UW

A former attorney with ties to the University of Wyoming will start Aug. 1 as dean of the Haub School of Environmental and Natural Resources.

Melinda Harm Benson, currently an instructor at the University of New Mexico’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, will bring her unique perspective to the Haub School and expand on the mission of the Haub School’s Ruckelshaus Institute, which focuses on collaboration.

“My experience as an attorney taught me that litigation is not the answer,” Benson said. “And the Ruckelshaus Institute’s focus on collaborative process and working with a broad set of stakeholders is absolutely the future of natural resource management.”

The Haub School’s mission is to advance the understanding and resolution of environmental struggles by considering viewpoints from a variety of sources. This focus on collaboration squares neatly with the future of environment and resource management, Benson said.

“Collaborative process is more successful over the long term,” Bensons said. “It tends to take more time, but the results are worth it.”

Benson will succeed Ingrid Burke, who served as director of the Haub School from 2008 until July 2016, when the position’s title was elevated to dean. Burke was hired as dean of Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

The Haub School is now drafting a new strategic plan, which will serve as the school’s guiding document for the next several years. Benson said she hopes to take part in the plan’s development.

“A big part of that plan is going to be working at the university to meet the needs of Wyoming communities,” she said. “That’s something that’s always been a priority of the Haub School — not only training the future environmental leaders, but also facilitating collaborative stakeholder-based processes on natural resource issues throughout the state.”

The Board of Trustees voted to hire Benson during its June teleconference meeting. The board also appointed Assistant Dean of Students Nycole Courtney as interim dean of students and former President of South Dakota State University David Chicoine to be interim dean of the College of Business.

Chicoine was president of South Dakota State University when UW President Laurie Nichols worked there as provost and executive vice president of academic affairs.

Benson graduated from the University of Oregon in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and from University of Idaho in 1998 with a law degree. Returning to school after working as an attorney for a number of years, Benson received a master’s degree in community counseling from UW. During that time, she worked at the Haub School from 2003-2007, then at the University of New Mexico as a faculty member from 2008 until now.

Benson said she is looking forward to living in Laramie and working with the UW community again.

“The current staff and faculty at the Haub School are truly exceptional and I’m thrilled to become a part of that team and join them and helping to meet future natural resource and environmental resource challenges,” she said.

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