Penn State York names new director of academic affairs

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Robert Farrell, associate professor of biology and interim director of academic affairs at Penn State York, has been named the director of academic affairs (DAA) at York campus, effective Feb. 1. He has been serving as the interim director of academic affairs since his appointment to that position in November 2011, and replaces Joseph P. McCormick, who retired from the University.

“I have been pleased to work with Dr. Farrell as the interim, and look forward to continuing our positive working relationship," said David W. Chown, chancellor of Penn State York. “Dr. Farrell is well recognized as a teacher and a scholar, and is highly respected by his colleagues. He is the right person to lead academic affairs at Penn State York, said Chown.

The DAA is the chief academic officer of the campus and is responsible for all academic functions of the campus within its service area. The DAA is responsible to the chancellor for providing leadership for all academic and faculty matters and acts on behalf of the chancellor in his or her absence or as delegated by the chancellor.

“This is an exciting time for Penn State York,” said Farrell. “With the advent of new programming I look forward to every opportunity to create an even more vibrant learning environment and to provide the academic services that are the most helpful to the students whom we serve.

In addition to serving students well, Farrell notes that he derives great satisfaction by helping up-and-coming junior faculty members achieve all of the milestones that the University expects of them.

“Over the years, a number of individuals helped me along the path to becoming a university professor, and a good campus and University citizen. Having served in this unique institution that we call Penn State at several different ranks, the advice, direction and wisdom that I offer regarding teaching, research and service is based on first-hand experience.”

Farrell began his Penn State career at York campus in 1991, first as an adjunct professor, as an instructor (1999), assistant professor (2001) and then tenured associate professor of biology (2007). He is a well-regarded researcher in the area of transcriptional and post-transcriptional control of gene expression; his book “RNA Methodologies: A Laboratory Guide for Isolation and Characterization” is in its fourth edition, including an annotated Chinese translation published in 2011.

Having consulted extensively in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, he organized and conducted a variety of training programs shortly after receiving a full-time appointment with the University. These hands-on biotechnology workshops brought scientists from all over the world to Penn State York. He later served on the curriculum planning team that developed the associate degree in nanofabrication manufacturing technology (2NMT), and was co-chair of the faculty engagement committee of the University’s Commission for Adult Learners (2007-09). 

Farrell is a graduate of The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., with both a doctorate in cell and molecular biology, and a master of science degree in cell biology. He also holds a bachelor of science in biology degree from Providence College, Providence, R.I.

A tribute to his outstanding work in the classroom, Farrell was the recipient of the James H. Burness Award for Teaching Excellence at York in 2002 and the Commonwealth College Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005. He is also currently the co-chair of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Memorial Hospital in York and is a member of the board of directors of the York County Alliance for Learning (YCAL).

Farrell and his wife, Cathy, reside in Loganville, Pa. They have four children, one who is a Penn State graduate, two who are currently attending Penn State, and one who plans to attend Penn State in the future.

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