Lora Wildenthal, a professor of history, has been named associate dean of Rice’s School of Humanities. She assumed her new role July 1.
Wildenthal, who served as the chair of the History Department from 2010 to 2013, will work to elevate the visibility of the humanities on campus, in particular among undergraduate students, said Dean of Humanities Nick Shumway.
A Rice alumna who earned bachelor’s degrees in history and German in 1987, Wildenthal will also work to increase coordination and communication among the school’s 10 undergraduate and five graduate programs and six centers.
“Lora’s got really good administrative sense and is one of the few people on our faculty who are graduates of Rice,” Shumway said. “She understands the inner workings of Rice better than a lot of our faculty do, and she certainly understands the importance of getting the School of Humanities involved in the residential colleges and vice versa.”
Wildenthal said one of her key objectives will be to look at the issue of enrollment in the humanities, which is a national concern. “As department chair, I had seen a lot of these issues just from the perspective of (the) History (Department), and I knew that they were significant,” said Wildenthal, whose research and teaching interests include modern Germany, European women and gender, human rights and modern colonialism. “There are a lot of things that are connected to it. There are national trends in terms of what young people and their parents believe will lead to a secure career after graduation, and some of those ideas are, in my opinion, off target. Humanities undergraduate degrees can be very fruitful for careers after graduation.”
Related to enrollments, Wildenthal plans to promote and increase intra-school coordination and communication among the dean’s office, department chairs, directors of undergraduate and graduate studies, program directors and center directors. “We’re trying to do more all the time and offer more programs to students,” Wildenthal said. “If we don’t communicate, we all invent our own wheel. This is not about telling people what to do, but when you get people in the same room, that can lead to really useful exchanges of bigger-scale ideas and practical solutions. People want that. They don’t want to be isolated.”
Wildenthal recently brought together the school’s assistant professors to discuss how to help them shape their tenure dossiers, be aware of the different constituencies that are involved in the tenure review process and understand how those materials look to those groups. “It can be something as basic as being aware that although you are an art historian, a chemist will be reviewing your dossier by the time it gets up to the tenure and promotion committee at the provost’s level. All this academic know-how comes from such conversations.”
Finally, Wildenthal, who is teaching a First-Year Writing Intensive Seminar (FWIS) this semester on “What are Human Rights?” and is also the co-instructor for the year-long Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program, is gearing up to help launch a new student organization, Humanities at Rice, to extend across the school’s departments and foster a community of those students majoring, minoring or simply interested in the humanities. The group will hold a launch meeting at 9 p.m. Sept. 15 in Rice Memorial Center Center’s Miner Lounge. For more information and to learn how to participate, go to http://humanities.blogs.rice.edu.