News Local/State

Feng Sheng Hu Named New U Of I Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean

New University of Illinois LAS dean Feng Sheng Hu

Plant biologist Feng Sheng Hu will become the Harry E. Preble Dean of the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, effective Jan. 1, pending tustees' approval. L. Brian Stauffer / University of Illinois

The largest college on the University of Illinois Urbana campus will have a new dean, as of January First.

The university announced Thursday that associate dean Feng Sheng Hu had been named the new permanent dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, pending approval by trustees.

LAS, as it’s often known, accounts for one-third of all faculty on the U of I Urbana campus. The university says 99% of students on campus take an LAS course at one time or another.

Hu says the wide range and wide reach of the college makes it an exciting institution for him.

“It plays a central role to the education of the students of the students on campus”, said Hu. “It also plays a leadership role in interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching. And it has major strength in diversity and inclusiveness.”

Hu will be the first permanent dean at the College of LAS since Barb Wilson was named acting Chancellor in August 2015, replacing Phyllis Wise. Wilson was later named to a vice-president’s post. Interim and associate deans have overseen the college for the past 16 months.

Hu says one of his top priorities as LAS dean will be recruiting top faculty, and raising money for strategic investments within the college. Fundraising within the college has become a particular priority due to the state budget impasse in Illinois. At present, the state’s stopgap budget runs out Dec. 31st, and it’s not known when lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner will reach an agreement that will restore state funding for the university.

Hu says the lack of a state budget means the college of LAS must take a “comprehensive approach” to allocating the money it has, and raising more money on its own.

 “It means that we need to make sure that the campus budget allocation budget is logical and transparent, that our fundraising efforts are strong, and that we continue to be innovative and thoughtful in identifying new revenue streams for the college”, said Hu

Hu has been part of the U of I faculty since 1998, serving in recent years as an associate dean for biological, chemical, physical and mathematical sciences in the college of LAS.

As a plant biologist, Hu’s research “integrates biological, geological and atmospheric sciences, with the aim of understanding long-term ecosystem dynamics under changing climatic conditions”, according to a university news release.