This summer, MTSU News and Media Relations spent time interviewing Dr. Robert U. “Bud” Fischer, first-year dean for the MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences. He replaced Dr. Tom Cheatham, who stepped down to become director of the Tennessee Mathematics, Science and Technology Education Center on campus.
Dr. Robert "Bud" Ficsher
Fischer, 52, became the fifth dean for the MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences June 1 following a national search. He previously served as chair of the biology department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and associate chair in biology at Eastern Illinois University. His expertise is in aquatic and fisheries biology. Fischer’s wife, Anita, has been a pharmacy technician for CVS/pharmacy for 17 years. They have a grown daughter, Sarah Trigg, and granddaughter, Kelsey Trigg, 4, in Illinois. Called “Bud” since birth and possessor of a hearty laugh, Fischer officially began his MTSU tenure Aug. 1.
Q. What are your thoughts about the science building, which is scheduled to open in 2015?
A. I am incredibly excited about the new building. It will be a state-of-the-art science building that will create an outstanding learning environment for our students, where high-quality teaching and research will be performed by faculty and students. It is the type of building that will foster increased interaction between faculty and students. I also see the building as an excellent recruiting and retention tool by increasing the opportunities for students to be engaged in the scientific endeavor.
Q. What can be accomplished while the science building is being built?
A. Everything. A building does not make a program or a college. What makes a program or a college is the outstanding faculty and staff in the department or college. Thus, I expect the college to continue to offer the students a high-quality education, opportunities to engage in innovative programs such as study abroad, internships and undergraduate research, and opportunities to engage in service on campus and in the Murfreesboro community. I think we should continue to strive to increase enrollment, while helping our students to become life-long learners and successful members of society.
Q. What are your thoughts about research?
A. Research is critical to the mission of the university and is also critical to the economic and social development of society. Some research benefits are obvious: for example, benefits of an economic kind (a new product, technology or service), a social kind (increased knowledge of relevance to policy makers), of an environmental kind (improved techniques to ensure sustainable food production), of a cultural kind (increased understanding of cultural values or social approaches) or of a health kind (a better understanding of the causes of medical conditions or better means of delivering health services). Thus, research adds to the stock of global knowledge and provides the source of new ideas, methods, techniques and innovation across a whole range of disciplinary and multi-disciplinary areas.
In addition, research is intertwined with teaching; it may be the best type of teaching where a student is personally mentored on a research project. It is during these opportunities when we are creating learning environments that fosters creativity, produces strong analytical and leadership skills, provides students with essential “hands-on experiences” and provides the student with an essential skill set for the future. Thus, ultimately, making alumni productive and influential members of society,
Q. What about your own research?
A. My research is in a wide diversity of biological areas such as the fields of aquatic ecology, evolutionary biology, fishery biology and physiological ecology. My approach within these fields of interest integrates theoretical and applied research on natural populations to answering questions concerning the effects of environmental stressors on aquatic organisms.
At the present time, my research focuses on the following two specific areas: 1) examining changes in morphology, physiology, behavior and life-history traits of bluegills and other aquatic organisms in response to environmental perturbation. This research involves both field and laboratory experiments utilizing state-of-the art laboratory equipment and procedures to answer questions concerning changes in body shape, performance traits, lipid cycles, reproductive cycles, metabolic rates and age at sexual maturity in bluegills and other aquatic organisms from stressed sites, and 2) determining the effects of land-use practices on stream ecosystems. This research involves intense field analysis to answer questions related to the effects of flow regime and riparian zone changes on species diversity, species richness, biotic integrity and genetic structure of stream fish communities.
Recent research projects specifically have examined 1) the effects of landscape processes on fish communities, 2) the effects of near stream habitat changes on the biotic integrity of stream communities and 3) the effects of stream habitat fragmentation on the genetic diversity of darter populations.
Q. How did it feel to be named dean for the MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences?
A. It was a real honor to be named dean at such an outstanding university as MTSU. I am excited about the opportunity to lead the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, especially the chance to work with such outstanding faculty and staff to help advance programs to the next level and make the college a first choice for students in Tennessee. I am especially excited to help open the new science building in 2015 and to offer our students the opportunity to learn in a state-of-the-art facility.
Q. What sold MTSU on you?
A. I think my background as both a successful faculty member and administrator at both a comprehensive and research institution was what interested MTSU in me as a possible dean candidate. At both Eastern Illinois University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham my leadership ability, management style and commitment to shared governance has allowed me to work successfully with faculty and staff to develop outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs which are student-centered and offer students a variety of innovative programs.
Q. Why did you want to leave UAB?
A. I was not looking to leave UAB. I was very happy as chair of biology, where I worked with a great group of people. The reason I decided to leave is I thought the position of dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences was a once-in-a-life-time opportunity. This position offered me the opportunity to work at an outstanding university with outstanding faculty, staff and students. Also, the college is poised to grow and expand in the future. With the addition of new degree programs, new Ph.D. programs and new science facility in the near future, the college will continue to be a first choice for the students of Tennessee. The future of MTSU and the college is bright and I wanted to be a part of that future.
Q. What is your vision for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences?
A. I have only been on campus for a short period of time, and I’m still in the process of understanding the history and culture of MTSU and the departments in the college. I can assure you that the college will work together through discussion involving all members of the college to come up with a strategic plan that will guide the college for the next five years. Certainly that strategic plan will include aspects that maintain the quality of the programs, offers students new and innovative programs and experiential-learning opportunities that increase the research capacity of the college. We will be striving to be a college that is just not a first choice college for students in Tennessee but also attracts students from across the country and the globe.
Q. What appear to be the greatest challenges?
A. (Fischer said the challenges he faces are a work in progress. He added that he is “still trying to get to know the MTSU community and especially the faculty, students and staff in the college, as well as learn the history of MTSU.”
Q. What challenge does development (fundraising) bring?
A. I do not look at development as a challenge but an opportunity. At a time of reduced state support for universities and institutions trying to limit the amount tuition is raised each year, development is the one area where an institution can increase funding. Thus, it is imperative for the dean to work with the development office on campus to create relationships with alumni and other friends of MTSU that will benefit the students and college. If there is a challenge right now, it is getting out to meet all of the people who are part of the MTSU family and have been strong supporters of the institution.
Q. What are your first impressions of Murfreesboro?
A. It’s amazing how large Murfreesboro has grown and the amount of activities available to a family in this town. Recently, we finally got a chance discover more of the town: areas to shop, restaurants, Stones River Battlefield, the children’s science museum (Discovery Center at Murfree Spring), the Murfreesboro wetlands and we cannot wait to see more. We’re looking forward in the future to the chance to walk and ride the greenways. Additionally we have found everybody to be incredibly friendly and helpful.
Q. What hobbies or interests do you have?
A. Reading, golf, spending time with family. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family. We’ve lived in many different places, five since I started my career and, with every move, they have been my support system.
About the College of Basic and Applied Sciences
The MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences includes 10 diverse departments, approximately 5,000 students, 204 faculty and nearly 70 staff. The departments include aerospace, the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience, biology, chemistry, concrete industry management, computer science, engineering technology, mathematics, military science and physics and astronomy. Seven of the 10 offer programs leading to master’s degrees. The college offers three Ph.D. programs
Within the college are three chairs of excellence: The Robert E. and Georginna West Russell Chair in Manufacturing Excellence; the Mary E. Miller Chair in Equine Health; and the John C. Miller Chair in Equine Reproductive Physiology.