UW taps food science expert as College of Agriculture and Natural Resources dean

A food scientist, engineer and attorney who is internationally recognized for her expertise in food safety, processing and regulation has been selected to lead the University of Wyoming’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Barbara Rasco

Barbara Rasco, director of the joint Washington State University/University of Idaho School of Food Science, will take the reins as dean of the UW college June 28. The UW Board of Trustees approved the appointment today (Friday), following a nationwide search involving constituents and stakeholders across the state.

“We’re delighted that a scholar and leader of Dr. Rasco’s caliber has agreed to lead this academic college that plays such an important role in fulfilling the university’s land-grant mission across Wyoming and beyond,” Provost Kate Miller says. “Her experience in developing one of the nation’s strongest food safety outreach programs, working extensively with the agricultural and food sectors, gives us great confidence that she will lead the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to new levels of excellence in education, research and service.”

Rasco said she is excited to work with the faculty, staff and students of the college, as well as Wyoming’s cornerstone agriculture industry, to support the state’s traditional animal and crop production and drive diversification to strengthen Wyoming’s economy.

“I am excited to join the University of Wyoming and to share the optimism, curiosity and unshakeable determination for which the students, faculty and staff are known,” Rasco said. “I look forward to working with these talented individuals to build the next generation of future leaders in agriculture, human science and natural resource management.”

Rasco said the shared vision is to improve the quality of life for people in Wyoming and the global community by living the land-grant mission and integrating quality education, innovative research and impactful outreach programs to provide innovative solutions for some of the most pressing needs facing the people of Wyoming, nation and world.

Rasco has held her current position since 2014 at the Washington State University/University of Idaho School of Food Science, where she has served as a professor since 1998. From 1983-1998, she was a professor in the Institute of Food Science and Technology and assistant director of the Division of Aquaculture and Food Science in the University of Washington’s College of Ocean and Fisheries Sciences.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania (1979), a Ph.D. in food science and nutrition from the University of Massachusetts (1983) and a law degree from Seattle University in 1995 and is licensed to practice in Washington state and federal court, where she specializes in matters related to food and agriculture.

Rasco also has private-sector experience as a biochemical engineer and a food scientist, providing assistance to hundreds of companies in the United States through outreach activities and extension programming.

Rasco’s research has focused on food quality and safety, process design and product development. She has developed analytical methods to predict the safety and quality of food using spectroscopic, nanomaterial and microfluidic systems.

In addition to working extensively with the agricultural and food sectors in specialty crops and other operations, she has provided technical and legal assistance to small and medium enterprises in 37 countries to improve food security, economic development and public health.