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Celebrating Dean Joyce Berry

April 9, 2014
By Marissa Isgreen

Warner College of Natural Resources Dean Joyce Berry will retire May 31, 2014 after more than 27 years of service at Colorado State University.

Warner College of Natural Resources Dean Joyce Berry.A retirement celebration is planned for Berry on Friday, April 11 from 4 – 6 p.m. at the Lory Student Center North Ballroom where colleagues, friends, students and alumni will celebrate her outstanding career.

During her career at CSU, Berry has grown with the University serving in a range of academic and administrative positions across campus. Starting as a research associate for Warner College in ’76, she advanced through the ranks to become a professor, department head, assistant dean, and began her first term as dean in 2004. She also served as CSU’s vice president for Advancement and Strategic Initiatives and is the former director of CSU’s Environment and Natural Resource Policy Institute.

As dean for Warner College, Berry brought the College through a time of instability, as natural resources issues were overshadowed and higher education funding suffered. She persevered through budget cuts and enrollment declines, and strategically led the College to become the most comprehensive and largest named natural resources college of its kind.

Elevated College's prestige

Under her leadership, Warner College has expanded to five departments, more than 1,600 students and growing, eight majors, 13 research centers and more than 500 faculty and staff working in 75 countries around the world.

“Natural resources were going through changes and challenges during her time as dean. Joyce brought us through those challenges,” said Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship Head Skip Smith. “Her knowledge and enthusiasm has resulted in record enrollment and the unified reorganization of the College.”

Dean Joyce Berry and Ed Warner at the naming announcement of the Warner College of Natural Resources.She was critically instrumental in helping the College secure the largest gift in CSU history and ushered the naming of the College in 2005 – elevating the College’s public awareness and prestige.

“I can’t think of any gift as influential,” said Rudy Garcia, senior associate vice president for University Advancement. “That alone speaks to her achievements.”

Berry’s leadership has been recognized nationally where she has served on many prestigious boards and commissions such as the National Council for Science and the Environment. Throughout Berry’s career, she has conducted research and written books on environmental leadership and how humans interact with and value natural resources. She has co-authored/edited four books:  Environmental Leadership Equals Essential Leadership: Redefining Who Leads and How, Environmental Leadership: Developing Effective Skills and Styles, Forests to Fight Poverty, andA Bibliography of Human/Animal Relations.

“Joyce has put her entire life’s blood into CSU and Warner College,” said Garcia. “She is an excellent dean and leader because she embodies her work. She lives it and is it - every day.

A dynamic, engaging, strong leader

Some have described Berry’s path to becoming a university administrator nontraditional. Berry’s connection to CSU has spanned more than 35 years – from her time as a student to becoming a leader of natural resources and education excellence.

Joyce and Joe Berry on graduation day in 1976 in the Warner College Atrium.

She started her academic career with a bachelor’s degree in political science and graduate degree in education from the University of California at Berkeley. She then went on to earn her master’s in regional resources planning from Colorado State University, in what would become Warner College’s Department of Geosciences. She then earned her Ph.D. from Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with a dissertation entitled “From Paradigm to Practice: Public Involvement Strategies for America’s Forests.”

“Joyce has the ability to paint a vision anyone can relate to making problem solving and innovation seem easy,” said her husband, Joe Berry. “She always makes time for people and gets up early every morning to meet with colleagues across campus. Her love for the College and CSU is tireless.”

As an ecological and a social scientist, Berry’s tremendous interpersonal skills and interdisciplinary mind give her an edge in leadership. She is known for her unique aptitude for connecting with people across the College, the University and the world. Berry’s colleagues attribute her remarkable leadership to her active listening skills, empathy, hard work and collaboration.

 “There is no world between her and someone else, and there’s nothing she’d rather do more than sit down and truly listen to you,” explained Ed Warner, Warner College donor and namesake. “She is the heart and soul of the college.  I think of her as ‘Saint Joyce.’”

Pioneer and advocate

While she is known for her genuine kindness, Berry is also known as a fighter and an advocate for equality.

“Those were days when being a woman in academia and in natural resources was not an easy role,” said John Gordon, who served as dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies while Berry worked there. “She had to fight her way through all kind of prejudices. She overcame through competence. Joyce was so good at what she did that she couldn’t have been ignored”

“She’s advanced gender issues and equality in natural resources,” said Mike Manfredo, head of the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources.

Berry has persevered against challenges in her own career, and she has advocated for others in both her research and her administration. Among her works, she has authored books on how forest can fight poverty and conducted two 10-year assessments of forest management on Indian Trust Lands.  She has also been a strong supporter of women faculty and researchers and advancing leadership opportunities for women.

“Her commitment to women faculty and students has been steadfast throughout her administration,” said Diana Wall, director of CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

“Joyce has always inspired me to think bigger than I thought possible,” said Robin Reid, Director of CSU’s Center for Collaborative Conservation – a center Berry helped establish. “She has provided me with invaluable direction and is always there to help.”

Berry helping CSU students with forest restoration work at Pingree Park.

A teacher at heart

While she thrives as an administrative leader and natural resources researcher, Berry is known to be happiest when she is with students.

“She’s that smiling face for a scared student,” said Scott Gilmore, a former student of Berry’s.  “She will take the time to sit down and talk with any student even if it’s just to soothe the fears of an incoming freshman.”

Berry’s love for her work and passion to help others succeed has made her a role model, a mentor and a friend to many students and alumni. “Countless students will tell you about the lasting impact she’s had on their lives – not just as an educator but as someone who never fails to take the time to listen and personally invest in their success,” said CSU President Tony Frank.  “In my mind, her greatest achievement is the impact she’s had on generations of students who have benefited from her mentoring, scholarship, and care – and I can’t think of a higher compliment to pay to any dean.”

The next chapter

Everyone says they’ll travel when they retire,  and Berry probably will, eventually.  But think of how much a dean travels for their job? Berry looks forward to getting back to writing and finishing a new book. Retirement will also means more time for her grandchildren. Many people see Berry’s grandchildren as her immediate passion.

And although she is retiring, she will still be a regular on campus as an avid athletics supporter and CSU alumna.

There is no doubt that Berry has made a lasting impact on the College and the University. Her career in natural resources has been widely respected and the success of Warner College is largely a reflection of that. Berry’s passion for people, kind nature and sweet smile will be missed. Although Warner is sad to see her go, “wanting her to stay would be selfish.”

Berry leaves large shoes for the incoming dean to fill - small feet, but big shoes.