Dr. Messina will lead UA's College of Arts and Sciences.

Messina Named Dean of UA’s College of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Messina will begin his tenure in August.
Dr. Joseph P. Messina

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Joseph P. Messina has been named the next dean of The University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences.

He will begin his tenure in August.

Messina comes to UA after spending 18 years at Michigan State University working in numerous capacities, most recently as assistant vice president of research and innovation for the university and senior associate dean for faculty affairs in the College of Social Science, MSU’s largest college.

“Dr. Messina has been an impeccable leader throughout his career and will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the University’s largest college,” said Dr. Kevin Whitaker, UA executive vice president and provost. “I’m confident his vision and dedication will propel the College to new heights.”

Under Messina’s leadership, MSU’s College of Social Science increased research expenditures by more than 20% while improving participation rates. He also led or supported major college initiatives in climate change in coastal environments, minority politics, autism and social science data analytics, and he was involved in several strategic planning initiatives.

As assistant vice president, Messina provided leadership in reconceptualizing water research across campus, space design, and advocacy for the university’s many Arts and Humanities programs.

Among Messina’s roles during his tenure at MSU was director of the Center for Global Change and Earth Observations, which routinely had the highest grant productivity per person in the College of Social Science. The center was also one of the top four programs funded by the NASA Land Change Science program. He also co-chaired the Council of Research Deans, providing oversight for university-wide institutional research cores, sponsored programs, regulatory affairs and commercialization, among others. Messina developed and led an alumni advisory board and forged numerous relationships with foundations to diversify the college’s financial portfolio.

An environmental geographer, Messina’s recent research centered on small-holder agriculture, zoonotic infections disease and climate change in the less-developed world, including Africa, Southeast Asia and Ecuador. His research has been funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Defense and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

After serving in the U.S. Army, Messina graduated with his bachelor’s degree in biology and master’s in geography from George Mason University and a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has won numerous grants and awards, including the NASA New Investigator Program award to explore homesteading systems in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

As dean of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, Messina will be charged with developing a future-oriented vision for the College and providing leadership on planning, curricular, research and budgetary decisions.

“I am honored to have been selected to be the next dean and excited by the opportunity to lead the College of Arts and Sciences,” Messina said. “I look forward to working together with faculty, staff, students, alumni and other leaders at The University of Alabama to build upon the legacy of those who came before me, including Dean Olin, to take the College to the next level.”

Messina will be joined in Tuscaloosa by his wife, Stacey, their two children, Sophie, 11, and Josiah, 5, and dog, Ivy.

The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest college and the academic heart of The University of Alabama, offering the foundation disciplines on which all others depend. There are approximately 8,400 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students in over 100 programs of study across 64 fields spanning the arts, sciences and social sciences. The College offers 19 academic programs that aren’t offered anywhere else in the state.


Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications, bryant.welbourne@ua.edu, 205-348-8325