Athens, Ga. – Suzanne Barbour, a former graduate program director at Virginia Commonwealth University who is currently a National Science Foundation program director, has been named dean of the Graduate School at the University of Georgia.
Barbour is a professor in the VCU School of Medicine’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology, where she directed the graduate program for a decade. She has served as a program director in the NSF’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences since 2013, and she is currently leading the division’s cluster focused on cellular dynamics and function. Her appointment at UGA is effective July 13.
“Dr. Barbour’s academic background makes her ideally suited for this critical position at the University of Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “She has a strong vision for enhancing graduate education that will further elevate UGA’s national and international reputation as a leading research university.”
Barbour has held a number of positions that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of her research and her interest in preparing students for a diverse array of post-graduate career options. She holds affiliate appointments in VCU’s departments of African-American studies, biology, and microbiology and immunology.
“Dr. Barbour possesses the experience and skill set to meet the University of Georgia’s ambitious agenda to elevate graduate education to new heights. Under her leadership, UGA will significantly enhance its graduate programs for the benefit of students and for the economic and scholarly competitiveness of our state and nation,” said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “She brings a commitment to attracting the most promising graduate students to UGA and to increasing the number of career paths that our graduate programs prepare them for.”
Barbour has served as the director of research training at the VCU Center on Health Disparities, on the coordinating committee for a graduate education initiative known as the NSF Research Traineeship Program and as a faculty coach for the NIH-funded Academy for Future Science Faculty. She has served as the major adviser to 20 graduate students at VCU and has served on the graduate committee for more than 80 additional students.
She has received a number of honors over the course of her career, including VCU’s Women in Science Dentistry and Medicine Professional Achievement Award and its Presidential Award for Community Multicultural Enrichment. She received VCU’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005 and has received an Outstanding Teacher Award nearly every year since 1999. From 2006-2007, she was a Fellow of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program for Women.
Her research focuses on a family of enzymes that mediate how cells respond to their environment and play a role in metabolic diseases. She is the author of 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and other publications, and her research has been funded by a number of agencies, including the NIH and the NSF. Barbour has given invited lectures across North America and in Europe and Asia and serves on the editorial board of The Journal of Lipid Research.
She currently serves on VCU’s Academic Program Review Committee and has served on the institution’s Quality Enhancement Plan Steering Committee and its strategic plan recalibration work group.
Enhancing interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math among K-12 students has been a longstanding area of emphasis for Barbour. She regularly serves as a judge and paper reviewer for the Metro Richmond Science Fair and has brought high school student trainees into her lab to conduct research.
Barbour said she looks forward to working with colleagues across campus to develop strategies to attract and retain the most talented and diverse graduate students to UGA; enable UGA graduate students to select the career path(s) that best suit their interests, skills sets and values; ensure that UGA graduate students have access to information and develop skills sets necessary to pursue those paths; offer graduate programs at UGA that are well-aligned with both research and scholarship strengths of the institution and needs of the workforce; assess and refine UGA graduate programs to ensure they both maintain quality and retain those alignments; and track outcomes to ensure that UGA graduate programs lead to productive careers and job satisfaction.
“I share the university’s goal of tailoring its graduate programs to ‘meet increasingly complex societal needs with cutting-edge, interdisciplinary offerings, strong support systems, and new approaches to program delivery that extend beyond the boundaries of the Athens campus,'” Barbour said, quoting UGA’s 2020 Strategic Plan. “The University of Georgia has a strong foundation to build on, and I’m looking forward to working with faculty, staff, students, alumni and administrators to enhance graduate education even further.”
Barbour joined the VCU faculty in 1993 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Diego. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rutgers University and a doctorate in molecular biology and genetics from Johns Hopkins University.