The Department of Atmospheric Science celebrated Professor Jeff Collett’s 11 years of service as department head June 24 and welcomed Professor Eric Maloney as the new chair, starting July 1. Faculty, former department heads, students and staff honored Collett’s leadership and character in a ceremony at the Atmospheric Science campus.
“Our department is widely considered a world leader in no small part due to what Jeff has helped build over the last decade,” Maloney said. “He has provided creative, inspirational and visionary leadership through both good and extremely challenging times over the last 11 years that will be hard to match.”
Collett hired 13 faculty members, more than half of the department’s total faculty. About half are women, increasing the number of women faculty from two to eight. He considers bringing so many outstanding faculty to the program a highlight of his career.
“This is probably the single most enduring legacy that a department head can have,” University Distinguished Professor Sonia Kreidenweis said during the ceremony. “And I think we can all agree that the faculty who have joined the department over these 11 years are not only continuing our long tradition of excellence but are taking us in new and exciting directions.”
Collett originally planned to step down as department head in 2021 but stayed on an extra year to continue guiding the department through the pandemic and related challenges to teaching and research.
“I’ve been around long enough to work with all eight of the department heads in our department, and they’ve all been challenged at one time,” University Distinguished Professor Emeritus Tom Vonder Haar said. “They’ve had some unique challenges, but Jeff, you’ve handled yours very, very well.” Vonder Haar was one of three former department heads to speak during the ceremony.
“You were so dedicated in the position, to the students, staff and faculty. You were always there for us,” said Professor Steve Rutledge, another former department head. “You led our department through the challenges of COVID, and we weathered that storm, thanks to you being at the helm.”
David McLean, dean of the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, remarked that the department is in a better place today than when Collett took the post. “You’ve been a great colleague and a great co-leader in the college,” he said.
Colleagues praised Collett’s fairness, integrity, wisdom, modesty and remarkable calm in the face of adversity. Professor Jim Hurrell listed the qualities that make a good leader and reflected on how Collett has demonstrated them all.
“Good leadership is defined by the ability to listen, reflect and then act,” Hurrell said. “Thank you for making it feel as though all of our voices – faculty, staff, students – matter to you because we know they do.”
Collett noted the accomplishments of Atmospheric Science students as a memorable highlight from his time as department head.
“ATS is so successful because we bring talented people – faculty, graduate students, research staff and department staff – together to pursue important problems in a collaborative, supportive and trusting environment,” he said.
Collett oversaw the development of a new community space to foster collaboration and an inclusive environment, which is now a favorite gathering place on campus, especially among students.
During the past 11 years, the department has launched and expanded many diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including adoption of a new holistic graduate admissions process. In Fall 2021, the graduate program welcomed its most diverse group of students and one of its largest incoming classes ever.
Collett directed an active research program throughout his time as department head, with key support from research scientists in his group. He looks forward to working more closely again with this team.
Collett is an atmospheric chemist and has conducted more than 50 air quality field campaigns worldwide. His research focus areas include impacts of aerosol particles on regional haze, deposition of reactive nitrogen to sensitive ecosystems, air quality impacts of wild and prescribed fires, and contributions of volatile organic compound emissions to ozone formation and community air toxics exposure.
Collett and his group have worked with the National Park Service for decades to address air quality issues in protected natural areas. He also leads oil and gas emissions monitoring programs for Broomfield and Erie.
Because of his reputation for high-quality research and ability to connect with stakeholders and establish trust, Collett has been appointed to many high-profile committees, including the Colorado Regional Air Quality Council and U.S. Department of Agriculture Air Quality Task Force.
As Kreidenweis pointed out, Collett will not be bored; in April he was named editor in chief of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, and he is conference chair for the 9th International Conference on Fog, Fog Collection, and Dew, slated for 2023 in Fort Collins. Collett also is excited to become a grandfather in the fall.
His advice for Maloney: “Enjoy the ride! While administrative service comes with many challenges, there are lots of good parts. Just keep focused on those, and you’ll be fine. Ask for help when you need it.”