A University of Wisconsin dean has been appointed to a senior position within the Department of Agriculture by President Barack Obama, officials said Monday.
Molly Jahn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was appointed deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics.
Jahn was chosen based on a process in which candidates are brought to the attention of the USDA before being.
Michael Penn, director of publications for the office of external affairs at CALS, said Jahn’s duties will include overseeing USDA research units composed of more than 2,000 scientists conducting research on food, agriculture and natural resources.
The largest unit under Jahn’s supervision will be the Agricultural Research Service, which is the USDA’s main in-house research unit, according to Penn.
USDA is connected to the campus through a partnership between the federal and state governments and is a vital part of the UW community, according to Jahn.
“[USDA] has been a core capacity to safeguard agricultural and food systems and increasingly, environment and public health,” she said.
Jahn described the position as one that will work to fulfill the plan Obama has laid out for the USDA.
“My job is to join a really outstanding team at the USDA whose mission is to realize President Obama’s vision for the USDA and for American agriculture, and to ensure a safe, abundant, nutritious and healthy food supply,” she said.
Jahn’s duties will formally begin Nov. 9 in Washington.
Not only does she consider the appointment personally meaningful but Jahn also views it as evidence of the successes CALS has accomplished.
“It is a great personal honor, but it also reflects the success and the vision and the commitment of the CALS community here, and of Wisconsin agriculture,” she said.
Penn added UW has a long-standing tradition of producing leaders who move into the national spotlight and have a significant impact on national conversations.
“It’s a great privilege to be called into this kind of service and to come with the experience I’ve gained here,” Jahn said. “This is an excellent pioneering community.”
In order to allow her to accept the position with USDA, Jahn was granted a one-year leave of absence by UW Chancellor Biddy Martin under the condition that she would be able to return to the university within that period of time if she decides to do so.
Jahn felt the assurance from Martin was important not only for the future of CALS but also for the service she will provide at the federal level.
“I love this college, and we are involved in some extremely exciting things that are very, very important to me,” Jahn said. “But [Martin] also understands that it’s our obligation as a public institution to bring the very best we can forward at the national level.”
Correction: The print version of this article contained minor editing errors.