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OSU Seeks Wine Research Director

Inaugural director steps down from Oregon Wine Research Institute to focus on lab work

by Peter Mitham
neil shay
Oregon State University will convene a search committee to replace outgoing Oregon Wine Research Institute director Neil Shay, who will maintain a laboratory program.
Corvallis, Ore.—The search is on for a new director of the Oregon Wine Research Institute following the announcement last week that inaugural director Neil Shay is stepping down after two years to focus on research activities.

“(Neil) decided he had come to a point where he wanted to get back to doing his research and teaching,” Sonny Ramaswamy, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University and director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, told Wines & Vines this week. “It takes a certain effort, as you might imagine, to lead an endeavor, whether it’s a department or a college or a school or a university or an institute.”

Shay will officially step down June 30, after wrapping up his responsibilities with the institute and completing other academic responsibilities. He will then shift to a professorship in OSU’s Department of Food Science and Technology, maintaining his laboratory program while teaching in the department’s undergraduate and graduate programs.

The first director
Shay was appointed to the institute in 2010 following two search processes that attracted a wide range of candidates. An initial search in fall 2008 ended without consensus the following summer. (See “Search Continues at Oregon State.”) Three candidates were identified from a total of 15 applicants, but both the university and industry failed to agree on the kind of director required during the final cut.

Oregon State and industry worked to better define expectations for the director’s position with the guidance of Ramaswamy, who had been recently appointed as dean.

Ramaswamy gave the position a greater academic orientation, with responsibilities less focused on fundraising, outreach and administration than research and the development of “collaborative and interdisciplinary research relationships with other OSU units, centers and institutes.” The professorship associated with institute was made a tenure-track position, which made it more attractive to potential candidates, while extending the value of the more than $2 million industry has raised in support of the institute.

The second search process garnered a shortlist of five candidates, including Shay, then a professor and department head of the University of Florida’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

The new search
The selection process will now begin again, with Ramaswamy appointing a search committee that will review the position’s description and solicit applications.

“We’re going to look at the position description, think of the characteristics of the individual that we want to hire,” Ramaswamy said. “We’ll reconstitute a (search) committee, and of course that will include folks from the industry as well as the university as well as the USDA Agricultural Research Service.”

Ramaswamy expects the selection process to be fast-tracked, with interviews occurring during the summer and a new director in place by Sept. 1.

“I don’t want us to lose the momentum that we’ve got,” he said. “We want to catch that wave and move it to the next level.”

The institute has 13 faculty members and four “courtesy faculty” from the USDA-ARS. Bill Boggess, executive associate dean of Oregon State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, will manage the day-to-day affairs of the institute following Shay’s departure.

New opportunities for Ramaswamy
Ramaswamy won’t be around to see the process complete, however. He has been tapped by the White House to direct the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which oversees federal research and extension work. The appointment was announced in early March and will take effect May 1. The directorship of the institute has been vacant since spring 2011.

Neither David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard, a member and past chair of the policy board for the institute as well as a member of the search committee that selected Shay, nor Michael Donovan of RoxyAnn Winery in Medford, Ore., responded to requests for comment by deadline.

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