Wilson named new dean of LAS at UI
A top academic administrator will be the next dean of the largest college at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus.
Barbara Wilson, executive vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, today was named dean the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, pending approval by the UI's board of trustees next week.
She replaces Ruth Watkins, a longtime UI faculty member and dean who left last summer to become a senior vice president at the University of Utah. Brian Ross has been serving as interim dean.
Wilson, a professor of communication and former department head, joined the UI faculty in 2000 after 12 years as a faculty member at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she was director of graduate studies.
"I'm supposed to say, 'I look forward to serving in this pivotal campus role,' and while that's true, it really feels more like I'm coming home," Wilson said in a UI release. "I have spent my academic career supporting and celebrating the merits of a liberal arts education at a major research university, and I can't wait to continue doing that as dean."
Ilesanmi Adesida, the provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, praised Wilson's skills and knowledge.
"No task has been too large or difficult for Barbara," he said. "She's successfully tackled every project that's been assigned to her and shown a remarkable ability to pivot to a broad range of responsibilities. As a member of my budget team, she has become immersed in university funding mechanisms and practices."
Wilson assists the provost with campus academic issues, strategic planning and budgeting, and oversees faculty development, promotion, tenure and retention.
"I love working with faculty, I am a passionate advocate for the liberal arts and sciences, and I enjoy helping to build programs and opportunities for students," Wilson said.
As communication department head, Wilson led an initiative to revamp the curriculum and created program tracks to help students translate liberal arts curriculum into career interests. The department's enrollment grew by 40 percent under her leadership, and the faculty by 20 percent.
The most pressing issue facing LAS, and the campus generally, she said, is in maintaining excellence in a period of limited funding.
She said she will continue to support campus efforts to better link students and faculty members across disciplines in creative and research activities, and will keep up her work to attract and retain a top-level and diverse faculty. That will require new sources of funding and greater emphasis on alumni outreach and fundraising, she said.
Wilson earned three degrees at the University of Wisconsin at Madison: a bachelor's in journalism; a master's in communication arts; and a doctorate in communications arts. She also worked as a professor of communication at the University of Louisville.
Her research focuses on the social and psychological effects of the media, particularly on youth. She has authored several books on children and television violence.