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First female dean leads the College of ACES at the University of Illinois

Published November 1, 2016

URBANA – The University of Illinois is making history today as Dr. Kimberlee Kidwell begins her role as the first female dean in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Kidwell, a nationally respected scholar and award-winning teacher and administrator, holds the inaugural Robert A. Easter Chair.

“It is surreal to have an opportunity to co-create the next era of excellence in the college with the ACES community at my alma mater,” said Kidwell, who received her bachelor’s degrees from the College of ACES in genetics and development and agriculture science. “It is a privilege to be able to create opportunities of a lifetime for people at the university that provided those types of opportunities for me.” 

Kidwell is an accomplished wheat breeder and geneticist with multiple patented discoveries addressing basic questions involving gene discovery, genetic characterization, and genetic mapping of important traits for wheat improvement. She also released more than 20 wheat varieties for commercial production.

“Dean Kidwell’s combination of scholarly success, teaching excellence, and academic leadership made her the clear top candidate in a very competitive national search. She will be a strong leader for the college and will help move the university forward as well. I am delighted to welcome her to our Illinois leadership team,” said Ed Feser, Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kidwell’s leadership style is defined by her dedication to improving student learning; driving sound, innovative research; and cultivating industry partnerships to improve the lives and livelihoods of the residents of Illinois, in support of the land-grant mission of the University of Illinois.

“It’s important to me to land on a common purpose with the ACES community so we can clearly articulate what we do and why it matters to people,” Kidwell said. “I am land-grant­-loyal to the core. ACES research translates directly to improving the quality of people's lives. We also are teaching the next generation of change agents in our disciplines by integrating transformational learning opportunities into their academic experiences.”

In her previous role as executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University, Kidwell spearheaded the development of the new Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership, a student, faculty, alumni, and industry partner collaboration which provides beyond-the-classroom experiences for students and leadership development for graduate students, faculty, staff, and professionals.

“Students are the lifeblood of the college,” Kidwell said. “Everything we do should fuel the student learning experience be it in classrooms, research laboratories, communities, or industry experiences. Faculty and staff are the heartbeat of the institution. Everything that happens in the college sources from the efforts of these hardworking, dedicated people.”

She grew up in Danville, Illinois. After graduating from the U of I, she went on to obtain her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in plant breeding and plant genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kidwell will succeed ACES Dean Robert Hauser, who has served in that role since 2010. He was interim dean of ACES for a year prior to that, and served two terms as head of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2009.

Hauser has developed and led exceptional U of I Extension programs, taught several undergraduate and graduate courses since he joined the faculty in 1982, and received numerous research and Extension awards. After providing 35 years of excellent service to the college and university, Hauser intends to retire December 31, 2016.