The new dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences has brought lofty goals and expectations to her job.
As she settles into the new position, Dean Valery Forbes — who will lead the more than 2,000 students in the college — sees opportunity for growth and collaboration
between different disciplines at the University. She says her previous experience studying in the Denmark and working as the director of the School of Biological Sciences
at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will serve her well in her new role.
“I am on a steep learning curve, getting to know the people and everything involved,” she said.
Forbes said she was surprised to see many similarities in the challenges that the University of Minnesota and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are facing, including sparse federal funding and cramped lab facilities.
Creativity and melding programs are two ways to overcome these obstacles, she said.
Nika Galic, a longtime colleague of Forbes, who met her while she was a doctoral student in the Netherlands, said Forbes is organized and transparent, calling the latter an “unusual characteristic” for someone in Forbes’ position.
“It is very clear that she wants to make progress and keep everyone involved throughout the whole process,” she said.
The two worked together on a variety of projects that dealt with different effects of chemicals on biological systems. They also spent many hours writing grant proposals to get funding for projects.
The way Forbes listened to Galic’s suggestions and ideas while keeping the process moving shows good leadership skills, Galic said.
Other colleagues praised the hands-off nature of Forbes’ leadership style.
“She said what she wanted us to do and then let us do it,” said Janna Vavra, a research technician at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who worked in Forbes’ lab.
The trust born from that type of relationship created a progressive work
environment, she said, and Forbes always did her best to integrate aspects of everyone’s ideas into projects.
Vavra said she was initially surprised that Forbes was leaving, but she said she expected her to move on to larger, more involved ventures.
“She is going to continue to strive for new collaborations, push for a lot of involvement within the college and really bring about some great changes,” Vavra said.