Academic Program Leadership (March 31, 2022)

Dear Colleagues,

I write today to announce that Catherine (Katie) Gunther Kodat will step down from the post of provost and dean of faculty into a terminal sabbatical at the end of this academic year. It gives me great pleasure to further report that Associate Dean of Faculty and Associate Professor of History Peter A. Blitstein has agreed to serve as interim Provost and Dean of Faculty, effective July 1. Peter will lead us through the planning and implementation of the strategic investments, with his primary focus on holistic academic pathways.

Katie was appointed provost in 2017, after serving as dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Lewis & Clark College and dean of the Division of the Liberal Arts (as well as acting provost) at The University of the Arts. Her many accomplishments at Lawrence include successful partnerships with faculty and staff to secure external funding to support a wide range of academic initiatives. These include the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Inclusive Excellence grant; a grant from the Mellon Foundation to support reform the University’s reappointment, tenure, and promotion process; and multiple awards to advance the scholarly and creative work of individual faculty. Under her leadership, departmental and programmatic external reviews were re-established; articulation agreements with Marquette University law school and the Medical College of Wisconsin were executed; and the Bachelor of Musical Arts degree was introduced, along with new majors in Computer Science, Ethnic Studies, and Environmental Science; new minors in Data Science & Statistics and Health & Society; and the introduction of Creative Writing and International Relations “tracks” within the English and Government departments, respectively.

A scholar of 20th-century U.S. literature and culture and a tenured member of the English department, Katie will enter her sabbatical with two publications on the horizon. Her collection of essays on the work of William Faulkner, Faulknerista, will be published by Louisiana State University Press in fall 2022. Her essay, “Faulkner after Morrison,” an examination of Toni Morrison’s transformative effect on the reception of Faulkner’s novels, is also forthcoming in New Faulkner Studies from the Cambridge University Press.

I am grateful to have had Katie’s institutional knowledge and administrative expertise during my first year at Lawrence and greatly appreciate her leadership helping the university meet its academic mission and enhance its academic offerings over the last five years, especially during the pandemic. 

I am excited to welcome Peter to his new role, as he brings a wealth of administrative and curricular experience with him. A historian of modern Russia specializing in the Soviet period and the history of nationalism and ethnicity, Peter joined the Lawrence community in 2001 as assistant professor of history. In addition to his teaching and scholarship, he has served as chair of the History department, the director of the senior experience program, and on numerous committees over the course of his career at Lawrence, including the Faculty Committee on University Governance, the Financial Planning Committee, and the Title III Grant Advisory Board, among others. As chair of the Instruction Committee, he was integral to helping the university meet its academic mission during the pandemic.

Peter was chosen as an American Council on Education Fellow in 2013 and was placed at Vassar College, where he worked with the dean of the faculty and dean of strategic planning and academic resources. He also completed site visits at 40 colleges and universities around the country during his year-long fellowship. This experience has served him well in his current role as associate dean of the faculty, which he has held since 2019.

I have enjoyed getting to know Peter over the past nine months and appreciate his candor and dedication to Lawrence’s faculty, academic mission, and future. I look forward to working with him in his new role and as we finalize and implement the strategic investments.

Please join me in thanking Katie for her service and wishing both her and Peter well in their new endeavors.