Warner College Dean John Hayes announces retirement following 2021-22 academic year

Dean John Hayes riding a bike with his commencment regalia on

John Hayes, dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, announced that he will retire at the end of the 2021-22 academic year in June 2022.

Hayes joined the Warner College of Natural Resources in 2014, previously serving as the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Dean for Research and director of the Florida Agricultural Station.

Hayes reflected on his departure in his announcement to staff and faculty members at Warner College in August. “Having the privilege of serving as Dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources has been the pinnacle of my professional career and a tremendous honor,” Hayes said. “It has been a delight to have a front-row seat to watch the incredible impacts made by the faculty, students and staff of Warner College, and in a few instances to have been able to play some small role in facilitating part of that success.”

For her part, President Joyce McConnell disputes Hayes claim to having played only “some small role” in the success of the Warner College, and instead sees his leadership as having had broad and positive impact across the university. “John has such wisdom, and he listens really hard, to his colleagues, to students, to constituents—it’s a very powerful aspect of his leadership,” she said. Recalling that Hayes recently chaired the search that led to the hiring of Provost Mary Pederson, McConnell noted that, “John is a thoughtful and compassionate leader and it’s been a real honor to work with him, whether in addressing the needs of the Warner College, hiring university leadership, or developing a vision for Courageous Strategic Transformation at CSU.”

A period of growth and success

Throughout Hayes’ tenure, the College has seen significant growth and success in its strategic goal areas.

Early in his time at CSU, Hayes led the college community through an engaging process to develop a strategic plan. In it, he emphasized a vision for building the College’s impacts and capacity and codified a commitment to diversifying the fields of natural resources, ensuring the College fosters an inclusive environment.

Warner College faculty hired in diversity and inclusion cluster hire
Director of Diversity and Inclusion Rickey Frierson, Associate Professor Gillian Bowser and Dean John Hayes, Assistant Professors Sara Bombaci, Anna Lavoie and Dominique David-Chavez. These faculty members were hired through a cluster hire to increase the College’s capacity in diversity and inclusion related issues in natural resources.

That effort evolved into the creation of the College’s Diversity and Inclusion Program, which has been a catalyst to build on the significant efforts of many individuals in the College dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. As part of this initiative, Hayes created the position of College Director of Diversity and Inclusion and orchestrated a cluster hire in 2019 that brought four new faculty members to various departments in the College to focus specifically on issues related to underserved populations and natural resources. The College now offers a minor, Diversity and Inclusion in Natural Resources, to help build cultural competencies of students entering natural resources fields.

Hayes commitment to the College’s strategic goals and the University’s principles of community has not gone unnoticed by his peers.

CSU Provost and Executive Vice President Mary Pedersen said Hayes has been a highly respected leader at CSU during his tenure as dean, known for his achievements as well as his authenticity and character. “John is respected as much for his strategic vision and elevation of Warner College’s global reputation as he is for his purposeful kindness and celebrating the successes of others. These are the hallmarks of his leadership, and the hallmarks of a truly strong leader. John also has built a reputation within Warner College and across the University for growing faculty lines and being a champion of inclusion with a focus on diversifying the fields of natural resources. It has been a pleasure to get to know John this past year, and a privilege to work with him. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with John over this academic year in his efforts to support Warner College and its outstanding students, faculty and staff.”

Smith Natural Resources Building
Michael Smith Natural Resources Building. Photography Copyright David Lauer | DAVID LAUER PHOTOGRAPHY INC. Courtesy of 4240 Architecture and Pinkard Construction

Hayes was also a catalyst for philanthropic support to the College, helping to raise more than $80 million in support from donors, foundations and corporations during his time as dean. He led the efforts to raise the final funds and construct a soaring addition onto the Michael Smith Natural Resources Building.

Completed in Fall 2018, the addition was the first capital project the College had undertaken since the original Natural Resources Building was built in the 1970s. The LEED-certified addition added significant teaching and meeting space to the College and extended the feeling of community from the original building with plenty of space for students to study and gather.

Students have also had more access to support via scholarships due to significant growth in philanthropy to the College, with 67 new scholarships established since 2014, a doubling of the College’s endowment for scholarships to over $16 million, and funds distributed to students increasing more than 70%.

Impacts in research and academics

Under Hayes’ leadership, Warner College has grown both its capacity to serve students and conduct research over the past seven years, along with healthy growth in its student body.

The College’s faculty has grown 20%, nearly double the previous 7-year period. Over that same time, the student body has grown 12%, outpacing the University’s overall growth. Most of that growth is represented in the undergraduate population in the College, which grew 28%. Students who identify in the demographic groups the College has intended to attract to aid in diversifying natural resources fields have increased over 50% in that time.

Through Hayes’ leadership, the College launched several important new programs at the interface of natural resources management and society and expanded its impacts through engaged scholarship. The College has offered 14 new programs since 2014 to adapt to the changing landscapes in the fields it covers. The College also launched the Center for Human Carnivore Coexistence in 2019, which has already made significant impacts in addressing carnivore-related challenges such as wolf restoration in Colorado among other issues and garnered significant support from donors.

Moreover, Warner College has seen its extramural funding more than double since 2014, thanks in large part to the growth of its Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands. Each of the last consecutive four years shattered records for the College’s research funding, with 2020 nearly at $150 million in grants, contracts and partnerships, a significant proportion of CSU’s overall extramural funding of over $400 million.

A dedication to the CSU Mountain Campus

Dean John Hayes addresses NR220 class in alpine area near Mummy Pass
Dean John Hayes talks to students in class near Mummy Pass above the CSU Mountain Campus on Alpine Day in the NR 220 Natural Resources Ecology and Measurements course.

Hayes has also dedicated significant effort to deepening the College’s partnerships around the CSU Mountain Campus, working with CSU’s Division of Housing and Dining and Facilities Management to craft a vision for the campus and work with one another to enhance facilities and programming there.

This multi-year effort has led to increased engagement and interest in the Mountain Campus and attracted philanthropy to assist the College in building the new Donald and Esther Harbison Research and Education Center (under construction, to be completed in June of 2022.)

Hayes is also working with the Warner College Dean’s Council to establish an endowment to support student experiences at the Mountain Campus and to elevate the campus’s impacts among a broader set of potential supporters.

What’s next?

Even with his departure nearly a year off, Hayes has no intention of slowing down even with his legacy of growing the College and its facilities cemented in two new buildings and significant programmatic growth.

Dean John Hayes speaking at commencement
Dean John Hayes welcomes graduates and their guests to the Spring 2019 Commencement Ceremony, in the Moby Arena.

In his last year, he will take part in the process to construct the Donald and Esther Harbison Research and Education Center at the CSU Mountain Campus, begin the process to help Warner College integrate its strategic goals into CSU’s Courageous Strategic Planning process, foster new student success initiatives and more.

The University will begin its efforts to find the next dean of Warner College soon, with a national search that is anticipated to attract top candidates for the role from throughout the College and across the country. The intention will be to have a successor in place by the time of Hayes’ departure in the summer of 2022.