Oblinger, Nielsen back as professors

Ex-chancellor, provost rejoin NCSU academics

Staff WriterJanuary 21, 2010 

******

CORRECTION

A story Jan. 21 in the Triangle & Co. section incorrectly characterized how long an N.C. State University course taught by former provost Larry Nielsen had been offered and the name of the department the course is in. The course, in the Forestry and Environmental Resources department, had been taught before Nielsen returned to the faculty.

****** Former Chancellor Jim Oblinger and former Provost Larry Nielsen are professors now for N.C. State University, though Oblinger has left the Raleigh campus and moved west.

The pair resigned last year over their roles in the university's hiring of former state first lady Mary Easley.

Each received a six-month leave to prepare for rejoining the faculty after being away from their areas of scientific expertise for years.

The spring semester that just began marks their first back in their roles as professors.

Oblinger began work a little more than two weeks ago at NCSU's building on the new North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, north of Charlotte.

There, he's expected to help with NCSU's strategic planning, as well as performing his own research and developing distance-learning classes, among other duties.

Before he became a university administrator, Oblinger was a professor in food science. He said he thinks he'll be a good fit in Kannapolis, where the university studies, among other things, how to make fruits and vegetables more nutritious and healthy.

Oblinger has long been involved in efforts to interest more children in pursuing science and engineering careers. He said that's something he'll be doing in Kannapolis, and he is already serving on a planning committee for the school system there.

The 350-acre campus, which officially opened in 2008, is home to researchers from more than half a dozen universities, including UNC-CH and Duke. There are three buildings there now and dozens more are planned.

Dole Food owner David Murdock came up with the idea to turn it into a $1.5 billion public-private campus for research into nutrition, health and biotechnology.

Interim NCSU Chancellor Jim Woodward, a former longtime chancellor at UNC-Charlotte, was involved in the initial planning for the Kannapolis campus. He said that even though it has been held back by the poor economy and state budget problems, it has huge potential to be a boost to the state's economy.

Woodward said he expects results from Oblinger's work in planning for the research campus and that Oblinger must file a written progress report at the end of six months. After a year, university leaders will evaluate his assignment and decide whether to continue it.

Part of Oblinger's job plan includes teaching. He hasn't begun that yet, but he is preparing a distance learning course tentatively called Food Safety and Consumer Protection.

Last fall, Oblinger was a finalist to become president of New Mexico State University, but now says that he's fully focused on his new role at NCSU.

Nielsen creates course

Nielsen, meanwhile, has carved out a more traditional role in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. He has created a new course, Conservation of Natural Resources, that offers a broad look at conservation. He began teaching it this semester, and it is full, with 96 students.

It's a requirement for fisheries and wildlife majors, but the course can also be used by non-majors to fulfill a science requirement.

Nielsen also is immersing himself in planning for the university's study abroad programs, and he plans to write several books.

"My colleagues have been wonderful in welcoming me back, and I'm really enjoying being back in the classroom, and I hope the students are enjoying it, too," Nielsen said.

jay.price@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4526

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