Colleen Webb, a Colorado State University professor of biology and accomplished disease ecologist, has been named the interim director of the One Health Institute.
Webb will provide strategic direction to the institute following the recent departure of the former director, Dr. Sue VandeWoude. VandeWoude officially assumed her role as dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on Aug. 16.
“The One Health Institute is a truly organic organization to have on this campus,” said Webb. “It is an amazing extension of the One Health activities that have been taking place on campus for years, and I hope to help enhance One Health at CSU by bringing people together through connection and collaboration.”
One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of humans, animals, and the environment. It recognizes the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants and the wider environment are closely linked and interdependent. CSU’s One Health Institute works to solve complex problems at this intersection through research, training, outreach and advocacy.
VandeWoude said that being director of the institute since 2019 has been a tremendously rewarding experience, because the CSU community embraces One Health concepts of addressing health issues in a collaborative, transdisciplinary manner.
“Dr. Webb will provide enthusiastic and supportive stewardship as interim director, and I am confident that the institute will continue to thrive under her direction as we launch a search for permanent leadership,” VandeWoude said. “I owe a debt of gratitude to faculty and administration for their support of OHI during my tenure and look forward to promoting One Health programs in CVMBS.”
A natural fit
Webb is the former director of the graduate degree program in ecology at CSU and currently serves as the associate dean for the Graduate School. She is a natural fit for the institute, as her research lab primarily investigates the biological relationship between organisms and the dynamics of diseases — significant focus areas of the institute. Webb has also served as the chair of the science advisory board for the National Center for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis as an editor at Ecology Letters and has organized multiple workshops and working groups on the modeling of zoonotic diseases.
She has been actively involved in the institute as a member of the One Health Strategic Advisory Committee, representing the College of Natural Sciences.
Passion for inclusivity
Webb received her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1993, which led to much of her interdisciplinary work. She recognized the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice as she found women to be significantly underrepresented in her field. Her experiences led to her passion for inclusivity, and she has remained dedicated throughout her career to ensure early-career researchers have access to needed resources including quality mentoring.
She continued her education and received her master’s degree in biology from the University of Oregon and her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University in 2001. She completed her final education run at Princeton University, where she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in 2003.
Webb assumed her first role at CSU that same year and has remained an accomplished professor and employee throughout her tenure. She is married to biology professor Joe von Fischer and has four children. Her need for work-life balance has also led to her personal focus on self-care and well-being and professional promotion of these topics for early-career researchers. She assumed her official role with the institute at the beginning of the fall semester.