The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences started the 2013–14 academic year with two faculty members taking up assistant dean roles to advise and mentor students by helping to map out academic pursuits, plan career paths, and navigate student life.

Erik Ervin, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences, and Alex Niemiera, associate professor in horticulture, will maintain their faculty positions in the college while simultaneously serving in the Office of Academic Programs under Susan Sumner, associate dean and director of academic programs. 

Niemiera will serve as the new assistant dean of student programs and Ervin will serve as assistant dean of academic programs.

“These positions will help enhance students’ undergraduate and graduate experiences,” said Sumner. “They will expand the initiatives offered by academic programs and help students and faculty gain skills that will take them beyond the boundaries of our campus and prepare students for careers long after they have left Virginia Tech.”

In his new role, Niemiera will assist with faculty and student awards to promote academic scholarship, scholarships and financial aid, and internships and career opportunities for students.

A recipient of the Certificate of Teaching Excellence Award, Niemiera has been noted for his enthusiasm and inspiring approach to the classroom, which includes courses in Woody Landscape Plants and the lab for Nursery Production and Marketing.

Niemiera earned two bachelor’s degrees, one from the Roanoke College in biology and one from the University of Kentucky in horticulture. His master’s degree and doctoral degree are both from Virginia Tech in horticulture.

Ervin will serve in college curriculum efforts as an ex officio member on the Curriculum Committee, work with faculty on any proposed new majors or degree programs, and be a part of discussions surrounding proposed changes to the Curriculum for Liberal Education.

In addition, he will assist in an ex officio role with the online master's of agriculture and life sciences program, and have active roles in new student orientation and new faculty orientation and mentoring. He will also serve as an undergraduate adviser for life sciences undecided students and work with students facing academic probation and suspension.

Ervin, whose research is focused on turf grass management and stress from heat, cold and drought, has extensive experience with experiential learning, research and international experiences, one-on-one advising, and curriculum improvement at the departmental level.

His research program focuses on strategies to improve irrigation and fertilization efficiency of container-grown crops with the intent to reduce water use and decrease fertilizer pollution.

He also served as the 2013 Chair of the Turf Science Division of the Crop Science Society of America.

Ervin received his bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Iowa State and his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Colorado State University.



Written by Amy Loeffler.
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