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Meet the incoming dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

April 13, 2020

Robert Brinkmann

Robert (Bob) Brinkmann, a professor of geology, environment and sustainability at Hofstra University, has been named the ninth dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). He will assume the role on Wednesday, July 1.

“I’m delighted that Dr. Brinkmann will be joining us to lead the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Beth Ingram. “He brings with him a wealth of leadership experience and a deep commitment to our values. He is a prolific scholar with a focus on sustainability and collaborative research, which will serve both CLAS and NIU well.”

Brinkmann served at Hofstra as dean of Graduate Studies and vice provost for Research. He has published several books and articles including the first major textbook on sustainability, “Introduction to Sustainability.” His book, “Environmental Sustainability in a Time of Change,” came out in 2019 and his edited book (with Sandra Garren) on suburban sustainability will be published this year. In addition to having a popular sustainability blog, he is the former chair of the board of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute and has served as the co-editor of the Southeastern Geographerand associate editor for the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies.

He earned his graduate degrees from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His first academic experience came at the University of South Florida (USF). Arriving as an assistant professor in 1990, he earned the rank of full professor and served as chair of the Department of Geography and as interim associate dean for Faculty Development before becoming the first chair of USF’s Department of Environmental Science and Policy. 

His specific research interests are in geologic and environmental aspects in sustainability, an area influenced by childhood experiences exploring the wilderness of northern Wisconsin and an early professional experience.

“I was working in mineral exploration as a geologist, collecting mineral samples, in the early 1980s,” said Brinkmann. 

The surface area where Brinkmann was working was altered due to human activity, so it was difficult to obtain materials for a detailed analysis.

“There were very few people writing about human-induced environmental change. That provided me an opportunity to study how the world was changing,” he said.

Brinkmann grew up 90 miles from NIU, in western Racine County in Wisconsin. As one of six children in his family and living in a rural area, he identifies with the Huskie student body.

“NIU draws a lot of kids like me,” he said. “I was a rural kid. I really didn’t want to go to college – my dad pushed me into it.”

It was his undergraduate experience at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh that changed his mind.

“I appreciated what they [UW-Oshkosh] did for me,” he said. “NIU’s mission is similar, and that resonated with me.”

Brinkmann, who will begin his tenure on July 1, is arriving on campus during challenging times. While he acknowledges the challenges, he also sees opportunity.

“Now more than ever, it’s important to create a community of care. As we make decisions, I want to make sure that we are supporting our faculty, staff and students.”

Committed to NIU’s mission of providing quality education at the undergraduate and graduate levels, he sees the current environment as an opportunity to think about the use of teaching technology in a new way while being aware of equity and access issues.

In addition to leading, he’s looking forward to developing a deeper understanding of CLAS and the important roles it plays in teaching, research, equity and inclusion.

“I’m a collaborative leader,” he said. “I’ll be looking for advice on how to move ahead in trying times.”