New OAC associate dean to cover external affairs

The University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) has filled its newly created post of associate dean for external relations.

Rene Van Acker, a plant scientist and former chair of OAC’s plant agriculture department, will man the new post for a five-year term effective immediately.

The associate dean for external relations is expected to be responsible for issues relating to alumni and development activities, communications, outreach, endowments and student awards, on all four OAC campuses.

Van Acker in his new role is also tasked with the promotion, communication, co-ordination and development of OAC’s outreach and extension activities.

OAC dean Rob Gordon said in a release Thursday that Van Acker will “continue to enhance our longstanding relationship with our exceptional alumni as well as our many government and industry partners.”

“Today, more than ever, OAC must draw on external resources and partners to extend our capacity as global leaders in education, research and service in the agriculture, food and environmental science sectors,” Van Acker said Thursday.

“Fortunately, OAC and the University of Guelph provide a tremendous foundation to build upon and I know there are many traditional partners already helping us and many new partners waiting to help us make a difference.”

Van Acker, whose fields of research interest include weed ecology, biosafety and transgene confinement, returned to his alma mater at OAC in 2006 after working at the University of Manitoba.

He received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees at Guelph and went to southeastern England for his Ph.D. at the University of Reading.

David Wolyn, OAC’s associate chair of plant agriculture since 2003, will take over as interim chair pending a formal search to be launched in “coming months,” OAC said.

Wolyn, whose graduate degrees come from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, is known for having led the research program for asparagus breeding and production that has resulted in the development and improvement of the Guelph Millennium variety.

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