by J J Cohen
Longtime readers of this blog know how much of my life in Washington DC and the George Washington University have featured here over the years, from reinventing entry level courses to teaching as learning to becoming a better teacher. With some colleagues I founded an institute here, and it's been going strong for ten years. I hope that in posts like this one my love of this city comes through: no other place in the world will ever feel so much like home.
And yet sometimes, even when you love your home, you realize it is time to leave.
I am happy to announce that beginning July 1 2018 I will be Dean of Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. Although I will sorely miss my students and colleagues at GW as well as my friends and neighbors here in DC, this opportunity to make a difference in public education at an institution willing to bring a serious commitment to reinvigorating the humanities was impossible to refuse. I have my work cut out for me -- but I also know that I will soon have some unparalleled resources and support for shaping a future for the humanities at a university built upon open doors and wide access. This commitment to possibility and creativity speaks very good things about ASU's dedication to leadership across fields, willingness to experiment and affirm, and commitment to collaborative modes of inquiry. I am very much looking forward to working with ASU's superb students and faculty.
The official announcement is below.
Cohen named dean of humanities at Arizona State University
Mark Searle, Arizona State University’s executive vice president and university provost, has announced the appointment of a new dean of humanities at ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen will leave his post as a professor of English and the director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. to join ASU on July 1, 2018.
“It is a great pleasure to welcome Jeffrey to ASU,” Searle said. “His work as a leader and a scholar, and his commitment to the humanities as a discipline that can help us solve society’s greatest problems, make him a perfect fit and a welcome addition to the CLAS leadership team.”
At ASU, Cohen will lead initiatives geared toward reinforcing the importance of the humanities fields. This will include broadening programming around the subject of environmental humanities, fostering a culture in which faculty are communicating their research with the wider public and laying the groundwork for a project that aims to diversify the study of the past.
“One of the many reasons that I am excited about becoming the dean of humanities at ASU is that where others see a crisis, ASU – from President Crow to the leaders and faculty of the various schools – see an opportunity,” Cohen said. “This is the moment not to bewail the state of the field but to reinvigorate the study of the humanities.”
Cohen brings more than two decades of teaching and interdisciplinary collaboration experience to ASU, including the founding of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at George Washington University, which brought together 22 faculty members across nine departments. He previously served as the chair of the English department at GW. His debut book, “Monster Theory: Reading Culture,” published in 1996 by the University of Minnesota Press, had significant resonance across academic disciplines and has lately been used to teach freshman composition courses. His most recent book “Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman,” won the René Wellek Prize for best book in Comparative Literature for 2017.
“Hiring Jeffrey signals the importance of the humanities to the work we do here in CLAS,” Patrick Kenney, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said. “He brings a set of innovative ideas to move the field forward and make ASU a leader in the way humanities education and research can shape the world for upcoming generations.”
Cohen received his doctorate from Harvard University in English and American Literature and Language in 1992 and has been at George Washington University since 1994.
His selection is the result of a national search and input from faculty and staff in the humanities fields in CLAS. Provost Searle and Dean Kenney thank the search committee, which provided insight and analysis of the finalists and invested an extensive amount of time in the process.