Former Student & Professor Takes College of Science HelmSeptember 25, 2009
As an undergraduate student in the early eighties at, then, Southern Utah State College (SUSC), Robert Eves learned to appreciate the impact individual professors had on his academic and future success. Now, as the new dean of Southern Utah University’s College of Science, he’s looking to return the favor to the more than 1300 science majors currently on SUU’s campus.
After studying geochemistry at Washington State University, where he eventually received his doctorate degree, Dean Eves hoped to find an open position at his undergrad alma mater. So in 1988 when he was hired to teach chemistry, Eves recalls, “it was like a dream come true,” and he and his family moved back to Cedar City to begin what would become a lifelong career in higher education as a Thunderbird.
That is not to say Eves he didn’t entertain ideas to continue advancing professionally elsewhere, but in the end, he explains, “SUU always made the most sense for me.”
Two decades later, and after advancing from professor to head of the division of geosciences and department chair of physical sciences, Eves views the decision to stay at SUU as a combination of good fortune and conviction, explaining, “I believe in SUU and the kind of institution we are. I always have.”
Such commitment certainly bodes well for Eves as he steps forward to lead one of the University’s fastest growing colleges into another decade. Looking forward to that future, Eves’ work is driven by the many opportunities he anticipates lie ahead for the College of Science.
Eves sees much of the college’s potential in what he calls “a very talented and dedicated faculty” and “a hard working and largely successful student body.”
Eves explains that for many years, the hallmark of the College of Science has been the success of its students as they persist toward graduate school and careers in science professions. As dean, he hopes to continue improving the undergraduate scientist’s experience at SUU by providing more and better opportunities for undergraduate research and partnerships with both professors and professionals that provide SUUs’ students an edge when pursuing postgraduate opportunities.
Beyond the immediate student experience, Eves is looking forward to the completion of the Walter M. Gibson Science Center which he explains will accommodate more classes and expand the college’s undergraduate research activities. He is also working with faculty members from across the college in appeals for more than $10 million in various grant opportunities that, if successful, Eves expects will “expand our research potential that much more.”
In addition to research, Eves’ outlook on the coming years is realistically optimistic. He explains, “Of course we will have to deal with budget issues and insufficient resources. But I don't think those challenges will define our future. I look forward to guide the College in new directions instead of being driven by our circumstances.”
He continues, “We will spend the next couple of years getting the Gibson Science Center completed. There is still a lot of work to be done, including some additional funds to be raised. We will also be working with Regional Services to get additional funding for the Natural History Museum.” Eves would also like to secure funding for an indoor riding facility for the horsemanship program that he says is vital.
Beyond facilities, he would like to work on developing “some potentially exciting and innovative degree programs,” though he sees that as a longer term objective.
Additionally, Eves is aware of the college’s need for additional funds for faculty retention and development as well as the overhaul of some curricula within the college, recognizing those issues as “an ongoing process in academia at large.” He adds that retaining quality professors who are innovative and dedicated to their students is of the utmost importance, explaining, “My favorite thing about SUU is that a student can still have a personal relationship with his or her instructors – those relationships are a difference maker in the success of our students.”
Speaking from experience, Eves is certainly qualified to speak to the University’s past, present and future. In addition to being an SUU alumnus himself, Eves’ three children all graduated from Southern Utah University, as did two of his three children-in-law. Additionally, his son Daniel just returned to SUU to teach after earning a doctorate degree, and Daniel’s wife is also now working at Southern Utah University.
Whether commitment and fortitude or a fortuitous destiny, one thing is certain: the College of Science’s newest leader is anything but a rookie.