TIFTON—Dr. Matthew Anderson believes people and flamingos share many common characteristics.
“When one flamingo gets excited, they all get excited,” Anderson, the new Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, said. “They are fascinating birds. They succumb to peer pressure just like people.”
Anderson is quite the authority on flamingos and even discovered why the beautiful birds stand on one leg for lengthy periods of time.
“These are wading birds,” Anderson said. “Standing in water for long periods of time sucks away their body heat. With only one leg in the water, they can stay warmer than with two legs in the water. On colder days, flamingos are more likely to stand on one leg. On hotter days, they often use both legs.”
Chances are that Anderson, his wife, Triniti, and their two children, Emily and Henry, will experience quite a few more of those hot days in Tifton than in their previous home in Pennsylvania. They just moved to Tifton and ABAC, leaving Anderson’s former position as the Associate Dean of Curriculum and Advising in the School of Arts and Sciences at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
“I had my first fried pickles the other day,” Anderson said with a laugh. “And I’m a big fan of barbecue. We have never lived in the South, and I have found the people here to be very friendly. It’s an amazingly welcoming community. Folks just stop by and introduce themselves.”
Anderson said the ABAC tradition of establishing close connections with its students was the biggest draw for continuing his academic and administrative career at ABAC.
“I love the student engagement programs here,” Anderson said. “Student contact is where I shine. Most of my publications have had student co-authors.
“I also like the fact that the School of Arts and Sciences is home to the classes in the core curriculum at ABAC. We had a similar arrangement at Saint Joe’s. The broad knowledge base and skills that our students gain in the core curriculum serve as a foundation for the rest of their education and beyond.”
Anxious to get started in his leadership position, Anderson talks excitedly about compiling data on “what students are doing and where they are going after graduation.
“We serve students across the state and the region,” he said. “What can we do to better serve these students? Engaged student learning is the key.
“I also hope to engage our partners in the community and the region. I want to bring in ABAC alumni who have done well for themselves. We need to connect our students with these alumni.”
Anderson received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Susquehanna University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Kent State University.
“I got into psychology to study animal behavior,” Anderson said. “I learned all sorts of things. Like most psychologists who study animals, I initially worked primarily with rats. For the last 12 years, I focused on birds, flamingos and parakeets mostly.”
Anderson is the author and illustrator of a children’s book, “Pink Flamingos All Around.”
“I’m a birder,” Anderson said. “I like being outside, fishing, camping, watching birds. Besides our two children, that takes up most of my free time.”
Fall semester classes begin at ABAC on Aug. 13.