Barbara Wilson selected as LAS dean pending BOT approval

By Tyler Davis

Barbara Wilson, executive vice provost for faculty and academic affairs at the University, has been selected to serve as dean of the College of LAS, pending Board of Trustees approval. 

This appointment concludes a search process that began in early December. Wilson was one of the four finalists who gave presentations on their visions for the college from April 7 to April 16. The other finalists were James Glaser, dean of academic affairs for Arts and Sciences at Tufts University; Joseph Francisco, associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Science at Purdue University; and Elizabeth Spiller, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida State University.

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Provost Ilesanmi Adesida said in a statement that Wilson’s contributions as an administrator and her knowledge of the College of LAS, of the University and of higher education make her an ideal match for LAS dean.

“She has successfully tackled every project that has been assigned to her and shown a remarkable ability to pivot to a broad range of responsibilities,” he said. “She will be a great dean for a great college.”

LAS interim dean Brian Ross said Wilson will bring dual experience to her position, as she has served as head of the communications department, one of LAS’ “best departments,” in addition to her position in the Office of the Provost, which oversees much of the academic business going on at the campus.

“She knows the campus probably as well as anyone does, but, at the same time, she’s had experience dealing with a department and personnel promotion, undergraduate education and all the things that are important parts of LAS,” Ross said.

Ross said the College of LAS is “quite an enterprise,” and he hadn’t understood just how challenging the job was until he himself took the position last year.  

“It’s a real challenge to be able to help lead and facilitate the work that’s being done by the various departments and units within the college, as well as to connect to the rest of campus,” he said.

Under his tenure, he said the college was able to continue many initiatives in addition to starting several new ones, noting that the college has been placing emphasis on integrating major and co-curricular experiences.

Additionally, he said the college has continued the Top Ten initiative, which takes the classes with the largest freshman enrollment, like Statistics 100, and seeks to find new approaches to teaching. Additionally, the college hosts workshops with new instructors to develop the best practices that can be shared among themselves.

He said the initiative, now in its second year, has implemented new approaches this year that had been discussed in the program’s first year. 

It is not yet clear whether these new approaches have been successful, but it should be more evident after the semester ends, he said.

Following his term, Ross said he will finally be able to “sleep a little.” This is his 32nd year at the University, and he will return to teach in the psychology department, where he has been a professor for 29 years, and will continue his research in cognitive psychology at the Beckman Institute as well.

He said positions such as LAS dean involve being willing to listen a lot as well as facilitating the ideas and needs of faculty and students — “it’s part leadership but a lot of service and facilitation.”

“Most people in the college who know Barbara Wilson are very excited about her becoming dean and this will be a really excellent direction for the college,” he said. 

Tyler can be reached at [email protected] and @TylerAllynDavis.