New College Leadership

In September 2022, the UT Chancellor announced a plan for establishing a divisional structure within the College of Arts and Sciences starting July 1, 2023. Under this new model, the college is organized around three broad divisions that reflect the disciplines of study for our students: arts and humanities, natural sciences and mathematics, and social sciences. In October 2022, the Provost appointed Robert Hinde to serve as interim executive dean beginning July 1, 2023. One of his first responsibilities was to search for and appoint inaugural divisional deans to lead each of the divisions. 

Divisional deans work with faculty, departmental administration, and members of the college office to develop and implement faculty affairs policies and procedures that support the faculty’s central role as scholar-teachers in the mission of the college and the university. Divisional deans serve as advocates for the units and faculty, staff, and students in their divisions and collaborate with members of the college office to build and maintain an environment that enables and empowers world-class research and creative activity, teaching, and engagement.

patrick grzankaPatrick Grzanka, professor of psychology, began his appointment as the inaugural divisional dean for social sciences on July 1, 2023.

Grzanka joined the Department of Psychology in 2014, and during his first semester, he co-founded the Intersectionality Community of Scholars, an interdisciplinary network of faculty across the university who study intersectionality. It has become the campus’s hub for faculty engaged in intersectionality research, teaching, and scholar-activism and is supported by the UT Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by the opportunity to take on this new role in a time of tremendous change in our college, which has done so much to nurture my career,” Grzanka said. “Our students, faculty, and staff face many challenges as we implement our new divisional structure, but I am enthusiastic about the chance to incubate new visionary interdisciplinary projects, facilitate novel forms of collaboration within and beyond the Division of Social Sciences, grow our departments and programs to sustain our booming enrollment, and to unequivocally communicate our values to campus and community stakeholders.”

In 2015, Grzanka was part of a college-level committee tasked with reconstituting Women’s Studies; the committee launched the college’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGS) Interdisciplinary Program in 2016. Under his leadership, the program has grown in both majors and minors and introduced a graduate certificate that nearly 20 students enroll in each year.

Grzanka is an accomplished scholar and was named a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in 2023 for his “unusual and outstanding contributions . . . in the field of psychology.” He co-edited a special issue of American Psychologist in 2021 focused on public psychology and was elected president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (American Psychological Association, Division 9) for 2023-24.

“The six departments that constitute the Division of Social Sciences represent the vanguard of theory and methods that seek to understand our local, national, and global societies with sensitivity to power, culture, and the historical conditions that structure our lives,” Grzanka said. “We are social scientists, humanists, biologists, and more. The interdisciplinary breadth of our division is a key strength of our community and one that I take seriously as an interdisciplinary scholar myself.”

“Our students and faculty are passionate about identifying the causes of vexing problems and developing solutions that enhance the lives and well-being of the groups with whom we study and learn,” Grzanka said. “As divisional dean, I want to help those in the social sciences and across the college actualize their ambitions for doing groundbreaking work. I can think of no greater privilege as a campus leader. I am excited to get to work.”

kate jonesKate Jones, professor and associate head in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, began her appointment as the inaugural divisional dean for natural sciences and mathematics on July 1, 2023.

“I am thrilled to be joining the college leadership,” Jones said. “Transformations can be challenging, and the college is currently undergoing a significant one. My focus will be on ensuring this process is as smooth as possible and listening to the needs of the departments in the natural sciences and mathematics.”

Jones joined the university in 2006, after completing a postdoc at Rutgers University, where she worked with the ORNL Nuclear Astrophysics group. Since joining the department, Jones has directed 11 doctoral students and three master’s students through graduation.

In 2019, Jones took the lead in establishing a BA program in physics to support students who changed majors away from physics late in their academic careers because they were unable to complete the extensive requirements of the physics BS degree.

“The highly flexible program, which we introduced to the catalog in August 2022, caters to students who want to apply their knowledge of physics in pursuits other than graduate studies in physics,” Jones said. “By offering students increased flexibility in course selection, the program enables students to explore additional academic paths, such as adding another major in disciplines such as business or law.”

In 2009, she was named the Department of Energy Outstanding Junior Investigator, which recognizes exceptional scientists early in their careers by supporting the development of their individual research programs. Jones is part of UT’s experimental nuclear astrophysics group, which investigates the workings of the atomic nucleus and the role it plays in how elements are created. In 2010, she published a first-author paper in Nature.

“The entire college stands to gain immense benefits from the additional support and resources provided by this divisional structure pilot,” Jones said. “My priorities include helping to drive the success of the pilot, streamlining and enhancing processes for greater efficiency, and advocating for the division. I am dedicated to fostering a welcoming work environment for students, staff, and faculty.”

Beauvais Lyons, Chancellor’s Professor in the School of Art, began his appointment as the inaugural divisional dean for arts and humanities July 1, 2023.

Since 1985, Lyons has taught printmaking at UT. Working with his colleagues, he has helped elevate the MFA printmaking program to its current third-place ranking among public universities by U.S. News & World Report.

