Michael Blazier is the new dean for the University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center.
Blazier will only be the second dean of the College of Forestry. Philip Tappe retired in December after nearly 30 years with UAM. Blazier will assume his duties July 1, according to the UA Agriculture Division and UAM.
UAM Chancellor Peggy Doss and UA System Vice President for Agriculture Mark Cochran made the announcement of the new dean Tuesday on a Zoom call to faculty members.
Cochran and Doss thanked Robert Ficklin, Sturgis endowed professor of forest biology, for his leadership as interim dean.
Doss said the position is distinctive in the breadth of its oversight and in its opportunities to unite resources, people and objectives.
"There are a number of vital priorities right now for our university, division, the system and beyond – Dr. Blazier is exactly the visionary to serve as an enthusiastic, collaborative partner between and among institutions," Doss said.
She emphasized the importance of his role to the state and its economic future.
"With his expertise, I see Dr. Blazier as an innovative leader to ensure strong academic programs, crucial research and extension services for Arkansas and the region," she said.
Blazier comes from Louisiana State University, where he has served for 18 years as a forestry project leader at the LSU AgCenter Hill Farm Research Station and professor. He is experienced as a statewide forestry extension specialist and holds dozens of peer-reviewed publications.
He has a bachelor's degree in forestry from Louisiana Tech University, as well as a master's and doctoral degree in forestry fields from Oklahoma State University. Blazier grew up in West Monroe, Louisiana.
"Since early in my career, I've collaborated regularly with UAM faculty, and I've always been impressed with their teamwork, perseverance in getting research funding and implementing the projects and the resources they had available to conduct the research," Blazier said. "I also have family ties to the area, so I look at this position as a chance to work with a great group of faculty and staff with the added benefit of doing so on my 'home turf.' Add to that the natural and agricultural resources Arkansas offers and the opportunities to help the College and Center achieve high impacts in their mission seem endless."
The UAM forestry program is approaching its next reaccreditation by the Society for American Foresters, a process Blazier will closely oversee. UAM offers the only Society for American Foresters-accredited forestry studies in Arkansas.
With a background in forest research and extension projects, Blazier expects similar opportunities to oversee innovative research activities.
"I've focused on forest plantation management and agri-forestry where we co-mingled tree growth and cattle production. We have done that with row crops and trees. We have looked at different lines of ecological restoration on bottomland hardwoods, longleaf pine, and shortleaf pine," he said.
He seeks to support research that is timely and relevant to the immediate area, bringing research results directly to forest practitioners, natural resource professionals and landowners who can put recommended practices into action. Blazier was responsible for managing 500 acres of Louisiana timber at the Hill Farm Research Station, where there is also a 300-head cattle herd.
Blazier will also serve as the director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center, the research arm for the Agriculture Division with respect to forestry. Projects such as forest health, climate, watershed protection and wildlife habitat have featured as recent focus areas. The center facilitates much of the grant writing for forestry research in the state. It is primarily at UAM, but center faculty members extend to Little Rock, Fayetteville, Hope, Pine Tree and Batesville.
"Dr. Blazier is bringing a wealth of experience in research, extension and teaching, which will be an asset to the college and the Arkansas Forest Resources Center," Cochran said. "He has already worked with the faculty and our stakeholders in the state. He is also very familiar with the management issues of our southern forests. We are very excited about the leadership that he will provide to the programs in forestry, wildlife and agriculture."
Blazier arrives as UAM and the Agriculture Division embark on a waterfowl laboratory partnership with Five Oaks Ag Research and Education Center. The partnership provides an opportunity for conservation and wildlife habitat professionals and private landowners to observe and understand the evolving strategies for preserving and improving the wetland ecosystem within the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.
Blazier said he and his family look forward to settling in the familiar southeast Arkansas area and connecting with the community. His wife Stacy is a pathologist in the poultry industry and their twin 17-year-old boys will begin their senior year of high school this fall.