| 03.21.2018

A change in scenery – New CALS dean focused on college collaboration

University of Idaho President Chuck Staben may have a new racquetball competitor.

Michael Parrella, who began Feb. 1 as the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said he”s an avid racquetball player, but hasn”t yet stepped foot on UI”s courts.

However, when it comes to playing Staben, Parrella said, “I don”t think I”m in his league.”

Tess Fox | Argonaut
Dean Michael Parella speaks at a reception Tuesday. Parella is the new dean for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Parrella comes to UI with a background in entomology, including both a masters and doctorate degree. Most recently, Parrella served as entomology chair at University of California, Davis.

He was the assistant dean for agricultural programs at UC-Davis and taught at both Davis and University of California, Riverside.

When completing his undergraduate degree in animal science at Rutgers University in New Jersey, he realized his greatest passion.

“I realized I had much more of a passion for animals, but smaller animals, without a backbone,” he said.

When completing his master”s degree, Parrella said his focus was on the biological control of weeds, which he said is a problem Idaho faces.

“We have a lot of invasive weeds we can use natural enemies to control,” he said.

He said he continued on with research and instruction along the same lines through his time in California.

Although agriculture may be a bigger industry in California, the gross domestic product for agriculture in Idaho is significantly higher, he said.

“Consequently, it”s more important and that, I think, resonates with the legislature,” Parrella said. “There”s an opportunity to move things forward.”

He said coming to UI brings some lifestyle changes, but he is excited for the opportunity.

“I think I have the background and the experience,” he said. “I have both the research and the administration.”

While Parrella is in his post, he said collaborating with other colleges on campus is an important factor for success and many colleges share similar interests. He said water is a large concern in Idaho and one many colleges have in common.

“Water is a big issue from a natural resources perspective, from an urban perspective,” he said, “and obviously from an agricultural perspective as well.”

He said furthered collaboration across colleges would make UI eligible for more grants as well as bring in more faculty and students.

“The whole idea is to elevate the status of the college,” Parrella said.

Although he said these are not new ideals, it makes sense for a new dean to continue moving things forward.

“My job really is to work with the department chairs and facilitate, create an atmosphere where faculty can be successful and students can be successful,” he said. “I do look at the department chairs as being the most important administrative post on the campus, because they”re on the front line.”

Parrella has already met with department chairs, including James Connors, the Agriculture and Extension chair.

“Dean Parrella is going to be a wonderful leader for the college. He comes with a strong background in research,” Connors said. “He”s already doing a lot of leadership meetings to learn about the college and the faculty.”

Through a packed first-months schedule, Parrella has had several welcome receptions and visited Boise.

“It couldn”t be better in terms of my reception, now I”m just worried about the expectations are high and I need to deliver,” Parrella said.

Parrella said finding time in his busy schedule will be the trick to being able to check out the racquetball courts, go on hikes –  but only if there”s a stream to fish in at the end – and go bird watching with his wife.

“Definitely the right move for me, there”s no question,” Parella said. “And after I get to fly fish a little bit, it will be even better.”

Katelyn Hilsenbeck  can be reached at  arg-news@uidaho.edu  or on Twitter @Katelyn_mh

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