“Universities are people-centered enterprises, creating opportunities for faculty to advance their scholarship and creative work while connecting these activities to our teaching and service commitments,” Lyons said. “As a divisional dean, I look forward to collaborating with the new leadership team in our college, supporting the arts and humanities, while also advancing shared goals.”

Lyons’s leadership and service to the university include two terms as president of the Faculty Senate, as well as extensive involvement in efforts to revise the faculty handbook and to ensure college and department bylaws comply with it. He represented the campus on the UT Advisory Board and served three terms on the UT System University Faculty Council. He helped to establish Mic/Nite 10 years ago.

Professionally, his one-person exhibitions have been presented at more than 80 galleries and museums across the United States. He has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in Poland, the Santo Foundation Artist Award, and the Southeastern College Art Conference Distinguished Teaching of Art Award.

“The arts and humanities are vital to being a comprehensive university,” Lyons said. “The visual, written, and performing arts enliven and foster empathy and positive change, just as scholarship in the humanities provides deeper contexts for understanding our diverse heritage, traditions, history, and culture. Together, these are key to the education of our students, preparing them to lead purposeful lives as engaged citizens.”

In addition to the inaugural divisional deans, Hinde appointed two faculty members to new roles on the college leadership team. 

liem tranLiem Tran, professor and associate head in the Department of Geography and Sustainability, serves as associate dean for academic programs.

“I am honored to serve the college in a leadership role and excited to contribute to the growth and development of our college,” said Tran, who joined the UT faculty in 2006 as an assistant professor of geography. He served as an adjunct for two years in the UT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and has a professor appointment at the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tran led and coordinated the development of the new BS program in geographic information science and technology (GIST) in the Department of Geography and Sustainability. In his new role, he hopes to continue aligning academic programs and student learning outcomes with industry and community needs.

“With a commitment to academic excellence and student success, I aim to enhance our programs and ensure they meet the evolving needs of our society and communities,” Tran said. “By collaborating with faculty, enhancing our curriculum, promoting inclusivity, and forging industry partnerships, we can provide relevant educational opportunities and equip students with the skills they need to excel.”

Tran also worked with the UT Coronavirus-19 Outbreak Response Experts (CORE-19) team – a collaborative network of researchers from various disciplines, such as public health, economics, public policy, agriculture, and veterinary medicine. As part of the team, Tran ran COVID-19 transmission rate models to provide valuable information for the Tennessee COVID-19 dashboard.

“Together, we aimed to deliver timely and evidence-based information to policymakers, industry professionals, and the public, addressing critical questions regarding the global pandemic,” Tran said. “I am dedicated to fostering continuous improvement, effective communication, and a culture of collaboration and look forward to working with colleagues to advance our college’s academic programs and reputation.”

Tran is a member of the Substance Misuse and Addiction Resource for Tennessee (SMART) Policy Network, established in 2020 to support UT’s initiatives in combating substance misuse and abuse. He created and maintains several geographic dashboards that provide essential information on substance misuse and addiction resources across Tennessee.

“Through my involvement in these initiatives, I have demonstrated my commitment to leveraging data and interdisciplinary collaboration to address pressing challenges,” Tran said. “I look forward to bringing my experience and dedication to advancing our college’s programs and contributing to its continued success.”

Mike Blum, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, serves as associate dean for research and creative activity.

“I am incredibly excited to work with faculty, students, and staff to support the amazing research and creative activities being pursued across the college,” Blum said. “I look forward to working in partnership with college leadership to advance college-wide priorities, with the aim of building greater strength in well-established and emerging areas of interest.”

Blum joined the university as an associate professor in 2017, after spending 10 years at Tulane University where he directed the ByWater Institute, overseeing interdisciplinary research and collaborative programs designed to enrich creative pursuits across the institution.

Since joining the UT faculty, Blum has received a series of federal awards to pursue multidisciplinary work on social-ecological outcomes of global change, leading to high-profile publications in Science and other notable journals on topics like forecasting ecosystem resilience and ecological responses to COVID-19 lockdowns.

“As a member of the College of Arts and Sciences community, I have enjoyed working closely with colleagues to develop our institutional capacity for multidisciplinary research,” Blum said. “I am eager to continue working with peers to advance our college as an internationally recognized hub of scholarship and learning.”

The primary responsibility of the associate dean for research and creative activity is promoting and facilitating research, scholarship, and creative activity by the college’s faculty and students. In his new role, Associate Dean Blum will be charged with developing a college research office to support faculty and students.

In March 2023, Interim Executive Dean Robert Hinde split the role of associate dean for research and facilities in the college into two associate dean positions. Larry McKay will continue to serve as associate dean for facilities and infrastructure, while Blum will step into the role of associate dean of research and creative activity.

“Our college has a large space and facilities footprint, and our faculty and students pursue wide-ranging research and creative activities,” Hinde said. “Having more focused associate dean roles will better serve our college.”