College leadership

Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Venetria K. Patton is Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. She joined the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in August 2021 after serving as head of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Purdue University. 

Patton earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of La Verne and her master’s and PhD in English from the University of California-Riverside. Her teaching and research focus on African American and diasporic women’s literature.

In 1996, Patton joined the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a professor of English and African American studies. In 1998, she was named coordinator of the African American & African Studies Program. In 2003, she joined Purdue University as director of the African American Studies & Research Center. In 2015, she was named Provost Fellow on Diversity & Inclusion, and in 2016 she was named head of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Chief of Staff and Special Projects

Andrea R. Jake is an innovative and strategic collaborator with more than two decades of varied and progressive leadership experience within the higher education setting. She joined College of LAS administration in June 2023 as the chief of staff and special projects. In this role she supports the dean with project management, prioritizing short- and long-term goals, and managing initiatives. Her responsibilities also include staff supervision and providing support and counsel to the dean and the college’s senior leadership team.   

Andrea received a bachelor of science degree in agricultural and environmental communications and education and a master’s degree in higher education administration, both from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Since then, she has held various student affairs-related positions across campus, in units including the Office of Student Affairs, The Career Center, the Department of Chemistry, Grainger College of Engineering, and, most recently, the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

Executive Associate Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Area Centers

Wendy Heller is professor of psychology in the clinical/community division, former director of clinical training and head of the Department of Psychology, and a part-time Beckman Institute faculty member in the Cognitive Neuroscience Group. In 2014 she was appointed Provost Fellow with a special focus on campus diversity. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and psychology with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree and PhD in biopsychology from the University of Chicago. Her research investigates the neural mechanisms associated with emotion-cognition interactions and their implications for psychopathology. She is particularly interested in examining cognitive and emotional risk factors associated with the development or maintenance of anxiety and depression. Her work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Units in portfolio: Anthropology; Cline Center for Advanced Social Research; Communication; Economics; Global Studies; Political Science; Psychology; Sociology; Spurlock Museum; and Illinois Global Institute, including Center for African Studies; Center for East Asian & Pacific Studies; Center for Global Studies; Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies; Center for South Asian & Middle Eastern Studies; European Union Center; Lemann Center for Brazilian Studies; Program in Arms Control & Domestic and International Security; Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center; and Women & Gender in Global Perspectives Program

Associate Dean for Humanities and Interdisciplinary Programs

Antony Augoustakis is a professor of classics, medieval studies, comparative and world literature, translation and interpreting studies, media and cinema studies. He previously served as head of  the Department of Classics (2016-2021), associate director of SLCL (2021-2022) and interim director of SLCL (Fall 2022). Augoustakis holds a PhD from Brown University and has received several awards during his career at Illinois (University Scholar, Campus Executive Officer Distinguished Leadership Award, Centennial Scholar in LAS, Langan Professorial Scholar). His research focuses on Latin literature, especially epic poetry of the first century CE, gender theory and classics, and classical reception. He has published many monographs and edited volumes, articles, book chapters, including the most recent monographs by Oxford University Press: Silius Italicus’ “Punica, Book 3”; and Valerius Flaccus’ “Argonautica Book 8.”

Units in portfolio: African American Studies; American Indian Studies; Asian American Studies; Classics; Comparative & World Literature; Criticism & Interpretive Theory; East Asian Languages & Cultures; English; French & Italian; Gender & Women Studies; Germanic Languages & Literatures; History; Jewish Culture & Society; Latina/Latino Studies; Linguistics; Medieval Studies; Philosophy; Religion; Slavic Languages & Literatures; School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics; Spanish & Portuguese; Translation and Interpreting Studies; and Writing Studies

Associate Dean for Life and Physical Sciences

Shaowen Wang is a professor of geography and geographic information science (primary), computer science, and urban and regional planning. He is a senior faculty fellow with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, and leads the campus CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital & Spatial Studies and the national Institute for Geospatial Understanding through an Integrative Discovery Environment (I-GUIDE). Wang holds a PhD from the University of Iowa, joined LAS in 2007, and served as head of the Department of Geography & Geographic Information Science from 2017 to 2023. His research focuses on advancing cyberGIS and geospatial data science for scalable solutions to complex geospatial problems and sustainability challenges.

