Interim dean values College’s people-centered culture

Cameron Faustman
Cameron Faustman Credit: Peter Morenus

As a former undergraduate student, assistant professor, associate professor, professor, interim department head, department head, associate dean and, now, current interim dean, Cameron Faustman has a deep and wide knowledge of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) and its people. He has nearly 29 years of professional experience in the College.

“It is a great place to work. We are not perfect, but the total culture is a pretty good one,” said Faustman, who began as interim dean of CAHNR and director of the Cooperative Extension System and Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station in January 2017.

He especially appreciates that the College values a people-centered approach to learning. According to Faustman, undergraduate and graduate students truly matter and have ready access to CAHNR’s faculty through their student advising.

This emphasis on people continues to make an impression on former students into their adult lives. He sees this reflected in alumni support for the College and a donor base comprised of mostly individuals instead of only industry groups. “I want to advocate and champion this unique aspect of our college culture,” Faustman said.

Initial accomplishments

Others recognize Faustman’s suitability for this new role. “Cameron is one of the most well-respected members of UConn’s faculty and administration, known across campus for his academic accomplishments, collaborative spirit, and good judgement. The College and the University are fortunate to have him as dean,” said University of Connecticut Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeremy Teitelbaum.

 As he builds on past successes, Faustman also looks toward the future. “I want to continue the forward movement of the College in teaching, research and outreach education,” he said. “I also plan to put additional effort into fundraising and development, alumni relationships and connectedness with people in stakeholder groups,” he added. He started on these priorities as soon as then-Provost Mun Choi appointed him to complete the term of Gregory Weidemann, the retiring CAHNR dean and director.

Faustman’s first major task was to bring back the three-dean model to CAHNR. For several years, the College had only two people to perform the duties of three associate deans, and Faustman was the administrator who held two associate dean titles. Newly appointed to these positions are Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Director of the Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture Sandra Bushmich and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies Kumar Venkitanarayanan. The third dean is Associate Dean and Associate Director of UConn Extension Michael P. O’Neill, who has served in that capacity for the last five years.

Another of his early challenges was financial, and the interim dean called a “town meeting” of faculty and staff to inform them of the situation. In the end, he successfully navigated a budget rescission without the necessity of employee layoffs. This demonstrates his professed personal commitment to retaining personnel as much as possible.

In talking of his other accomplishments so far, Faustman added, “I also supported a faculty group trip to Cuba in order to explore agricultural research opportunities for the future.”

Looking ahead

In an effort that reaches all CAHNR departments and the mission areas of teaching, research and extension, Faustman has what he calls a “big picture” goal. He plans to encourage people and dialogue with them about collaborating with others within the College on projects. He feels that if deans and department heads make this a priority and if faculty and staff act on it, the result will be more success for CAHNR as a whole.

In addition, work has begun to develop a new model for strategic allocation of Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station funds. New Associate Dean Kumar Venkitanarayanan is already making progress on equitable ways to manage the monies provided, according to Faustman.

In the area of engaging with the larger community and increasing donations, Faustman wants to seize opportunities to meet potential donors and CAHNR alumni. Part of that goal involves making the College more visible and expanding communication about the College. One venue for making contacts is the upcoming Huskies Forever Weekend on October 20 to 22.

 A job well done

Faustman says he is inspired by “a job well done.” He has specific ways of measuring the success of his own tenancy as interim dean, which, unsurprisingly, has much to do with people.

Here is how he would define an interim dean’s job well done. When UConn appoints a permanent dean, Faustman would like to present “CAHNR faculty, staff and students who were served in ways that helped them accomplish what they needed to do.” In particular, the faculty could attest that it “pursued teaching, research and extension responsibilities and interests with as few impediments as possible.” The staff of the future will “feel valued in what they do and equipped with what they need for supporting the faculty and students.” With others to teach and aid them, the students would be able to say that they have “an academic foundation for success.”

Faustman is a graduate of UConn with a dual BS in agricultural education and natural resources conservation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a MS and PhD in animal science. His recent laboratory research involves foods, such as lipid and protein interactions and antioxidant mediation to improve food quality. Besides his administration responsibilities, Faustman is involved in researching food policies and is a UConn leader in bringing the food waste issue to light. He served as a panelist for the recent UConn Science Salon presentation, “Throwing It All Away: America’s Food Waste Epidemic.”