Fall 2016

[News]

A Passion for Plants, Planes, Social Justice, and (Naturally) Student Success

AS A KID GROWING UP in Canada, he con-ducted scientific experiments (think mixing household cleansers to create chlorine gas). He organized neighborhood fundraising events for charity. At 16, he piloted an airplane solo for the first time. Since then, he has studied the effects of air pollution on plants, continues to give back to his community, and still enjoys flying.

Meet Alex Enyedi: biologist, social justice advocate, pilot, and HSU’s new provost.

Enyedi’s scholarly and academic career spans three countries and four universities. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Guelph in Canada, and a Ph.D. at Penn State. He conducted plant research as a post-doctoral scientist at Rutgers University, a Biology professor at Western Michigan University (WMU), and a scholar at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

During 15 years at WMU, he served as Biological Sciences Department chair, and eventually the College of Arts and Sciences dean. He also fought for gender equity, and along with his wife, Andrea, actively supported the LGBTQ community. Together, they started a “Gender Equity and Social Justice Fund” which supports student activism and social justice research.

His natural science background and strong social advocacy efforts, in addition to his deep respect for the environment, made him a natural fit for Humboldt State.

“It’s exciting to be part of an institution that is not only committed to diversity and inclusion, but also to social and environmental responsibility,” he says.

Now a few months into his tenure, he has a clear vision for his first year: focus on improving student success and the four-year graduation rate. He hopes to accomplish these goals, in part, through the Re-Imagining the First Year (RFY) program. RFY, which involves 43 other U.S. colleges, is designed to improve academic learning and campus experiences in the first year of student life.

RFY also addresses the complexities of being the new kid on the campus block, particularly for students who are historically underrepresented or the first in their family to go to college.

“First-generation students often have to rely on themselves to find answers others can get from their families,” says Enyedi, also a first generation student. “College can be a really daunting environment. RFY is trying to tackle those issues to help students feel more connected and be successful in college.”

Enyedi has forged connections with students throughout his career, not just in the classroom, but also in the air. As a volunteer pilot for the Young Eagles program, he takes young people on airplane rides to introduce them to the world of aviation.

“It’s a great way to give back. It’s also a wonderful way to connect aviation with my passion for education and helping students.”