Message from the Head


May Berenbaum

Well, it's been quite a decade, and then some. The change most readily apparent to avid newsletter readers (who have no doubt been frustrated by the 12-year lapse in service) is that, after 17 years, Stanley Friedman officially stepped down as department head and retired in August 1992. Even if Stanley didn't stand 6' 3" tall, he would have left big shoes to fill. Throughout his tenure as head, spanning the period from 1975 to 1992, he oversaw the hiring of six faculty members, five of whom (Stewart Berlocher, May Berenbaum, Hugh Robertson, Gene Robinson, and Susan Fahrbach) make up the majority of the present faculty.

During Stanley's administration, the department took on a significantly enhanced role in the delivery of undergraduate instruction in biology, easily a decade before other departments of entomology recognized the importance of connecting with large undergraduate constituencies for ensuring acquisition of campus resources and support. Members of our department were integrally involved in revamping the introductory biology course sequence and members of our department remain involved in the delivery of that sequence; indeed, the sequence is a major source of teaching assistantships for the department.

During this period as well, our department gained stature on the campus. Department members have been called upon to serve on executive committees of both the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Graduate College, to serve in administrative capacities in the School of Life Sciences, and to serve on advisory committees for vice chancellors for research and for academic affairs, as well as on numerous search and evaluation committees for deans, directors, and department heads.

Physical evidence of Stanley's effectiveness as department head is everywhere in evidence in the form ofcapital construction projects; a new $150,000 departmental greenhouse on the roof of the medical sciences building (made possible by the UI Foundation's determination to take historic Harker Hall, long the department's teaching building and greenhouse location, as its headquarters), a new-state-of the art Bee Research Facility on south campus, a dedicated departmental seminar room on the fourth floor of Morrill, and extensive renovation to aging laboratories in Morrill Hall.

Stanley's greatest legacy, perhaps, was in coordinating a revision of the departmental bylaws that opened up new collaborative arrangements with affiliate faculty. As a result, competition among entomology-centered units on the campus has been greatly reduced; faculty in four colleges and one state agency (Veterinary Medicine, LAS, ACES, Fine and Applied Arts--!!--and the Natural History Survey) now participate freely in the training and supervision of graduate students in the department's advanced degree programs.

So, the question might naturally arise as to what I've done lately. Actually, I took on the job of department head at a time of major upheaval in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, particularly in the School of Life Sciences. My first act as head in 1992 was, in fact, to assemble a 21-page single-spaced document, justifying the existence of the department, for the Area IV Committee, one of several committees charged by Dean Larry Faulkner to conduct a college-wide resource reallocation review. The upshot of the review was the School of Life Sciences and the programs it administered were in need of change, occasioned in large part by the enormous increase in enrollments in biological sciences (at present there are about 2400 undergraduate biology majors, more students than there are in most other colleges on the campus, and more people than live in a lot of Illinois towns). This conclusion was supported by the Dean's financial advisory committee, to whom the Dean's area committees reported. After organizing this entire review, the Dean went on to bigger and better things--he's now the provost--and a new dean took his place in 1993. One of Dean Jesse Delia's first acts was to commission a Blue Ribbon Panel for Review of the Life Sciences, to devise a plan for reorganizing the School to, among other things, improve undergraduate instruction to the numberless hordes and to restore ecology, a discipline that underwent a massive loss of prestige, due in part to internal problems within the Department of Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution, to its former prominence on the campus (which dates back, of course, to the tenure of Steven A. Forbes, first head of our department, who is widely regarded as the "father" of American ecology).

Through all of these reviews, our department has consistently received high praise. It's not all that surprising, given the accomplishments of our faculty and students. Since I've been here (and I arrived in 1980), our department has had among its ranks at least two members of the National Academy of Sciences almost continuously, over one-third of the faculty have been recognized as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and many have won awards from entomological societies of various descriptions (including two designated as Founder's Award recipients by the Entomological Society of America). Almost every member of our current faculty has authored an annual review; every mem-

ber of our current faculty has published articles in refereed journals in the last year. On campus, every faculty member has been included on the Incomplete List of Teachers Rated Excellent by their Students, many multiple times and several with outstanding ratings; our department boasts a recipient of the LAS Prokasy Award for Distinguished Teaching (Ellis MacLeod), and one of only two life scientists designated a College of Liberal Arts Jubilee Professor (May Berenbaum); campus-wide, our faculty have been named University Scholars (May Berenbaum, Gene Robinson) and Vice Chancellor's Teaching Scholars (Susan Fahrbach).

Our graduate students and alumni have won all kinds of local and national recognition as well--from the Entomological Society of America, our students have in recent years won the President's Prize for Best Paper at the national meeting (Michael Cohen and Christine Wagener-Hulme), the award for Best Master's Work (Claire Rutledge), and the first ESA award for innovative use of insects in teaching science at the secondary level (David Stone, M.S. '82); our students have won awards from the regional and national Society for Neuroscience (Mikyung Choi and Ginger Withers) and from the Ecological Society of America; and innumerable students have won travel awards and recognition for research from both the School and the Graduate College. Within the current ranks of graduate students are an Environmental ToxicologyScholar (Ellen Green), a recipient of a three-year Minority Fellowship from the state of Illinois (Sean Collins), and a National Science Foundation predoctoral fellow (John Sherwood). In the past three years alone, five undergraduates working with entomology faculty have won SOLS awards; one of these undergraduates (David Schulz) decided to continue his work as a graduate student in our department. Our students have won distinction as teaching assistants as well; in the past three years, we have never had fewer than nine students named to the list in a year, and our students have won distinction as best teaching assistant in Bio 120 (Laura Heuser) and in the entire introductory biology sequence (Lisa Carloye).

