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Grinnell College appoints vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college


Beronda L. Montgomery, an internationally recognized plant biology researcher and expert on mentoring in science, will join Grinnell in July 2022

GRINNELL, Iowa – Beronda L. Montgomery has been appointed vice president for academic affairs and dean of Grinnell College. Montgomery currently serves as a professor in the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology and microbiology and molecular genetics, as well as assistant vice president for research and innovation at Michigan State University in East Lansing. She will begin work at Grinnell on July 1, 2022.

Montgomery has held numerous faculty and administrative appointments at MSU. A highly regarded leader in her field and internationally recognized expert on mentoring in science, she is a sought-after lecturer, who has been recognized time-and-again as an exceptional and transformative leader, colleague, educator, and mentor.

“Dr. Montgomery is a transformative scientist, researcher, and academician, esteemed by her peers, colleagues, and students. She is a noted champion of diversity, equity, inclusion, and of mentoring within the sciences and higher education,” said Grinnell College President Anne F. Harris. “We are honored to have her join our Grinnell College community and excited about how her presence and expertise will shape and further our lived mission to the common good. I am looking forward to thinking and working with Dr. Montgomery and to all that she will make possible as a valued member of our community.” 

As dean of the college, Montgomery will serve as the chief academic officer, ensuring that faculty have the support and resources they need to do their work of providing an education in the liberal arts through free inquiry and the open exchange of ideas. She will also play a key role in the college’s ongoing strategic planning, helping make decisions about the priorities and initiatives that will shape and define the college’s direction in years to come.

“I am genuinely thrilled to join the incredible community of students, staff, and faculty at Grinnell College who exemplify collective academic excellence and reciprocal civic responsibility. The esteemed liberal arts education and expressed commitment of individuals to cultivating a community dedicated to a pursuit of equity and justice at Grinnell is inspiring,” said Montgomery. “I’m honored to have an opportunity to bring my experience and energy to the Grinnell College community and look forward to collaborating broadly with fellow Grinnell constituents.”

Montgomery’s exemplary career has been highlighted with several honors. She was chosen for a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and was named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology for seminal contributions to understanding physiological and morphogenic adaptation of photosynthetic microbes to light.

In 2020, she was named one of 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America by CrossTalk for her outstanding research, commitment to creating literature about diversity and inclusion and her dedication to mentoring and developing scientists of diverse backgrounds. Also in 2020, she was awarded a prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellowship.

Montgomery has been recognized for exemplifying effective leadership, promoting faculty and student success, and fostering social responsibility and community engagement. Highlights of her MSU work in these areas include:

  • Providing oversight of the last phase of the MSU Global Impact Initiative to invest in new and enhanced research endeavors around energy, health, education, the environment, national security, and global development.
  • Serving as a core member of the strategic research implementation team working to increase current research expenditures from $725 million annually to $1billion through strategic hiring initiatives, and progressive collaborations across more than 20 campus academic units/colleges.
  • Facilitating new multi-college, transdisciplinary partnerships focused on health disparities, climate change, and other complex topics.
  • Contributing to development of the Academic Advancement Network, which supports individuals in building productive careers and promotes an inclusive, proactive culture for professional development for faculty, academic staff, and leaders across campus.
  • Pioneering the role of Assistant Provost for Faculty Development–Research with responsibility for facilitating and leading programming designed to support faculty and academic staff in developing and sustaining individual research, scholarship, or creative activities.
  • Mentoring approximately 60 undergraduate students in hands-on research in her laboratory, including students from the MSU Drew Science Scholars Program for Underrepresented Minority Undergraduates.
  • Serving as a primary mentor for undergraduates in STEM while cultivating a career as a scholar-mentor and equity advocate. 

Montgomery joined Michigan State in 2004 following a postdoctoral research fellowship at Indiana University. She earned her doctorate in plant biology at the University of California, Davis after earning a master’s at the University of Central Arkansas and a bachelor’s at Washington University, St. Louis. Her primary laboratory-based research is focused on the responses of photosynthetic organisms to external light cues.

A nationally recognized researcher and author, she has written more than 100 peer-reviewed research articles, invited reviews, perspectives, and book chapters. Her book, Lessons from Plants, published by the Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2021, has been recognized as a brilliant exploration of plant behavior and adaptation offering valuable insights for human thriving.

“I want to express my sincere thanks and enduring gratitude to Elaine Marzluff, who so ably and willingly took on the role of Interim Dean of the College, for what will be a transformative two-year period, during a time of leadership transition,“ added Harris. “I also extend my gratitude to the many Grinnellians who helped with the national search process for our new dean. My special thanks to the members of the search advisory committee, who helped us first connect to and now collaborate with a remarkable new leader to help guide Grinnell into the future.”

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