Rachel Williams has been named the new dean of the Division of Liberal Arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), effective July 1, Chancellor Brian Cole has announced.
Williams, an artist, teacher and advocate who has experience in visual arts, feminist theory, women’s issues, and community engagement, comes to UNCSA after more than two decades at the University of Iowa where she is associate professor and department chair of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies and Studio Art. Williams will oversee a full-time faculty of 14 in the academic division that offers a variety of liberal arts courses in formats ranging from traditional lectures and seminars to project- and studio-based courses for student-artists attending the university in the five arts schools (Dance, Design & Production, Drama, Filmmaking, and Music).
“We are so fortunate to have Rachel joining us to lead our Division of Liberal Arts at UNCSA,” said Chancellor Cole. “Rachel not only has a passion for and individual talent in the arts, but she is also prolific in her scholarly research and formidable in her field. Her deep experience and connections will only serve to further enrich the arts education we offer our student-artists.”
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Patrick J. Sims added, “Rachel has a strong commitment to student needs and demonstrated achievement and advocacy in the EDIB (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging) space, as well as being passionate about liberal arts. As a native North Carolinian, she knows our state well and is looking forward to building closer connections to other UNC System schools. She is a strong collaborator whom I know will not only forge connections between liberal arts and the arts schools but also with the community at large.”
Williams said, “Educating future leaders in the arts is one of my passions. The opportunity to serve UNCSA is a dream come true. I am very excited to collaborate with the gifted faculty, staff and students to support and create cutting-edge learning and engagement opportunities in the Division of Liberal Arts."
Educating future leaders in the arts is one of my passions. The opportunity to serve UNCSA is a dream come true. I am very excited to collaborate with the gifted faculty, staff and students to support and create cutting-edge learning and engagement opportunities in the Division of Liberal Arts.Rachel Williams
She added, “Artists are leaders who reflect, reimagine and create solutions. Through their work, they bring attention to issues, make our lives more livable and help to solve the problems of the world.”
Williams received a B.F.A. in painting and drawing from East Carolina University, and a Ph.D. in art education and an M.F.A. in studio art from Florida State University. She is associate professor of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies and Studio Art at the University of Iowa, where she has worked since 1999 and is currently serving a second term as chair. She also served as the university ombudsperson in the office of the president.
An area of focus in Williams’ scholarly research has been women in prison, and she has worked with incarcerated women as an artist, scholar and teacher since 1994. American alternative/single creator comics and graphic novels have been a focus of her creative scholarship. She was part of a team that received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Mellon Sawyer Seminar Racial Reckoning and Social Justice Through Comics in 2022-23.
Williams’ writing appears in Southern Cultures, Meridians, the Journal of Arts Management Law and Society, The Journal of Poetry Therapy, Feminist Studies, and Visual Arts Research. She is also the author of “Teaching the Arts Behind Bars” (Northeastern U. Press, 2003); “Elegy for Mary Turner: An Illustrated Account of a Lynching” (Verso Press, 2021); and “Run Home If You Don’t Want to Be Killed: The Detroit Uprising of 1943” (UNC Press/Duke Center for Documentary Studies, 2021). Her current research focuses on intersecting systems of oppression, gender, race, sexuality, and arts-based research.
Williams succeeds Martine Kei Green-Rogers, Ph.D., who has served as interim dean of the Division of Liberal Arts at UNCSA since July 1, 2021, following Dean Wilcox, who served as dean from 2012-2021. The national search was facilitated by Isaacson-Miller and led by Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Tracey Ford, Ed.D., and Liberal Arts faculty member Rosemary Millar, Ph.D., who served as co-chairs of the search committee.
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April 19, 2022