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 Tuesday, December 14, 2004 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Susan Avery , Dean of the Graduate School.
Susan Avery, Dean of the Graduate School. (Photo/Larry Harwood)

In the Spotlight With Susan Avery

They lead major academic divisions and shape the direction and quality of programs for faculty, staff and students. In this series, "In the Spotlight," we ask CU-Boulder deans to give us a glimpse into their personalities by answering questions aimed at providing a unique perspective on "the person behind the desk." Part four of this series features Susan Avery, dean of the Graduate School and vice chancellor for research.

1. Outside of work, what do you spend the most time thinking about and why?

My family is very important to me and I spend a great deal of time thinking about my husband, our son, my mother, and how we can juggle all of our activities to spend time together. My husband, Jim, is a computer engineer and professor in CU's electrical and computer engineering department. He is currently taking lessons on how to be the spouse of a dean and vice chancellor from Bob Lynch, husband of former Dean Carol Lynch. He is doing admirably well — even to the point of graciously wearing a tuxedo at a recent event. Our son, Chris, is in his senior year at Fairview high school so we are surrounded by piles of college brochures while he tries to sort out which ones sound interesting enough to fill out an application. And my mother, Alice, moved out to Boulder and is enjoying independent retirement living and making mischief with our son. We enjoy music events (many are Chris's concerts), the theater, and dance as well as hiking or snowshoeing in Colorado's great scenery. Our favorite spots are in the Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton area. We try to eat dinner together every night, often debating issues with Chris; enjoy the holidays together and with friends, colleagues, and graduate students; and take advantage of travel opportunities to explore and learn about different cultures as a family.

2. Describe a situation that you found particularly challenging or difficult and what you learned from it.

I think one of the most challenging efforts was the development of the CIRES/NOAA research effort in climate variability and its impacts on water in the interior west. This research project required the integration of research on climate science, hydrology, societal demographics and institutions, economics, and water policy. CIRES pushed beyond its traditional earth system science approach to a new level of science enquiry. The project also required scientists to understand the decision making processes of water resource managers and other stakeholders in order to understand how scientific information is used and when/what science information is most important in those decision processes. Engagement with these decision makers has been challenging and most fulfilling. The project has now been in place for about five years and, while not funded at the level I would like to see, has generated many success stories, including the development and use of new hydro-meteorology forecasting tools, new scenarios for water resource planning that includes climate variability and change, and a new engagement of scientists with the state drought task force and the Western Governor's Association initiative on an integrated drought information system. From this experience I have learned a set of lessons about putting a team of researchers together that focuses on the inter-dependency of the disciplines in interdisciplinary work, how you develop partnerships with user communities and how they can help frame fundamental research questions and required methodologies, and other metrics that might be available for evaluating interdisciplinary research and scholarship in addition to peer-reviewed publications.

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In the Spotlight With Susan Avery

Campus Diversity Update

From the Chancellor

Ending the Year on a Celebratory Note

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