Associate Dean Rich Zack leads education for future leaders in human sciences, agriculture, environment

A suited Dr. Zack, standing, near WSU's victory bell.
Award-winning scientist and WSU alumnus Rich Zack will lead academic programs in CAHNRS as associate dean.

Leading efforts to develop the next generation of professionals, scientists, and educators supporting our economy, environment, farms and families, award-winning professor Richard S. Zack has been named associate dean for academic programs at Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS).

A WSU alumnus who received his doctorate in entomology at Pullman in 1982, and a passionate teacher and expert researcher on insects who has pursued his entire career at CAHNRS, Zack officially started June 1, 2019, as associate dean following a search for candidates.

Since Nov. 2016, Zack has served as interim associate dean of academic programs, replacing previous associate dean Kim Kidwell.

As associate dean for academic programs, Zack leads development and delivery of education and curriculum in CAHNRS, overseeing student recruitment and retention at Pullman and at research and Extension centers and urban campuses statewide.

“For nearly three years, I’ve had the privilege of helping prepare our students for valuable and meaningful careers in scientific and practical fields that benefit our communities, our farms and industry, and our natural environment,” said Zack. “As full associate dean, I am excited about continuing this work, ensuring that education and teaching in CAHNRS is vigorous and inspiring, and that our students and teachers are giving Washington and the world their best.”

Connected to students, Washingtonians

Past chair of the Department of Entomology and the Faculty Senate, Zack began his WSU career as curator of the M.T. James Entomological Collection, while working on his doctorate.

A member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, he has earned many awards, including the WSU Sahlin Excellence Award for Instruction, the Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching from the Entomological Society of America, and was named one of the Top Five Instructors at WSU as chosen by students.

Deeply involved in outreach activities designed for K-12 students, Zack hosts museum visits and fields thousands of inquiries from Washingtonians curious about the insects and arthropods they encounter in their homes, yards and farms.

Leading his popular Entomology 101: Insects and People course, and hosting annual “Bug Buffets,” Zack has introduced students and community members from all walks of life to the amazing insects all around us. Many of his former students stay in touch, reaching out years after graduation with questions and discoveries.

“For me, these connections have always been a joy,” said Zack. “When someone gets in touch with me five or 10 years later, it showed that they truly gained something from their time with me. A university education is something that lasts your entire life.”

As a scientist, he is interested in rare and unusual environments, such as Palouse prairie remnants, as well as habitats provided by the national parks and federal reserves. Conducting extensive studies on the insects of the Hanford Nuclear Site, his studies were instrumental in the naming of parts of the site as a national monument. Zack also has ongoing biological diversity and invasive species studies in Guatemala and Micronesia.

For the past six spring and fall Pullman commencement ceremonies, he has read the names of thousands of CAHNRS graduates as they receive their diplomas and become WSU alumni.

“Dr. Zack is a dedicated leader and teacher who shares his passion for science with the people of Washington and the world,” said André-Denis Wright, Dean of CAHNRS. “His efforts represent the land grant legacy of Washington State University at its best. In classrooms, labs and centers across the state, he ensures that WSU and CAHNRS are sharing top-notch education and knowledge with all who need it.”

About CAHNRS Academics

With 21 majors, nine undergraduate degree programs, and 27 graduate programs, CAHNRS is a highly diverse college that encompasses agriculture, animal sciences, economics, apparel merchandising and design, human development, plant pathology, agricultural automation, biological chemistry, entomology, food science, and the environment.

CAHNRS graduates make a difference in the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities; improving ecological and economic systems; and advancing agricultural sciences.