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Blount takes seat as Dean of new college

By Adam Troxtell
On September 1, 2011

The first day of September marked the first official day that Dr. Grady Price Blount took the helm of the College of Sciences, Engineering and Agriculture (CSEA) at A&M-Commerce as the new dean.

The college was born out of the split of the old College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). This means Blount has the task of building up a brand new area of the university. He said the split of the CAS will help the various departments operate under more specific goals.

""I guess it's O.K. to be a maintainer, but I think it's a lot more fun to build stuff," he said. "When everyone is going in the same direction, you can travel a lot faster. I know what they were trying to do with splitting the colleges; I don't know if it was recognized that this is really going to accelerate the growth in both colleges. When you get streamlined and focused like this, it's going to make a difference."

Blount previously served as dean of the College of Sciences at Angelo State University, and he also worked in the A&M system previously as assistant vice president for research and associate graduate dean at A&M- Corpus Christi.

"I was 13 years at A&M-Corpus Christi, so I knew Commerce," Blount said. "I knew people up here, we had worked with people up here on grants. Commerce has got the reputation of the go-getter campus within the A&M system."

Blount was attracted by the growth of this university, which he said is similar to that of A&M-Corpus Christi. He also said Commerce was becoming an environment people want to work in as they grow tired of the big cities and big towns surrounded by very little, such as San Angelo.

"People like living here," he said. "You end up with this talent pool that otherwise you wouldn't have. That's a big difference. I love the desert, that's why I was there. But the geographic location of Commerce is good. The absolute strength of this school is phenomenal. It's the number two school in the system now, behind College Station."

Blount's background is specifically in astronomy. He has worked with the Distributed Active Archive Center, which is a data-gathering gateway for NASA's Earth Science Enterprise.  His expertise in this area could help start what he hopes will be the CSEA's newest project: Geospatial Intelligence Science.

"You take satellite imagery, analyze it statistically, use multiple wavelengths of light, and you extract information," he said.

At the moment, Blount explained, it is only possible to see videos or pictures of, for example, traffic in a city in almost real time, but the photo or video is still old and only a small bit of information.

"We don't have the operational capability right now to keep track of what's going on around us in our world," he said. "When you talk about Geospatial Intelligence Science, you're talking about developing that operational capability. You should have the ability to see a shipment is on this truck and its just now passing through Mt. Pleasant on I-30."

Blount also said the military could use this information to track individuals in a war zone and see just where a target would be coming from or hiding. Even A&M-Commerce has computers with the ability to process so much information at once, but Blount said the missing link is scientists that can gather it all.

"The problem is we're drowning in information," he said. "We didn't have the capacity, and I would say we still don't have the capacity, to mine that information in real time. If you give us two weeks to look at one day's worth of data, we can tell you what the traffic is doing or the health of a crop. We need to get that capacity in real time. The hardware can do it, the software can do it, but what we don't have is the humans who think that way."

Now with a college of departments that can all be structured in one direction, Blount hopes to implement these classes and training and create a legacy at A&M-Commerce.

"The cool thing is if you do this right you'll be setting up the intellectual environment that would last for decades," he said. "I'm real big on including students in every aspect of what we do. I'm an egalitarian guy; students, faculty, president, they're all equal in my eyes, as they should be."

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