Alan R. Townsend will become Colorado College’s provost and professor of environmental science on June 1. As CC’s provost, Townsend will be the college’s chief academic officer and its second-ranking officer with strategic responsibilities that span the entire institution. He will report to President Jill Tiefenthaler, serve on the president’s cabinet, take a leadership role in the annual budget process, and implement the updated strategic plan.
Townsend currently is director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and professor in the Environmental Studies program at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is an ecosystem ecologist who studies how ecosystems work, how they are changing, and what those changes might mean for society. His nationally prominent research includes work on nutrient cycling and biogeochemistry in tropical forests, and global-scale analyses of human impact on major element cycles. He earned his B.A. in biology from Amherst College and his Ph.D. in biological sciences from Stanford University.
“As the college’s initiatives have grown with the Fine Arts Center, Innovation, and the expanded library, we need an experienced academic leader to guide and integrate these initiatives,” says President Tiefenthaler. Townsend was selected out of a field of 175 initial candidates.
Townsend spent 17 years on the faculty at CU Boulder before becoming dean of the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment in 2014. He returned to CU Boulder early in 2017 as the associate vice chancellor for research, working to advance the university’s $500 million research mission; Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research Fellow; and professor of Environmental Studies. CC had been on his radar for years, he told The Gazette. “It has a deserved reputation for standing out as an innovative place, which is intriguing to me,” Townsend said. CC graduates he had taught in graduate science programs at CU Boulder “were a little different,” Townsend said. “Remarkably independent, driven, socially conscious students who impressed me.”