In terms of outreach efforts, our department is unrivaled in the School (and probably unrivaled by any other science unit on the campus). Our faculty speak at schools in the local community and throughout the state, at civic group luncheons, and as guests on radio call-in shows. The department has hosted the Insect Fear Film Festival for a dozen years and reached an estimated 6000 people in the process. For the past two years, in collaboration with the Natural History Survey and the Office of Agricultural Entomology, we put on an Insect Expo; this two-day event brought in over 3000 people each year from the local community. Our department was the first life science unit on campus as well to design a home page for the World Wide Web and was the third entomology department nationwide to do so. In a single three-week period last fall, over 1000 people signed on to see what we have to offer, and shortly after its debut our web page was designated an "interesting" site by a national computing magazine.

In view of the recognition our faculty and students have earned by virtue of their efforts in the classroom, and in view of the efforts we've made to reach out to a larger constituency both on campus and in the community, it was needless to say disconcerting to hear from both the Area IV committee and the Blue Ribbon Panel that our teaching mission was "not clearly defined." This perception arose, at least in part, from our long-standing position that ento-mology is effectively a graduate specialization; the best preparation for graduate work in entomology is a broad-based undergraduate curriculum in biology. As a result, our department has rarely ever had more than a handful of majors. This dearth of majors, although probably pedagogically correct, has been an administrative nuisance for us; among other things, line assignments are based on perceived undergraduate demand (particularly in LAS, an undergraduate college), rather than on disciplinary demands. As a result, our department has historically been small (although I haven't done extensive delving, I did discover there were a maximum of 12 in the early seventies and a minimum of five in the late forties/early fifties). Small units are now perceived by some as a luxury the university cannot afford. It seems to me (as I've said to the Dean) that a small diamond is infinitely preferable to a huge cubic zirconium, but some in administration don't seem to share that opinion.

As a result of these reviews, over the past 36 months, the number of plans put forward to organize biology has rivaled the number of flavors at Baskin Robbins, although most are far less appetizing. Through all of these plans, we have steadfastly voiced our objection to being demoted from department to division; the unit of function on this campus is the department and our ability to plan our own future depends heavily on that status. Moreover, maintaining entomology as a campus unit gained greater importance in that the Office of Agricultural Entomology in the College of Agriculture, long home to several of our affiliates, no longer exists as an independent unit in the newly reorganized College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences; its constituent faculty are now housed either in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (a 53-person blend of horticulture, forestry, bits of agronomy, and even a single faculty member in textile science from the School of Human Resources) or Crop Sciences. Thus, entomology's status as a distinct presence on the campus was placed in jeopardy.

Although it's hard to say definitively that the smoke has at last cleared, all signs point in that direction. In February 1996, the Dean effectively endorsed a Solomonic plan whereby the current School of Life Sciences is divided into two: a School of Molecular, Cellular, and Physiological Biology, to house members of the Departments of Cell and Structural Biology, Molecular and Integrative Physiology, and Microbiology, and a School of Integrative Biology (SIB), to house members of the Departments of Entomology, Plant Biology, and Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution (the term "integrative" was sug-gested as more descriptive of the new school than "organis-mal," despite the appealing nature of the acronym by which a School of Organismal Biology could be known). Among the special features of SIB is the replacement of EEE with a newly constituted Department of Vertebrate Biology, to complement the taxon-based vertical structure of Plant Biology and Entomology. As well, SIB will be the home of a new campus-wide graduate program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, to operate according to the model of the highly successful Neuroscience Program, which draws upon strengths in units across the entire university. In October 1996, the faculty in SOLS voted by a 2:1 margin to dissolve the School and establish in its place the two sister schools.

Things have progressed apace to implement these plans--the Dean's goal is to bring reorganization to closure by the next academic year (a goal that, at one time, seemed about as likely as achieving world peace). We, as SIB members, thus are involved in refining a new undergraduate curriculum, polishing up a new mission statement, and formulating a strategic plan for future hiring; among other things, Dean Delia has promised new lines and resources to foster growth in the newly (and, we hope, optimally) configured life sciences. Although the cost of reorganization, in terms of human-hours invested and blood-pressure fluctuations endured, has been enormous, our department stands to gain considerably; reorganization may for the first time in decades allow us to grow substantially in size. As well, emerging from the innumerable discussions was a commitment from the Dean to preserve our graduate program in entomology, irrespective of configurations eventually adopted; his assurance that we will continue to receive campus resources required to support this mission, deemed by all involved to be a campus point of pride, was well worth the trauma and turmoil.

I am asked on occasion by alumni who hear about these administrative mind games what they can do to help. I'm not sure that anything, short of endowing multiple chairs (maybe even a whole furniture store's worth) specifically in entomology or maybe releasing a plague of pesticide-resistant cockroaches in Swanlund Administration Building, will have much of an impact. What you can do is to continue to excel in your field. Rest assured, the administration knows all about you--I have presented long lists of alumni accomplishments to anyone willing to listen (and even a few who weren't). You are our most powerful, tangible evidence of excellence and it is at least in part in your honor that I will continue to do whatever I can to ensure that entomology will have a future at Illinois as brilliant as its past has been.