Ron Fricker, senior associate dean in the College of Science, has been named interim dean of the college. Fricker will officially assume his new role on Jan. 4.

Fricker’s appointment as interim dean follows the announcement that current Dean Sally C. Morton has accepted the position as executive vice president of the Knowledge Enterprise at Arizona State University effective at the end of the year.

Fricker, a professor of statistics, has been at Virginia Tech for more than five years, during which time he served as head of the Department of Statistics before moving into an administrative role in the college. He represented the college in Virginia Tech’s strategic planning effort, then served as co-lead in developing the College of Science’s strategic plan.

“At its core, the heartbeat of the College of Science is its people – faculty, staff, and students – who are passionately engaged in research, teaching, and learning,” Fricker said. “As interim dean, I will be focused on their success and well-being. With their help, we will continue the college’s upward trajectory, including successfully recruiting the next dean, so that together we can take the College of Science and Virginia Tech to even greater heights.”

Fricker is a Fellow of both the American Statistical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Most recently, he became a member of the National Academies’ Board on Mathematical Sciences and Analytics.

Fricker’s research focuses on performance of various statistical models for use in disease surveillance, and statistical process control methodologies in general. He co-authored a book published at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, “Monitoring the Health of Populations by Tracking Disease Outbreaks: Saving Humanity from the Next Plague,” which led to national and international appearances in media such as Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, among many scores of others.

“Ron is an outstanding academician and leader who understands the important role the College of Science plays in the university achieving its strategic goals and priorities," said Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke. "He has earned the respect of faculty and staff and has the knowledge and experience to effectively lead the college during this important transition. Ron has my full confidence and support, and I look forward to working with him as part of my academic leadership team.”

In her four-and-a-half years as dean of the College of Science, Morton brought focus to the strategic direction of the college, established the Academy of Data Science, saw degrees from its School of Neuroscience and Computational Modeling and Data Analytics become among the most popular at Virginia Tech, and grew College of Science research awards by 71 percent.

“I want to express my sincere appreciation for all that Sally has done as dean of the College of Science and the strength of leadership she has shown to her faculty, staff, students and the university," Clarke said. "Sally has led the college to a place where they are competing globally for talent and opportunities and serving as a cornerstone of Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission. I wish her the best of luck in this next chapter in her distinguished career.”

Morton was also instrumental in advocating for more women and minorities in scientific fields, and she initiated a series of Women in STEM forums held in cities from Arlington, Virginia, to Raleigh, North Carolina. On the Blacksburg campus, she was known for promoting collaboration with other colleges and institutes, and supporting faculty via such programs as the Dean’s Discovery Fund and faculty fellowships supported by philanthropy.

“I am proud of what my colleagues in the College of Science have accomplished in the past several years,” Morton said. “Science has always been a foundation of what makes Virginia Tech great, and I think our work has elevated the idea that scientific excellence is essential to the university’s future.”

“In the College of Science, we are dedicated to Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission: generating knowledge, making discoveries, and educating the next generation of citizens and scientists to improve the human condition,” Fricker said. “In these challenging times, the application of science to so many pressing problems has never been more essential.”

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