Units in portfolio: Astronomy; Atmospheric Sciences; Center for Biophysics & Quantitative Biology; School of Earth, Society & Environment; Geography & Geographic Information Science; Earth Science & Environmental Change; Biochemistry; Cell & Developmental Biology; Entomology; Evolution, Ecology, & Behavior; School of Integrative Biology; Microbiology; School of Molecular & Cellular Biology; Molecular & Integrative Physiology; Neuroscience Program; Plant Biology; Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering; School of Chemical Sciences; Chemistry; Mathematics; Statistics

Associate Dean for Curricula and Academic Policy

Stephen R. Downie is a plant molecular systematist and curator of the University of Illinois Vascular Plant Herbarium. His research specializes in the systematics and evolution of flowering plants, with emphasis on the Apiaceae (carrot family). He received his bachelor’s degree in specialized honors botany from the University of Guelph, Ontario, and his PhD in plant taxonomy from the University of Alberta. He joined the Department of Plant Biology in 1992 and was associate director of academic affairs in the School of Integrative Biology from 2017 to 2021.

Associate Dean of Inclusive Excellence

Alejandro Lleras is a professor in the Department of Psychology and an affiliate at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. He formerly served as associate head for diversity, equity, and inclusion in his department and he is a governing board member and founder of the Spark Society (a society to increase the participation and visibility of scholars from historically-marginalized groups in cognitive psychology and cognitive sciences more generally).  He also serves on the Vision Sciences Society advisory board and the U.S. National Committee for Psychological Science at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Alejandro earned his PhD in psychology from Penn State University in 2002, and he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia prior to joining Illinois in 2004. His work has been recognized by an NSF CAREER Award and a Psychonomic Society Mid-career Award. His research interests focus on visual attention and visual awareness, using a mix of behavioral and computational modeling approaches

Interim Associate Dean for Technology and Online Learning

Randy McCarthy coordinates the college's centralized IT and online activities. He received his PhD in mathematics from Cornell University and joined the college in 1994. He has previously served as both the undergraduate and graduate director for the Department of Mathematics and is also the director for the department's self-supporting online program, NetMath.

Acting Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs
Associate Dean for Research

Cari Vanderpool is a professor of microbiology. She joined UIUC as an assistant professor in 2006 after completing her PhD at the University of Minnesota and postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health. Her research focuses on the fundamental biology of bacteria. Her research group uses tools of biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, and genomics to investigate bacterial stress responses and determine how bacteria regulate gene expression in order to survive in a variety of environments. Vanderpool has served as the director of the Microbial Systems Initiative since 2018 and as the associate head of the Department of Microbiology from 2019-2023. She also served as the interim associate dean for research and advanced studies in the College of Veterinary Medicine from 2021-2023. Vanderpool also enjoyed a brief stint as the LAS Dean’s Fellow for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion prior to joining the college as the inaugural associate dean for research.

Associate Dean of Finance and Resource Planning

Mike Wellens joined the University of Illinois in 2008 as the business and marketing specialist in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, where he was responsible for the budget, business services, human resources, facilities, and communication functions of the department. In 2012, he became the director of budget and resource planning for the College of Fine and Applied Arts (FAA). In this role he was responsible for the delivery of services, policy, and compliance for budget, business services, and human resources. Prior to coming to Illinois, Mike was in the graphic arts industry for 15 years. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in economics. 

Associate Dean for Advancement

Deanna Wisthuff joined LAS in July 2022 after serving over two decades at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago where she led and supported trustee and principal giving, major giving, and corporate and foundation relations. During her time at Rush, she played an instrumental role in building the philanthropic case for the Rush BMO Institute for Health Equity and raising funds for its launch. She also led fundraising in the neurosciences—establishing endowed faculty positions, research funds, and a laboratory for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Prior to joining Rush, she was a marketing manager for an institutional investment consulting firm. Deanna graduated from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a major in speech communication and a minor in English.

Assistant Dean for Communications & Marketing
Executive Director of Human Resources

Staci Wagers oversees human resource programs and initiatives for the college. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in human resources and industrial relations, both from the University of Illinois. Before joining LAS in 2017, Staci held various human resource positions in University Housing.

Senior Director of Facilities and Planning

Derek Fultz oversees all facilities operations for the college, serving as a liaison with F&S, capital planning, space planning, and general oversight of safety. He earned a BA in biology from Blackburn College, which led to an early career in industrial laboratories and safety operations. He then served various roles in the Department of Chemistry prior to joining LAS in 2014.