Teamwork: New Graduate School Dean Begins Duties

Will Cantrell sitting
Will Cantrell sitting
Will Cantrell began his new position as dean of Michigan Tech's Graduate School July 1. He is succeeding Pushpalatha Murthy who retired at the end of June. Cantrell has been with the University for nearly 20 years.

Will Cantrell is taking experiences garnered during nearly two decades at Michigan Technological University into his new role as associate provost and dean of the Graduate School—a job he calls "a privilege."

Last month, Jacqueline Huntoon, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, announced that Cantrell, then the associate dean of the Graduate School and exiting director of the Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences Institute (EPSSI), would assume his new role as dean on July 1. 

“It is a privilege to be entrusted with this position, said Cantrell. I am grateful for the support and mentorship that I have received from my friends and colleagues over the past 19 years at Michigan Tech. I would not have been in the position to succeed in this effort without that support.”

He succeeds Pusphalatha Murthy, who is working with Cantrell to assure a smooth transition. While no longer Graduate School dean, Murthy will continue to serve on the Graduate Education Advisory Board of the American Chemical Society and stay active with the Council of Graduate Schools and the National Science Foundation.

A history of leadership

As Cantrell begins his 20th year at Michigan Tech, things look a lot different than they did in 2001. You could even say that the state of affairs is considerably different than in 2019. But, as the University plans for a fall semester beginning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cantrell's peers are confident in his abilities as a leader and an educator.

“Dr. Cantrell has a long history of providing thoughtful leadership that, combined with his well-earned reputation as an effective researcher and teacher, make him well prepared to assume this important role,” Huntoon said in her June announcement.

A powerful combination

Cantrell said the Graduate School plays an important role at the University, noting that graduate education at Michigan Tech is a unique combination of the questions Why? and How? with theory and practice. “That’s a powerful combination, and our students are valued by industry and by other academic institutions because of it,” he said.

Cantrell has seen his share of challenges during his tenure at Michigan Tech, but perhaps none as dramatic as the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the pandemic is a significant trial from several perspectives.

“Of course, there are the financial pressures,” he said. Our students and their families are facing them, the state is facing them and as a consequence, so is Michigan Tech.

Cantrell's other example is something that will be happening throughout MTU's campus this fall.

“The social distancing that is necessary to preserve the safety of our students, staff and faculty also makes instruction in the classroom and the lab more difficult. Yet we must continue to live into our shared values of community, respect, diversity and inclusion,” he said.

Cantrell joined Tech’s Physics Department in 2001 after earning his PhD from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and completing a postdoc in chemistry at Indiana University. His research interests include atmospheric science, cloud and aerosol physics and chemistry. He is a member of the Michigan Tech team that designed and constructed the Pi Cloud Chamber, which simulates cloud conditions and allows for experimentation including turbulence and varying aerosol sizes and compositions.

In 2013, Cantrell was named Distinguished Professor of the Year by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.