The Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma has announced the formation of the School of Biological Sciences.
By reorganizing the college’s current life sciences units, the school will accelerate faculty research and graduate training, and better serve undergraduate students by creating a set of unified, modernized degree programs. This new structure will position the biological sciences to help drive OU’s strategy of becoming a top-tier public research university.
“Improving lives through research and learning is at the heart of what we do at OU, and the life sciences are at the root of so many innovations to create a better world,” said Senior Vice President and Provost for the Norman Campus André-Denis Wright. “Building a robust network of exceptional academic programs dedicated to the biological sciences will empower OU researchers and students to push the boundaries of scientific inquiry even further, propelling OU research to even greater heights.”
Currently, the biological sciences are served by three independent units: the Department of Biology, the Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology, and the Oklahoma Biological Survey. Through the reorganization, the two departments will be integrated within the school to better align the graduate programs and research organization with existing faculty strengths and the OU Norman Research Strategic Verticals. The Oklahoma Biological Survey, a state agency and a unit within the college, will remain an independent entity; however, many of its faculty will hold appointments and teach within the School of Biological Sciences. By bringing the units under the same umbrella, the school will be able to provide new undergraduate curricula, broaden its research portfolio scope and profile, and spearhead new and impactful graduate training programs.
The recommendation to establish a new school of biological sciences, which has been approved by the OU Board of Regents and the State Regents for Higher Education, was made following an external review by a team composed of four internationally renowned biological scientists. The team conducted a thorough review of operations in the three biological sciences units, including the examination of data on the structures, facilities, programs and research operations and held town halls with faculty, staff and students.
“The formation of the school is a natural evolution in the growth of our programs and will enable OU to take a place at the forefront of research and education in the biological sciences,” said David Wrobel, dean of the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences. “As the COVID pandemic attests, future decades are certain to be a period of great challenges for the biological sciences. As we move with great intentionality, the new school reflects our standard of excellence and takes advantage of the many talents of our world-class faculty. In establishing a new school, we now have the appropriate instructional framework and structure for the college to effectively move us forward in our scholarly and educational endeavors.”
This fall, the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences will launch a national search for the inaugural director of the School of Biological Sciences, however, progress on the school is already being made under the direction of John P. Masly, associate director for the school.
The Curriculum Consolidation Committee was established with representatives from the faculty, academic advisors and the undergraduate student body in the biological sciences. This committee has been working to reorganize and elevate the undergraduate curricula to ensure graduates are equipped with cutting-edge instruction to excel in a changing landscape that is increasing STEM training requirements across a wide variety of post-graduation opportunities.