University hires new Dean of Arts and Sciences

Kelton Holsen, Staff Writer

Dr. Ryan K. Haaland has been hired as Augsburg’s new Dean of Arts and Sciences starting this July. Haaland will be filling the dean position left open by Amy Gort, which the university has been attempting to fill for the last two years. Haaland will also hold a tenured position as a professor of physics. He replaces Professor David Matz, who was serving in the role as interim Dean.

According to the original job posting for the position, the Dean of Arts and Sciences “will play a key role in articulating an inspiring and compelling vision for the liberal arts and sciences at Augsburg University, in alignment with Augsburg’s mission, identity and strategic plan” as well as helping “[to] model and support the University’s commitment to intentional diversity and equity in hiring and reviewing faculty, and in encouraging the professional development of faculty at all stages of their career.”

Haaland has a Ph.D. in physics and graduated from the University of Oxford in 1999. Before coming to Augsburg, he worked as chair of physics and engineering in Fort Lewis College in Colorado and also spent 21 years in the Air Force, where he served as an officer and also chaired the department of physics at the US Air Force Academy.

Haaland’s work in physics has largely focused around “sprites,” a phenomenon that occurs in Earth’s upper atmosphere during thunderstorms. Described as “red lightning,” sprites appear very quickly and then disappear during powerful storms, only visible for about 20 milliseconds. Haaland’s work has involved flying airplanes into thunderstorms in order to capture images of this phenomenon and was featured on the Japanese TV show “The Cosmic Shore.” He was also named Fort Lewis’ Featured Scholar for 2014–2015 and was part of a $35 million effort to build a new engineering facility at the school.

“I’m eager to support the Augsburg mission of educating students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers and responsible leaders,” said Halland in a press release on April 9. “I also am dedicated to advancing Augsburg’s commitments to equity and inclusion.”

“I am very excited about becoming a part of the Augsburg community and so look forward to meeting and working with students; supporting your goals and and paths to success,” added Haaland in a statement to “The Echo.”

In the release, Augsburg Provost Karen Kaivola praised Haaland for his “commitment . . . to the liberal arts tradition and to serving students from groups historically underrepresented in higher education.”

“[Haaland] will support faculty excellence, and his experience in programmatic innovation that prepares students for meaningful work in the 21st century will be a benefit to our students long after they graduate,” said Kaivola.

This article was originally published in the April 26, 2019 issue.