Dr. Sandra Witte, who has been serving as interim dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State, has been appointed permanent dean, effectively immediately.
Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said Witte’s exceptional work as interim dean made her the best person for the position.
“We conducted a yearlong national search for a dean but did not find the right candidate for this important position,” said Zelezny. “In the meantime, it became clear to me, the faculty, staff and our strong partners in the agriculture community that Dr. Witte was the right candidate. I’m pleased she agreed to stay at Fresno State as permanent dean.”
Zelezny added: “This is a critical time for the Jordan College as we prepare for the opening of the Jordan Agricultural Research Center this spring and continue our laser-focus on crucial issues related to water and sustainability. I am confident Dr. Witte will lead the college to increasing national prominence.”
Witte has taken an unconventional route to the dean’s position, starting her career as a registered dietitian and serving as a professor and chair of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, one of seven departments in the Jordan College.
“In the Jordan College, we often talk about offering programs from farm to fork and all the business in between,” said Witte. “While most people think of agriculture from the farm end, my connection is clearly on the fork end. I have always had an appreciation for traditional agriculture, and in my time at Fresno State, that has bloomed into a passion. After all, where is the food without the farmer?” she said.
Witte joins a growing number of women in agricultural leadership positions that traditionally have been held by males in universities, industry and commodity groups in the U.S.
The Jordan College maintains an enrollment of approximately 2,400 undergraduate and 100 graduate students from diverse backgrounds from throughout California, the U.S. and the world. Undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs are offered in the major areas of agricultural business; animal sciences and agricultural education; child, family and consumer sciences; food science and nutrition; industrial technology; plant science; and viticulture and enology.
Faculty and students conduct applied research and public service in selected areas of agriculture, food sciences, industrial technology and family sciences. Students engage in learning science, technology and management in the classroom and by experience on the 1,000-acre on-campus University Agricultural Laboratory.
Witte has served as interim dean since October 2014. Previously, she jointly held the positions of associate dean of the Jordan College and dean of the Division of Graduate Studies. She joined the Fresno State faculty in 1992 and took her first administrative assignment in 2007.
She completed her bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; master’s degree in home economics, nutrition and dietetics option at Fresno State; and her Ph.D. in food systems management at Oregon State University, Corvallis.