Dean Kate VandenBosch chats with a researcher at the CALS Global Spring Symposium on the UW–Madison campus in May 2018. Photo by Michael P. King/UW-Madison CALS.

Kate VandenBosch announced to the faculty and staff yesterday that she will be stepping down as the dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the end of this academic year. VandenBosch has served as dean since 2012.

In her announcement to faculty and staff she said, “Being the dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW–Madison has been a privilege and a joy. The impact that your efforts have on advancing knowledge, providing opportunities for our students, and on the wider world is truly extraordinary.”

She noted the challenges the college and university have faced in recent years, most notably as a result of the pandemic significantly altering traditional teaching, learning and research and discovery on the campus.

“Over the course of the next year, I hope we will see the pandemic truly vanquished and the challenges of the preceding two years solidly behind us,” VandenBosch continued. “UW has gone through financial challenges, but today is on very solid ground. As a college, we have undertaken some important strategic efforts that are coming to fruition in various ways. Plus, we are completing a major fundraising campaign by exceeding our $150M goal by more than 10%.”

“Kate has been a champion for the agriculture industry in Wisconsin over the last decade, and has helped to keep CALS on the cutting edge of research and teaching,” UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank says. “Her impact will be felt on campus and across the state for many years to come.”

Provost Karl Scholz stated, “We are enormously grateful for Kate’s leadership in CALS and across campus. She is unflappable and wise, and under her leadership CALS has created a very bright future for the many stakeholders passionate about the college.”

A research engine for the state, the college generates nearly $96 million in research funds annually —primarily from the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation — and educates nearly 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

During her decade of leadership, VandenBosch oversaw the launch of the Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center to use the latest plant biotechnology approaches to improve crop species. Her strategic planning focused on operational efficiencies and resulted in a reduction of the number of academic departments in the college from 19 to 16.

In recent years, she led the college’s implementation of the $7.8 million annual investment from the State of Wisconsin in the Dairy Innovation Hub — a program focused on supporting Wisconsin’s dairy industry through research conducted at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and UW–River Falls.

Building on the success of an existing CALS undergraduate certificate, the college launched a new Global Health undergraduate major last year, which already has an enrollment of more than 215 students. This fall, the college will roll-out a new organic agriculture certificate for undergraduates who want to demonstrate their knowledge of regenerative agricultural practices. These new programs represent areas of growth in both the life and agricultural sciences.

VandenBosch also spearheaded the All Ways Forward comprehensive campaign for the college, which secured more than $166 million in private gifts and included two new building projects. The $57.1 million Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery building opened in Nov. 2020 and the $72.6 million Babcock Hall addition and remodeling project is scheduled for completion in 2022. Donors to the campaign also created 77 new student scholarships and 14 new faculty professorships.

Before accepting the deanship, VandenBosch served as head of the plant biology department at the University of Minnesota, taking a brief hiatus in 2006 to serve as interim dean of their new college of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences. Prior to her 11 years at Minnesota, she was a faculty member at Texas A&M.

A fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists, VandenBosch’s research focuses on the genetics of plant-microbe interactions and nitrogen fixation in legumes.

The university will conduct a national search for VandenBosch’s successor.