MU’s new dean of vet college wants to boost school’s ranking

Monday, July 23, 2007 | 8:10 p.m. CDT; updated 12:33 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Neil Olson, the new dean of the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.

COLUMBIA — The new dean of the MU College of Veterinary Medicine wants to see the school become one of the top ranked in the country.

Neil Olson, 56, an associate dean for research and graduate studies at the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University, will start his new job at MU on Sept. 1.

His acceptance of MU’s offer was announced Monday morning by Provost Brian Foster.

“There are a number of areas of strengths (in the school) that with the proper level of synergy could elevate the college towards going forward,” Olson said. “I want to tap into existing strengths in the school and expand on them. We need to become more entrepreneurial, more self-dependent and increase resources.”

Olson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science and a doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Minnesota, replaces interim dean Cecil Moore.

“Dr. Olson has an excellent background to step into the dean position,” Moore said. “The previous two deans were formerly department chairs who then became dean. I think it’s important that we stepped outside the university and found someone with new ideas and a fresh perspective.”

A search committee, chaired by Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science, and John Dodam, associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, nominated Olson for the position.

Olson earned a doctorate in physiology from Michigan State University. He has been a faculty member of North Carolina State University since 1982.

“We thought his credentials were fantastic,” O’Brien said. “He is a real educator and has a large-picture perspective. We found the perfect team player in Dr. Olson.”

Olson’s research has focused on cardiopulmonary health and disease.

Olson said he is excited to come to MU and is counting down the days until his arrival in mid-August.

“I just want to get (to MU) and start engaging with students, faculty and staff,” he said. “I am at the stage in my career where I have a lot of energy, and I plan on hitting the ground running.”

Olson said he plans to schedule visits with veterinarians throughout the state. He also said he wants to work with the chancellor and provost to learn more about Missouri’s political process to garner more financial support for the College of Veterinary Medicine.

However, his main focus is on the students.

“I truly believe that students come first,” Olson said. “They are the future of the profession. I believe they are the seed that we need to be concerned with and value.”

A biosafety level 3 lab is being built at the College of Veterinary Medicine to study pathogens such as the West Nile virus and anthrax. Olson said the lab will be a valuable resource for the school.

“I had interest in trying to develop one at N.C. State, so I was pleased to learn it was able to be built at MU,” he said. “There are just some diseases you can’t monitor on a computer.”

The loyalty of the students, faculty and staff to MU and the city of Columbia is what Olson said attracted him to the position.

“I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Columbia,” Olson said. “This is a time in my career where the time is right to move, and I believe Missouri is the right place.”

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