, students and faculty. Scholarship recipients enjoyed getting to know their donor through the challenge of being ask to find and “tag” their donor and give them a flower. I especially want to thank all our faculty members who turned out an early hour on a Saturday morning to make the event such a success. I also thank Diane Barron and the other staff members for doing a great job in bringing this all together for the College as they always do.


Kate Miller
Dean, College of Geosciences

Monday Morning Memo: 10-11-10

News From the Dean's Office

I am back in the office after a week spent at the annual University Consortium for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) meeting in Boulder, Colorado and at the 9th Annual Texas Sea Grant Researcher Conference in Port Aransas. UCAR was celebrating its 50th anniversary as a consortium. Highlights of the meeting for me included presentations on communicating scientific content on climate change and the environment to students and the public through the fine arts, and of course the election of our own Ken Bowman to a two-year term on the UCAR Board of Trustees.

The Sea Grant Researcher Conference was my first real chance to see the amazing length and breadth of worked carried out by our colleagues at Sea Grant. Presentations ranged from studies of nutrient loads and their effects on life in the bays and estuaries of the Texas Coast, to reports on our agents’ efforts to engage the community in their environment through master naturalist programs and building rudimentary sailboats as school projects. We’ll have more highlights of this meeting in the next memo.

In the background in the Dean’s office we are working with unit heads to plan for managing the effects of the budget reductions that will take effect Sept. 1, 2011. The voluntary separation program is complete, with four faculty members in our college electing to separate from Texas A&M. We are also participating in a university–wide planning exercise that is designed to help us forecast how we will manage teaching the same number of semester credit hours with fewer faculty in fall 2011.

Kate Miller

Dean, College of Geosciences

Monday Morning Memo: 09-29-10


GERG leadership changes

Dr. Norman L. Guinasso, Jr., has stepped down as director of the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG), after leading the group for six years.

“Dr. Guinasso has made significant contributions to and enhanced the research capabilities and reputation not only of GERG but also the College and Texas A&M University,” Dr. Kate Miller said.

He has been a member, chair and served on the executive committee of the University’s Council of Principal Investigators. He has also been a member of the Academic Master Plan Research Roadmap Committee, Conflict of Interest Review Committee, and the Academic Master Plan Steering Committee. He chaired the Texas A&M Research Foundation Principal Investigators Advisory Committee from 2008 to 2010. For more information about Dr. Guinasso’s contributions, read here.

In the interim, Dr. Terry Wade, former deputy director, has been appointed director of GERG, effective Sept. 1.

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