FRESNO, Calif. — Dr. Rolston St. Hilaire — known for his urban water conservation background, research, community and industry support — has been named the new dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State, effective Sept. 15.
St. Hilaire previously spent 24 years in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University, where he served as chair since June 2016 while overseeing the extension department since 2021.
“I’m pleased and excited to welcome Dean St. Hilaire. I’m confident that he will solidify the position of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology as an undisputed ag leader,” said Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. “His vision of agriculture is deeply embedded within community and industry relationships, and strategic planning, and is focused on strengthening Fresno State’s research, innovation and grants. Dr. St. Hilaire has demonstrated a special rapport with community and industry members that will be vital in helping our University shape the next generation of agricultural leaders, feed and clothe our growing region and world, and secure our fruitful and productive future.”
St. Hilaire was named a Regents Professor, New Mexico State’s highest faculty award, in 2020 for his outstanding contributions and service. Under his leadership, the department increased its student recruitment, enrollment, mentorship and retention, as well as faculty support, research and fundraising efforts.
He has also received New Mexico State’s campus research and discovery award for his nationally known urban environmental water conservation efforts. As a faculty member, he taught classes tied to environmental plant biology, ornamental plants and landscape design, irrigation and maintenance. His research has been tied to advanced sensing techniques in cropping systems, plant molecular ecophysiology and land cover mapping.
“I am pleased to join the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, which has deep and extensive connections in the nation’s leading agricultural community,” St. Hilaire said. “Fresno State has transformed the lives of its constituents. I envision that the Jordan College will continue along a transformative journey that will benefit today’s agricultural leaders.”
His vision and management experience has been tapped for leadership roles on New Mexico State’s strategic planning committee and as chair of its institutional review board. Since 2003, he has served as director of New Mexico State’s Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program that pairs high school minority students for summer internships with science, technology, engineering and math faculty.
St. Hilaire fostered the development of the Southwest Harvest for Health program that partnered Extension master gardener programs and an area cancer center.
He is also an American Society for Horticultural Science fellow, a national board of director member and a state board of landscape architects member.
St. Hilaire succeeds Dr. Dennis Nef, who is retiring after assuming the role of dean in July 2019. Nef guided Fresno State in prior administrative roles from 2003 to 2019, including as vice provost, interim provost and associate dean of undergraduate studies. He began his 39-year career at Fresno State as agricultural business faculty, and later served as a department chair, associate dean and interim dean before his recent return as dean.
The transition coincides with another milestone in 2002 — the 100th anniversary of the first campus agricultural classes. Today, the Jordan College’s 2,000 students utilize hands-on training through six departments, three research centers and a 1,000-acre University Agricultural Laboratory that serve the industry’s technical and career needs.
Prior to St. Hilaire’s arrival at the Hispanic-Serving Institution in Las Cruces, Mexico, he received his doctoral degree from Iowa State in 1998 and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. Each degree was in the horticulture field, and he received his department’s top of the class award as an undergraduate.
He also received general agriculture training at the University of Trinidad and Tobago at its Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry. His experience learning about livestock, crop product and farm management will be tapped in helping coordinate the Fresno State farm’s 19 units used for teaching, research and industry and community outreach efforts.
“I feel honored to be the next dean of the Jordan College, and, at the same time, I am extremely eager to join the excellent team at Fresno State,” St. Hilaire said.