Dean Barbara Schaal to step down at end of 2019-2020 academic year

| Senior News Editor

Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Barbara Schaal will conclude her term at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, officials from Washington University announced last week.

Schaal, who is also the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of Biology, has served as dean since January 2013. Schaal succeeded Gary S. Wihl, now the Hortense and Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.

Schaal’s initial term as dean was to last five years, but she was asked to extend her time in the role while the transition between chancellors occured.

“You want to have someone who knows how to run the school while that transition is happening,” Schaal said. “Chancellor Martin has hit the ground running so by the end of next year it will be totally appropriate to step down.”

Under Schaal’s leadership, the College of Arts & Sciences raised $290 million during the Leading Together campaign and created 34 new professorships. During her tenure, Schaal helped to revitalize the Center for Humanities and turned the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and African and African-American Studies programs into full departments in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

As one of her many initiatives during her deanship, Schaal oversaw the relaunching of the Department of Sociology in 2014, which the University had closed 25 years prior.

“It was Dean Schaal’s decision to resurrect Sociology in Arts & Sciences. She was especially engaged in the original faculty search that laid the foundation for the successful launch,” Sociology Department Chair Steven Fazzari wrote in a statement to Student Life. “While many people have made important contributions to building an exciting new sociology department, none of this would have happened without the vision and exceptional support Dean Schaal gave to this project.”

Fazzari believes Schaal will leave a strong legacy behind in both the Department of Sociology and the College of Arts & Sciences and is optimistic about the future.

“Specifically in Sociology, the faculty hires and program development under Dean Schaal’s leadership have established the basis for an exciting, innovative department going forward that will be a credit to Washington University,” Fazzari wrote. “There is some sadness when a strong leader who one has worked with closely moves on. But new leadership brings new energy and new ideas. I am confident that both Sociology and Arts & Sciences will thrive in this new chapter.”

Schaal also helped with the development of The Common Reader, an interdisciplinary journal housed under the Office of the Provost, according to Gerald Early, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and editor of The Common Reader.

“[Dean Schaal] was very supportive of the initiative and of us having a space here in Brookings, so she was instrumental very much in that regard,” Early said. “She saw it as an important initiative in the humanities and… although it’s not under Arts & Sciences, she saw it as something that was important to Arts & Sciences. In that respect, she was very important to its development.”

One of initiatives Schaal says has been really important for her was diversifying the faculty.

“When there’s a classroom that our students see people that look like them, that can be a woman in the physical sciences, an African American in the social sciences, just that diversity is important,” Schaal said. “[Diversifying the faculty has] been such a pleasure to do, I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of that, in part because the people that we have attracted, the new faculty, all of our new faculty are spectacular. They’re really really talented scholars, they’re amazing teachers, it’s incredible to me how well our young faculty teach and they’re just great people… so it’s really really nice to recruit new faculty here.”

After Schaal steps down at the end of next year, she’s “going to step up to the faculty” and rejoin the biology department.

“I have a couple of theoretical research projects I want to do,” Schaal said. “I’m looking forward to teaching again, particularly I like teaching non-majors, non-science majors. I have a bunch of projects I’ll be doing in Washington as well, so it’ll be a full plate.”

According to Provost Holden Thorp, a search committee to find Schaal’s replacement, consisting of students, faculty and alumni, will form and begin its work in fall 2019.

“[Dean Schaal] stepped in at an incredibly important time and she’s been an amazing colleague for us all. I’m going to cherish all the time that I have left working with her, but she certainly deserves a break,” Thorp said. “She has made enormous personal sacrifices and contributions to Washington University on so many fronts. My time working with her is one of the things I cherish the most about being at Washington University.”

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