Venetria K. Patton, head of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Purdue University, has been named the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.
Patton, who has served in faculty and administrative roles at Purdue and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, since 1996, will assume her new role on Aug. 2. Gene Robinson, Swanlund Chair in Entomology who has served as interim dean since 2020, will resume his duties as director of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.
“The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is foundational to the mission of this great university,” said Andreas C. Cangellaris, the vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, in a university release. “Professor Patton has a clear vision for advancing the college. With her rich and strong record of academic leadership, her enthusiasm for bolstering the college’s excellence in teaching, research, innovation, and engagement, and her proven record of commitment to inclusive excellence, she will be a strong and effective leader.”
Patton earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1990 from the University of La Verne, and a master’s degree and PhD in English in 1992 and 1996, respectively, from the University of California, Riverside. She joined the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 1996 as a professor of English and African American studies, and was named coordinator of the African American & African Studies Program in 1998.
In 2003, Patton joined Purdue University as a professor and director of the African American Studies & Research Center. She served that role until 2015, when she was named Provost Fellow on Diversity & Inclusion. Since 2016, she has served as head of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue. Patton was selected to lead the College of LAS after a national search headed by Vikram Amar, the dean of the College of Law at the University of Illinois.
“I am immensely honored to join the University of Illinois as the next dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences,” said Patton. “Throughout my career I’ve developed a strong belief in the vast potential of education and research in the liberal arts and sciences, and no place pursues these principles more passionately than the University of Illinois. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is perfectly suited to create and inform leaders in our dramatically changing world. I look forward to helping grow the tremendous efforts that are happening here.”
The Board of Trustees is expected to consider Patton’s appointment during its next regular meeting in September. Until then, her title will be Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Designate.
Patton’s teaching and research focuses on African American literature, diasporic women’s literature, 19th century American literature, and feminist discourse. She is the recipient of the Kenneth T. Kofmehl Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award at Purdue and the Annis Chaikin Sorensen Distinguished Teaching Award in the Arts and Humanities and the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award, both from Nebraska, Lincoln.
She is the author of two monographs: “The Grasp That Reaches Beyond the Grave: The Ancestral Call in Black Women’s Texts” and “Women in Chains: The Legacy of Slavery in Black Women’s Fiction.” She is co-editor of “Double-Take: A Revisionist Harlem Renaissance Anthology” and editor of “Background Readings for Teachers of American Literature.” Her essays have appeared in numerous Black studies and women’s studies journals.
In a message to campus announcing Patton’s appointment, Cangellaris also thanked Robinson, who served as interim dean since July 2020, and Donald Ort, professor of plant biology, for his service as acting director of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology while Robinson served in the dean’ office.