Meet the Dean: Rick Schnellmann
They're experts in their fields and essential campus leaders. But how well do you know deans across the University?
This occasional Lo Que Pasa series introduces deans across campus and provides insight into their motivations, challenges and reasons for choosing to work at the UA.
This week, meet the dean of the College of Pharmacy. Rick Schnellmann graduated from the UA with a Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology in 1984 and decided to return to give back to the college.
Since being appointed dean in August, he's been busy planning increased educational options for College of Pharmacy students, which he's hoping will include dual degrees and certificate programs, and partnerships with colleges across campus like the James E. Rogers College of Law.
Name: Rick Schnellmann
Dean since: Aug. 1
Fun Fact: I was a recreational pilot but I haven't flown a plane in over 17 years. I had a Cherokee 180. It's a four-seater, low-wing plane. It was great fun.
You're not only a dean – you're also an alumnus. Why did you choose to return to the UA?
Years ago, I had an amazing educational experience in the Ph.D. program. The faculty were engaged and were great mentors, as they continue to be today. When the position opened up, I felt this was the right time for me to return to the UA in a leadership role and as a means of giving back. A few faculty who taught me had remained engaged with the college, including Professor Emeritus Jay Gandolfi. He has been an insightful mentor throughout my career and I was happy to reconnect with him.
What do you enjoy most about serving as dean of the College of Pharmacy?
Learning from new, diverse people with a variety of backgrounds and expertise. I didn't anticipate that this aspect would be so enjoyable. Many colleagues bring solutions to the table. They don't just come to me with their problems or concerns, and I appreciate that.
What is your leadership philosophy?
Seek input (and more importantly, consensus) from all involved, make a decision, and then go as fast as you can to reach your goals and objectives. I'm straightforward and that is a hallmark of my leadership philosophy as well.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of serving as dean?
Facilitating the goals of the faculty is a reward while having to say no sometimes is a challenge. There is so much we want to accomplish to advance pharmacy education, research and to help shape the future of the profession. Of course, managing the operational things can be tough when there is so much you want to do. The rewards outweigh the challenges, fortunately, and it's what motivates me daily. I enjoy helping faculty be successful – growing as scientists, researchers and educators. I also envision expanded opportunities for students by launching new and unique pharmacy programs and certificates. The more tools and options they have, the more successful they will be.
What's one thing happening in your college right now that people should know about?
The College of Pharmacy Innovations Committee is increasing educational options for the Pharm.D. students. We are hoping to offer dual degrees and certificate programs. For example, we want to pair the Pharm.D. program with an MBA or a Juris Doctor degree. We are trying to do something different. And while the Pharm.D. and MBA dual degree is common, we will also provide the opportunity for a certificate program, which is uncommon. And I don't know of any other pharmacy program partnering with a law school. We also are working hard to create a bachelor's degree in pharmaceutical sciences.
What does the future hold for the College of Pharmacy?
In addition to growing our educational programs, we want to expand our drug discovery program, hiring more medicinal chemists and pharmacologists. We will increase our research space that contains collaborative spaces to work and mentor students and fellows.
Your research focuses on identifying and developing drugs to treat acute kidney injury, diabetic kidney disease, stroke, spinal cord injury and Parkinson's disease. How do you balance your work as a dean with your research?
I sleep less and work early mornings. My family is also very understanding.
Why did you pursue a career in pharmacy?
At the time I chose pharmacy, I was thinking chemistry and biology. I wanted to do research in pharmacology and toxicology as my final goal, and pharmacy has a more diverse curriculum and exposure to medicine.
How have the UA and the College of Pharmacy changed since 1984, when you graduated from the UA with your doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology?
The campus and college are much larger and more comprehensive. Everything has grown – the programs, buildings and Tucson. When I attended college here, there was little north of the of the Rillito River.
How do you spend your free time?
Running, skiing, cycling and hiking. Even working longer days and sleeping less, I have not had much time to hike.