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John Leyba named dean of the College of Science and Mathematics

Dr. John Leyba has been named the new dean of the College of Science & Mathematics at the University of North Georgia (UNG).

Dr. John Leyba has been named the new dean of the College of Science & Mathematics at the University of North Georgia (UNG).

Leyba has served as interim dean for the past year and had been associate dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at UNG since 2018. Before that, Leyba was the head of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. He was hired for the job in August 2014 after working for Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, for 12 years and subcontractors for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for more than 11 years.

"During my time as interim, it was surreal. But I got a good feel for the job and I enjoyed doing it," the father of eight children said. "So when UNG posted the job, it hit home that I had to apply."

After a national search, Leyba was hired and will become official on May 1.

"We felt it was important to conduct a national search to identify the next dean for the College of Science & Math," said Dr. Chaudron Gille, provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs. "Dr. Leyba brings a wealth of experience in industry as well as years of academic leadership to the position. He was clearly the most qualified candidate and was unanimously endorsed by the committee."

Leyba earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Northeast Missouri State University, now called Truman State University, in 1986.  Four years later, he received his doctoral degree in nuclear chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.

As the new dean, Leyba has set his sights on completing current goals and establishing new ones.

Some of the current projects Leyba established were the electronic newsletter called "Momentum" and the College of Science & Mathematics Facebook and Instagram pages. The newsletter is sent to stakeholders and supporters to showcase the college's efforts. The two social media platforms are used to inform students and alumni about the college's activities.

"Scientists are not the best communicators," Leyba said. "We need to blow our own horn about what we are doing and accomplishing here."

Leyba also anticipates the completion of the new North Georgia Astronomical Observatory near UNG's Dahlonega Campus as well as the creation of a small observatory on the Gainesville Campus. He is also anticipating the completion of the new greenhouse in Gainesville.  Both the North Georgia Astronomical Observatory and Gainesville greenhouse were part of the College of Science & Mathematics' strategic plan that Leyba helped author and looks forward to implementing.

"The strategic plan got everyone on the same page with a common set of goals," he said. "An important part was the inclusivity of all campuses. It had an important milestone for each campus. No campus is more important than another. As a team we will move forward and achieve those goals."

To do that, Leyba plans to continue a tradition he learned from a boss in the private sector. Early in his career, Leyba worked for the DOE's Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina, and the Rocky Flats Site in Colorado.

"Every Friday, my first boss would walk the halls. He'd come into your office and talk to you about anything," Leyba said. "That's what I would like to do. I want to show up on any campus unannounced and walk the halls."

There he wants to acquaint himself with all of the faculty and staff and learn their personalities, interests and ambitions. He also wants to determine the needs of each campus.

"Each one has its own strengths and challenges. They can tailor their courses to the campus and students' needs," he said. "As a manager, I want to enable people to do their jobs better."


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