You might have seen Teresa Thiel on her daily stroll by the Millennium Student Center ponds – her favorite spot on the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus. The professor of biology particularly enjoys the wildlife the ponds attract.
But if you haven’t passed by Thiel on the way to the MSC, you’ll probably see her around campus more often now as she begins stepping into the role of interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She’s served as the college’s senior associate dean since 2001.
Current Dean Ron Yasbin will retire Aug. 31, wherein Thiel will take over leading the college during the search for a new dean. Yasbin presided over the college for eight years.
“It will be a challenge to follow in the footsteps of Dean Yasbin, but I do welcome this opportunity to serve the college and the campus as we transition to a permanent dean,” Thiel said.
It’s not Thiel’s first time taking on the role temporarily, having been at UMSL more than 30 years. She served as interim dean of the college prior to Yasbin’s appointment in 2009.
“During this search period, the college requires stability and strong leadership, both of which I am ready to provide,” Thiel said. “As a campus, we face challenges that I think we can address effectively if all the campus leaders, especially the deans, work together.”
The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest college on campus with the largest numbers of enrolled students. Thiel is looking forward to leading it.
“The college has so many excellent faculty, staff and students who will be a resource to me in my new role,” she said. “In particular, I have worked closely with the department chairs and program directors over several years, so I know how much I can count on their help.”
While she serves as interim dean, Thiel will continue to teach courses and lead her research program with undergraduate and graduate students, focusing on microbiology and molecular biology. Her research specifically looks at nitrogen fixation, hydrogen production and gene regulation in filamentous cyanobacteria.
Notably, Thiel is taking over after another molecular biologist, Yasbin, is leaving the post. Although jokes of “cahoots” have gone around, both agree it wasn’t planned.
“I became associate dean at the request of [former] Dean Mark Burkholder, a historian, who wanted a scientist in the dean’s office,” Thiel explained. “It is just a coincidence that the dean who followed Mark Burkholder is also a molecular biologist.”
The search for the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences will begin in the early fall. Chris Spilling, vice provost for graduate studies and research and dean of the graduate school, will chair the search committee composed of faculty, staff, students and community members.
Thiel is not on the search committee and is still considering if she will apply for the position.