Rich Koenig will take over as interim dean of Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences on July 1.
He replaces Andre-Denis Wright, who resigned effective June 30 to be the new provost of the Norman campus for the University of Oklahoma. Wright joined WSU as CAHNRS dean in 2018.
Koenig said Wright’s exit was “a bit of a surprise.”
It was a whirlwind for the long-time WSU soil researcher.
“I went from not even thinking about this to being named in the position in probably two weeks,” he said. “It happened very quickly.”
Koenig has held various leadership positions throughout the college, including interim horticulture department chairman and associate dean and director of WSU Extension. He has also served as chairman of the department of crop and soil sciences several times.
WSU will begin the search for a new dean as soon as possible in the fall, Koenig said. A new dean is slated to be in the position by June 30, 2022.
Will Koenig apply for the job?
“At this point, I’ll say I don’t know,” he said. “I’m going to see how the next few months go in this interim role.”
Koenig has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and earned his Ph.D. in soil science at WSU in 1993. He joined WSU in 2003.
Drew Lyon is filling in for Koenig as interim chairman of the crop and soil science department, beginning June 16. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time but also an opportunity for WSU and CAHNRS, Koenig said.
“When we all went out, it was really abrupt — we were all sent home and there was really no time to adjust,” he said. “So now we have a bit of an opportunity to plan for the return to work. We’re all looking forward to it, I think.”
Koenig expects that return to be relatively quick once the state reopens.
The university will require proof of COVID‑19 vaccination for all students engaging in activities at a WSU campus or location. Exemptions will be allowed for medical, religious or personal reasons.
The college is reaching out to returning and incoming undergraduate students.
“We’re looking forward to their return, we’re planning to be open and face-to-face to the maximum extent possible,” Koenig said. “We’re really excited. We’ve all missed the students here in Pullman and the other campus locations.”
The demolition of Johnson Hall and the construction of a new USDA Agricultural Research Service building will occur in the next year during Koenig’s interim term.
“That’s big, because it impacts major departments within the college and major USDA ARS units that touch every aspect of agriculture in the state,” Koenig said.
Farmers will also begin to see more of a university presence in the coming year. Koenig hopes to be back to normal for typical winter programming.