Dean Carmala Garzione

Honoring a History of Excellence in the Sciences

By Mary Minor Davis

Being named dean of a world-renowned research and academic unit would be a heady experience for anyone. For Carmala Garzione, dean of the University of Arizona College of Science, it was also a homecoming.  

Garzione, who prefers to be called “Carmie,” did her master’s and Ph.D. work at UArizona in the 1990s. “I was a geologist by training and found the strengths at UArizona to be broad and more integrative across the geosciences, rather than focused in separated disciplines,” she said.

After her training at UArizona, Garzione found herself developing collaborations with atmospheric scientists, oceanographers and biologists. She said the experience in graduate school and beyond brought home how interconnected the sciences really are. 

“I credit the University of Arizona with cultivating that interdisciplinary spirit that inspired me to push outside of my disciplinary comfort zone and connect with other areas of science,” she said, noting that the collaborative environment and the subsequent success of that partnership was one of the main attractions for accepting the dean’s post.

After earning her doctorate, Garzione went to the University of Rochester as an assistant professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences. Within 10 years she was chair of the department. Last spring, she returned to UArizona from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she served as the inaugural associate provost for faculty affairs. There, she focused on faculty development, sustaining teaching excellence and the recruitment and retention of diverse and strong research-oriented faculty. She also developed a Department Chair Leadership Development Series in collaboration with department chairs and other key units across campus. 

Garzione was the first in her family to attend a four-year college and the first of her three siblings to earn a degree. Raised in Maryland by parents of Italian descent, she knew college would be her pathway to earning a better life. 

As a young girl, she liked to collect rocks and fossils. Attracted by the layered minerals in her own backyard, she cleaned them up and wondered how old they were and how they formed. She was 7 years old when she saw her first mountains on a trip to the Appalachians. 

“I was struck by the shape of the stream and river valleys and the mountain peaks, and the layers in the rocks that made up the mountains. I wondered what all of this information could tell us about how the mountains formed,” she said. 

While an undergraduate at University of Maryland, with no idea where a geology degree could lead, several faculty members took Garzione under their wing and, more importantly, into their research labs. “I just became enamored with this dual role of research and teaching. What could be better than asking fun questions and getting to play in the field and the lab to try to find answers?” she said. 

“Carmie is one of those rare breeds who has led extraordinary science and produced unbelievable scientific outcomes, publications and so on,” said UArizona Provost Liesl Folks, who led the recruitment process for the new dean. Garzione was selected from a distinguished field of more than 30 candidates.

“She’s also been very committed to leadership and being a great administrator,” Folks said. “She’s very thoughtful and intentional about leadership, and she knows the university environment. She’s brilliant, and we are fortunate to have her back.” 

Looking ahead, Garzione is engaged in a strategic planning process with all departments within the college. Her goal is to engage faculty in identifying a path forward, one that includes continued research and educational investment. She also wants to preserve and expand the collaborative environment she loved so much as a student.

“I want students to view UArizona College of Science as a place of unique breadth, strength, and interdisciplinarity in the sciences − a place to feed their curiousity,” she said. “I also want students to understand the vital role of each of the disciplinary areas in the college in reshaping our world and our society, and improving people’s lives.”

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