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News State of the College 2019

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Dean highlights CAS initiatives, dedication to students; welcomes new faculty
Dean John Pelesko at lectern

"A student who joins our college joins a college deeply committed to their success," College of Arts and Sciences Dean John A. Pelesko said at the 2019 State of the College event.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean John A. Pelesko delivered the State of the College address this year from a new perspective—not just as a faculty member and administrator but also as a first-time UD parent.

“When you step into that role, that of a parent helping their child choose the place where they’ll spend four life-shaping years, you see a college like ours in a whole new light,” Pelesko told faculty and staff attending the Oct. 24 event, which also welcomed 44 new faculty members.

A parent looking at the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) will “first and foremost … see a college that is deeply committed to the success of its students,” Pelesko said.

He described that commitment as evident in everything a new student experiences, beginning with New Student Orientation, when CAS students this year met with the specific adviser who would get to know them and guide them through the next two years. With the recent expansion of the college’s student advising staff, “Our students are in good hands from Day One,” Pelesko said.

Next, he said, one of the first classroom experiences for all UD students, regardless of college or major, is in CAS, where they take English 110 and develop writing skills they’ll use during the next four years and throughout their lives. The college’s faculty lead classes that focus on such foundational skills for students across the University as verbal communication, creative expression, quantitative reasoning, scientific reasoning and critical thinking.

Students in CAS benefit from innovative approaches to teaching and learning, Pelesko said, including problem-based, team-based and field-based experiences.

Outside of the classroom, he noted, the college’s students might participate in such activities as athletics or the UD Marching Band, complete internships (three-quarters of CAS students do so), take part in undergraduate research or study abroad.

“A student who joins our college joins a college deeply committed to their success and one which provides them with a wealth of opportunities inside and outside of the classroom,” Pelesko said.

Because all these student experiences don’t happen in a vacuum, he said, CAS is also committed to collectively defining and creating a culture of inclusive excellence that values and engages every student.

“Every single student at the University of Delaware passes through our [college’s] classrooms, and so we bear a unique responsibility to define the culture of inclusive excellence for the entire campus,” he said.

CAS students also find that they are part of a community that extends beyond the UD campus to encompass regional, national and even global communities.

The college’s community “realizes that the work we do in the arts, the sciences, the humanities and the social sciences not only can be shared but must be shared if we are to truly help our students create a better world,” Pelesko said.

He told the audience that the commitments to student success, inclusive excellence and community engagement are only made possible by outstanding staff and faculty who are building a community of scholars at the highest levels of excellence.

CAS students, Pelesko said, study with a faculty that includes six Alison Professors (UD’s highest faculty honor), more than 50 who hold named chair appointments and “an incredible array of young scholars” who have joined the college as it continues to build its scholarly expertise.

Going forward, he said, the college must continue to grow, maintaining its core disciplinary strengths while also embracing emerging new fields of knowledge and interdisciplinary approaches to enable students to meet today’s and future challenges.

“I can say, without equivocation, that there is no group to whom I’d rather entrust my child’s education than to the group that we call the College of Arts and Sciences,” Pelesko said. “And today, we celebrate and welcome a fantastic group of new faculty members to this community.”

Welcoming new leadership, new faculty

The college has previously announced several leadership changes, including new department chairs, which were effective Sept. 1.

At the State of the College event, Pelesko introduced the new leadership and welcomed 44 new faculty members in the following areas:

Associate in Arts

The Associate in Arts program, with locations in Wilmington, Dover and Georgetown, has added six new faculty members. They are Assistant Profs. Sarah Vigliotta and Brad Thompson, who both teach mathematics,  Dwight Higgin, psychology, Robin Kucharczyk, chemistry, and Lawrence Livingston, Africana studies and world religions, and Instructor Sean Tandy, history. In addition to their teaching roles, Kucharczyk will serve as faculty coordinator and Livingston as student support services coordinator, both for the Wilmington campus.


Five faculty members have joined the newly named School of Music. They are Prof. Mark Clodfelter, Associate Profs. Guillaume Combet and Elias Goldstein and Assistant Profs. Heidi Lucas and Elicia Silverstein. Combet, Goldstein and Silverstein are violinists, adding three new members to the strings faculty.

Natural sciences

Within the Dean’s Office, Murray Johnston has accepted a permanent appointment as associate dean for the natural sciences, after serving an interim role in that position.

Also in the natural sciences, Velia Fowler is the new chair of Biological Sciences, joining UD this past January from The Scripps Research Institute. In the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Tania Roth, a behavioral neuroscientist and one of UD’s Mangone Scholars, has accepted appointment as department chair.

New faculty in the natural sciences include Prof. Ivan Todorov and Instructors Nelson Brittingham and Amanda Seiwell, all in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Assistant Prof. Alexei Kananenka has joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Assistant Profs. Jodi Hadden-Perilla and Jeffrey Mugridge are new members of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Also joining the college in the natural sciences are Assistant Prof. Rebecca Tollan in the Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science and Assistant Prof. of Instruction David Raden and Assistant Prof. Molly Sutherland, both in the Department of Biological Sciences.


New leadership in the humanities includes Alison Parker, who joined the Department of History as department chair from SUNY Brockport. A scholar in African American women’s history, she has research and teaching interests at the intersections of gender, race, disability, citizenship and the law in U.S. history.

In the Department of Art History, Sandy Isenstadt has accepted the role of department chair. A specialist in the history of modern architecture, he has been a long-time leader in material culture studies at UD. In the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Meredith Ray has accepted appointment as interim chair. A specialist in medieval and Renaissance Italian literature, she has served as chair of the department’s Italian section.

Also in the humanities, Assistant Profs. Mary Bowden and Brooke Stanley have joined the Department of English, and Assistant Prof. Geoffrey Bil is a new member of the Department of History. Three new faculty members have joined the Department of Art Conservation: Assistant Profs. Joelle Wickens and Nina Owczarek and Instructor Madeline Hagerman. Marcaline Boyd is a new assistant professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and Associate Prof. Cheryl Hicks has appointments in both Africana studies and history.

Social sciences

In the Dean’s Office, Dan Smith of the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration is serving as the acting associate dean for the social sciences this academic year while Senior Associate Dean David Wilson is on sabbatical.

Also in the social sciences, Julio Carrión is the acting department chair of Political Science and International Relations during David Redlawsk’s sabbatical.

New social sciences faculty include Associate Prof. Sarah Bruch, Assistant Profs. Gregory Dobler and A.R. Siders and Prof. Kimberley Isett, all in the Biden School. Dobler also has an appointment in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Joining the Department of Communication are Prof. Amy Bleakley, Assistant Prof. John Crowley and Instructor Tara Smith. The Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice has welcomed Assistant Profs. Sarah DeYoung and Shawna Vican and Associate Prof. of Practice Monica Sanders. Assistant Prof. Adriana Gorea has joined the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies, and the Department of Political Science and International Relations has welcomed Assistant Prof. Vladimir Medenica and Associate Prof. Joanne Miller, who has a dual appointment in Psychological and Brain Sciences. Joining the Department of Anthropology and the Disaster Research Center is Assistant Prof. Jennifer Trivedi.

Article by Ann Manser; photos by Andre Smith

Published Oct. 28, 2019

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CAS Dean John A. Pelesko delivered the 2019  State of the College address on Oct. 24,  emphasizing the college's priorities and welcoming 44 new faculty.

​CAS Dean John A. Pelesko delivered the 2019  State of the College address on Oct. 24,  emphasizing the college's priorities and welcoming 44 new members of the faculty.

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