Two-time CSU alumnus selected as new dean of the Warner College

Dr. Aguirre holding a green turtle in Japan
Dr. A. Alonso Aguirre working with a green turtle in Japan.

Dr. A. Alonso Aguirre has been selected as the new dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University.

Aguirre, who has two degrees from CSU, developed a deep and enduring connection to animals and the natural world as a youngster from the decks of his grandfather’s fishing boats in Baja California Sur’s sustainable fisheries. These connections led to a life-long love of animals, particularly sea turtles, a species that he still studies and that helped him find his path to veterinary medicine and, eventually, wildlife biology and conservation. Now, Aguirre will bring that passion and knowledge with him to his new role leading the Warner College.

Aguirre joins Colorado State University from George Mason University, where he has served as professor and chair of the Environmental Science and Policy Department. He will begin his appointment at CSU on July 18.

“Warner College is ahead of its time in addressing so many important issues, including biodiversity and the loss of species, climate change and sustainability,” Aguirre said. “The faculty, staff, students and alumni of the College are poised to accelerate solutions to these issues, and I am thrilled to have this magnificent opportunity to work alongside such wonderful scholars and students to help solve these pressing problems.”

An accomplished scientist, leader, and Warner College alumnus

Dr. Aguirre illustrating a point using sea turtle during course for school children
Aguirre, along with a sea turtle volunteer, participating in an educational program for school-aged children.

Aguirre is a two-time alumnus of Warner College, receiving his M.S. in Wildlife Biology and Preventive Medicine from CSU in 1987, followed by his Ph.D. in Wildlife Biology and Protected Area Management in 1990. He also holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, which he earned in 1984. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Warner College in 2014. He is both a first-generation American and a first-generation college graduate from Mexico and is the first Latin American to serve as dean of the Warner College.

“We are very excited to welcome Alonso back to Colorado State University as dean of our Warner College of Natural Resources,” said President Joyce McConnell. “He is an impressive scientist with exceptional leadership qualities.”

She added, “He has oriented his career to put research into practice to work across traditional disciplinary lines to address complex challenges in biodiversity and health. As a first-generation scholar, he can uniquely understand the opportunities and challenges of our many first-generation students. We welcome his collaborative spirit and are excited for the lasting impact he will create here at CSU.”

Aguirre works at the science-policy interface and integrates disciplines to advance the theory and practice of conservation biology and the biomedical sciences.

While at George Mason, Aguirre also served as chair of the Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee, and as head of an academic and research program using the One Health/Planetary Health approaches to understanding wildlife diseases and their links to human health. He co-founded the emerging discipline of conservation medicine, the journal EcoHealth and the International Association of Ecology and Health, under the tenet “health connects all species in the planet.”

Aguirre is a member of the Board of Life Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences and was appointed to the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. He served as a delegate of the Global Council of Science and Environment at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. He has advised governments of countries in the Americas, Asia and Western Europe, and briefed the U.S. Congress on many health and ecological issues linked to anthropogenic change.

The ‘right person’ to move the college forward

Dr. Aguirre in Tres Marias holding a green sea turtle.
Dr. Aguirre in Tres Marias holding a green sea turtle.

Provost and Executive Vice President Mary Pedersen expressed excitement around the appointment.

“Dr. Aguirre’s leadership qualities, passion for higher education, desire to serve the needs of students, faculty and staff, and research achievements are exceptional, but he also brings with him a deep connection to CSU as a two-time graduate and distinguished Warner alumnus,” she said. “He understands our land-grant mission, our institutional values, and he will arrive on campus already a Ram.”

His career has emphasized breaking down disciplinary silos and working collaboratively. Similarly, he brings with him a transparent and accountable leadership style and a history of creating optimism and trust in a collaborative environment that leads to sustainable and productive work environments. He has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to diversifying natural resources and STEM fields, particularly among traditionally marginalized groups, including people of color, Latin individuals and Indigenous peoples.

Aguirre will succeed Dean John Hayes, who served as Dean of the College since 2014 and is set to retire in early June.

“I want to offer my gratitude to the search committee and its co-chairs, Deans Ben Withers and Mary Stromberger, for putting forward an outstanding group of finalists for the position of dean,” said Pedersen. “It was clear to me that Dr. Aguirre was the right person to move the Warner College of Natural Resources into its next chapter, following on the great leadership and achievements of Dean John Hayes.”