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NWCCU Appoints Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) announced today that Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, a prominent scientist, former university dean, and currently the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will assume the role of president and CEO of the organization in July 2018.

“Dr. Ramaswamy brings a compelling, heartfelt, and intelligent voice about the importance of higher education and its crucial role in society,” says NWCCU chair Dr. Joseph Brimhall, president of the University of Western States, who made the announcement following the decision by the Commission. “He has a deep passion for helping students reach for their aspirations through higher education, borne out of his own personal experience growing up with the support of a widowed mother determined that her children would experience a better life. He is committed to student success, high academic quality, accountability, and innovation. He has a proven record in creating collaborations and thriving partnerships with academic institutions and corporate and private sectors. He brings exceptional experience in working with legislative and executive branches at state and federal levels. We believe he has the values, vision, knowledge, and experience necessary to guide the NWCCU to meet its mission as our next president.”

Appointed by President Obama in 2012, Ramaswamy has directed NIFA to catalyze transformative discoveries, education, and engagement to solve societal challenges.

Former secretary for the United States Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack says, “To those fortunate to watch him in action tirelessly communicating the importance of food and agriculture science and education with members of Congress, the news media, associations, think tanks, science organizations, university faculties, farmers and producers, state legislators, USDA stakeholders, students at all levels, and most importantly, with scientists across the country, there is no question that his passion lies in bettering the public’s understanding of science and education."

Prior to starting at NIFA, Ramaswamy served as dean of Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences; director of Purdue University’s Agricultural Research Programs; university distinguished professor and head of Kansas State University’s Entomology Department; and professor of entomology at Mississippi State University. He is widely published and an award-winning teacher and scholar, including being named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Fellow of the Entomological Society of America. As both a faculty member and administrator he served on institutional and programmatic peer-review teams that evaluated/accredited US-based and international institutions.

“The Northwest Commission is committed to assuring quality and effectiveness in postsecondary education and contributing to national progress on access and outcomes,” Ramaswamy says. “I am honored to be named to lead this significant and vital enterprise. I look forward to collaborating with member institutions, regional and national accrediting bodies, and many other stakeholders to communicate and reinforce the value of higher education to our nation’s preeminence and expand confidence in accreditation.”

“This is an important time for quality assurance in the United States as accreditors seek to accelerate improvement in higher education not only one institution at a time, but also across entire higher education sectors in every region of the country,” notes Barbara Gellman-Danley, chair of the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, a collective of seven regional organizations responsible for the accreditation of roughly 3,000 of the nation’s colleges and universities. “Dr. Ramaswamy’s experience in the federal government and academe will be a great asset to developing effective approaches to accreditation and measurement of institutional success to advance institutional and policymaker goals of helping a broader range of students complete degrees and credentials.”

NWCCU chair Brimhall states, “As he has done in each of the institutions he has previously served, Sonny will bring a competent and confident voice to the table and facilitate practices that will raise the bar for student outcomes, increase opportunities, and earn public trust.” Ramaswamy will succeed Dr. Marlene Moore, who has served as interim president since November 2017 following the retirement of Dr. Sandra Elman who was president for 21 years.

For more information about Dr. Ramaswamy and endorsements by leaders who know him, see the NWCCU website (

NWCCU is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the authority on the educational quality and institutional effectiveness of higher education institutions in the Northwest region of the United States, including the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, as well as Canada. NWCCU recognizes higher education institutions for performance, integrity, and quality to merit the confidence of the educational community and the public.


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