Buszard is back

Buszard is back McGill University

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McGill Reporter
December 7, 2000 - Volume 33 Number 07
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Buszard is back

| Deborah Buszard has been reappointed to a second five-year term as dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, a notion that suits the plant geneticist just fine.

"I do enjoy it because you meet the most wonderful people," says the dean, just back from the West Coast where she spoke to alumni in Victoria and Vancouver as well as high school students in the latter city.

"I was speaking to them all on the same subject: our need to understand that we have an obligation not to abuse our environment," says Buszard. Such meetings with alumni and potential recruits comprise 20% of the dean's time. "Fundraising and alumni relations is a big part of what deans do," she notes.

Mac has its own particular twist on the art of deanship. Beyond meeting with professors, students and alumni, in order to keep abreast of needs and means, Buszard also tends to the greater community served by the campus which began as an agricultural college 95 years ago. Mac's ties to the agricultural community in Quebec are extensive and need to be nurtured.

When the ice storm struck in January 1998, for instance, Buszard organized a fundraising drive to buy generators for imperilled farmers.

Keeping in touch with farmers' needs sometimes requires some unusual skills. Every year, since sometime in the 1940s, the Quebec Women's Institute, a farming women's organization, holds its annual meeting at Mac. Tradition insists that the dean's wife serve tea to the QWI executive. But when the dean is a woman…?

"Now the dean invites and the dean pours from the silver teapot," chuckles Buszard, who claims that despite her English origins, she has only recently learned the proper way to pour tea.

Buszard seems to revel in both maintaining the traditional commitments of the old Macdonald College and ushering in the new sciences, technologies and partnerships with industry that comprise modern agricultural and environmental science. She also embraces the international aspect of her faculty.

"Sir William Macdonald's vision was to bring a better quality of rural life through education," says Buszard.

"Mac continues in this tradition, though at a global level."

The Brace Centre for Water Resources, for instance, works with people the world over in improving the quality of water resources. Mac recently began using distance education and the Internet to offer courses in agricultural and environmental sciences for people in the Caribbean.

"I'm proud of how we have become innovative and outward looking," she says. Buszard has helped dispel the notion of Mac as McGill's "cow campus" by promoting the scientific achievements of her researchers and building new ties to McGill's other faculties.

Over the past four years, with the creation of the increasingly popular McGill School of Environment (involving arts, science, and agricultural and environmental sciences), the Graduate Certificate in Biotechnology (agricultural and environmental sciences, medicine and science) and the Brace Centre (agricultural and environmental sciences, engineering, law, management), there has been considerable rapprochement between the Macdonald and downtown campuses.

In the view of parasitology professor Roger Prichard, one of the driving forces behind Mac's involvement in post-graduate programs in biotechnology, Buszard deserves much of the credit for these new links. "We [at Mac] are like the little brother to the main campus," he says. "Dean Buszard is good at reminding him that we're there."

Prichard is also impressed by Buszard's ability to welcome the initiatives of members of the Macdonald community and pull together the necessary elements from within the University and beyond. He appreciates her efforts in raising funds for a student fellowship in biotechnology and in trying to hire new faculty for the Institute of Parisitology.

"She's a good spokesperson for the faculty and the University."

Professor Vijaya Rhagavan, chair of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and a member of the Brace Centre, believes Dean Buszard is an excellent promoter of Macdonald Campus and its members' interests.

"She had the ministers of education and agriculture come to the faculty so that researchers could present their work and speak of its relevance to Quebec," he says, citing one example.

Now that the dark days of budget constraint are lightening — especially on the western campus where all applicants in the recent Canada Foundation for Innovation competition for major projects were successful, reaping more than $8 million — Buszard will have her hands full during the next two years "building and installing the five projects.

"The new biotech plant productivity facility, the poultry facility and upgrading the food engineering and processing facilities are all major planning exercises."

Buszard will also be overseeing the review of undergraduate curriculum with a view to introducing some new options such as biotechnology, entrepreneurship and international work.

"One of the best things we can do for the students on top of their education is to give them a global view," she says, mentioning a new course in tropical food systems and the environment offered at the Bellairs Research Institute in Barbados, and exchange programs with European institutions in agricultural and environmental sciences.

As for Buszard's own teaching and research, the first is no more and the second, she continues in a reduced form.

"I still keep a small amount of time to take an interest in strawberry breeding," says the dean, who, with her research partner, fellow plant scientist Shahrokh Khanizadeh, developed the popular Chambly strawberry, among her other co-authored berries, the Oka, Joliette, Yamaska and Orléans.

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