OSU dean to lead top food and agriculture agency

March 9, 2012
Sonny Ramaswamy
Sonny Ramaswamy, dean of the College of Ag Sciences and director of the Oregon Ag Experiment Station, named director of NIFA

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Sonny Ramaswamy, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station at Oregon State University, has been named by President Obama to lead the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in Washington, DC.

NIFA is the lead agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that supports research, education and extension programs in the nation's Land-Grant University System and partner organizations. NIFA impacts local communities through a national network of researchers and extension educators who respond to public inquiries and conduct informal, noncredit educational programs. NIFA helps states respond to areas of public concern that affect agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, families, and communities and by providing grants to land-grant universities and researchers.

Oregon State University is Oregon's only land-grant university.

Ramaswamy joined Oregon State in 2009 and led the college during a time of decreasing state investments and a need for increasing extramural support for research and teaching. During his tenure, OSU's agricultural research programs grew to almost $60 million in grants and contracts. Private support for the College and student programs grew to $77 million.

"Three concepts – preeminence, purpose, impact – have framed Dr. Ramaswamy's leadership of the college and the Experiment Station," said OSU president Ed Ray. "His work in support of research and outreach will be particularly valuable as he moves into his new position as director of NIFA."

As an entomologist, Ramaswamy has studied the reproductive biology of insects and plant-insect interactions affecting wheat, cotton, beans, and other crops. Before coming to OSU, Ramaswamy led agricultural research programs in many agricultural settings, including Indiana, Kansas, and Mississippi.

At OSU, Ramaswamy helped establish the Leadership Academy, a program for undergraduates in the colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Forestry that helps develop career-ready skills in leadership and communications.

OSU's agricultural sciences programs include teaching, extension and research in food, agriculture, and natural resources throughout the state. Programs in fisheries, wildlife, botany and plant pathology, agricultural and resource economics, and environmental and molecular toxicology are ranked among the top in the nation.

"The vision and progressive thinking that Sonny has brought to the College of Agricultural Sciences has helped position Oregon State as one of the leading land grant universities in the nation," said Carl Casale, president of CHS Inc., a leading energy, grains and foods company.

Ramaswamy is the second OSU faculty member to be tapped for high-ranking positions in the Obama administration. In 2009, Jane Lubchenco was named as the under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation's top science agency for climate, oceans, and the atmosphere.

Ramaswamy begins his new job later this spring. OSU's Office of the Provost will announce plans for leadership transition over the next few weeks.

Author: Peg Herring
Source: The White House