Andren Calls it a Sea Grant Career
By Aaron R. Conklin
After nearly three decades of guiding UW Sea Grant in new and exciting directions, Anders Andren announces his retirement and reflects on his sizable accomplishments.
When he took the reins, much of the focus was fisheries. Now that he’s letting them go—after heading the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute for a spectacular and defining 21 years—Anders Andren can say the direction and scope of the organization he’s headed has expanded to encompass the entirety of the Great Lakes. And beyond.
In September, Andren, 67, made official his intentions to retire from the position he’s held for the last two-plus decades. He’ll remain as director of UW Sea Grant at least until August of 2012, remaining closely involved in the effort to locate and train his successor.
Andren, who was born and raised in Finland and Sweden, is justifiably proud of the things he’s accomplished during his term. Under his direction, UW Sea Grant enjoyed more successes than waves hitting a Lake Superior beach on a windy fall day: Andren led the effort to reorganize the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) into focused thematic research areas such as fisheries, aquaculture and contaminants, an effort that helped create a clearer identity for the national program. He crafted a research proposal review process that’s been adopted by many other Sea Grant programs. A self-confessed IT junkie, Andren also invested resources early and often in information technology. UW’s was the first Sea Grant program to field its own website (way back on Mosaic, the late-90s dinosaur forerunner to NetScape) and also developed iPro and iPropose, its own in-house programs for researchers to submit and update grant proposals. Despite being among the smaller entities on the UW-Madison campus, UW Sea Grant also maintains its own separate IT infrastructure.
But perhaps the biggest key to Andren’s long-term success has been his ability to build talented coalitions, both inside and outside the organization, both locally and nationally. At the most recent Sea Grant Association meeting in Baltimore, one fellow Sea Grant director dubbed him “a sage.”
Leon Cammen, the current director of the NSGCP, vividly recalls the leadership Andren displayed during the difficult stretch the national program endured in the mid-1990s. At the time, Andren was heading the Sea Grant Association.
“We were in the process of re-organizing, and struggling to maintain our funding levels,” remembered Cammen, who served as UW Sea Grant’s program officer for more than two decades. “He worked with everyone in the network, and brought them all together. That was the start of making us a better place.”
It’s the same type of firm hand Andren showed again in 2001, when he served on the NSGCP’s national committee for allocation of funding. As any program director knows, the distribution of grant dollars is often the minefield that trips up many a research program. Cammen recalled the ways in which Andren was able to balance stakeholder needs without alienating anyone.
“It took some real leadership to navigate those waters,” he said, describing UW Sea Grant as a top-flight science and research program. “Due to Anders, we were able to pull through that and come out with a solution that lasted a decade.”
Researchers agree with Cammen’s assessment.