Elizabeth F. McCormack Named Dean for Academic Affairs

 Elizabeth F. McCormack has been named dean for academic affairs at Bowdoin College, effective July 1, 2017. McCormack is currently professor of physics at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Penn. In addition to serving as dean, McCormack will join the Bowdoin faculty as a professor in the Department of Physics, with tenure. Bowdoin Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Jennifer Scanlon, who has been serving as interim dean, will return to the faculty upon McCormack’s arrival.

“Liz McCormack brings to Bowdoin a distinguished record of scholarship and leadership,” said Bowdoin President Clayton S. Rose. “She is a gifted teacher who challenges her students to chart their own course, to develop independence, to tackle complex questions, and to reflect on what they’ve learned. She is an educator dedicated to breaking down barriers to learning, adopting new technologies and teaching techniques, and addressing the needs of students with different backgrounds and levels of preparation. Liz is also an experienced and successful administrator who has served in leadership positions during changes in faculty governance, led strategic planning initiatives with faculty and staff, advocated for faculty development, and enhanced the connectivity between the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. I am confident that our faculty will value Liz’s achievements and her collaborative spirit, and I very much look forward to working with her to advance the academic program at Bowdoin.”

McCormack earned her bachelor’s degree in astronomy and physics at Wellesley College and her PhD in physics at Yale University. She was an Alexander Hollaender Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow and staff physicist at Argonne National Laboratory before joining the faculty at Bryn Mawr College in 1995. Her research interests include fundamental aspects of molecular excited state-structure and dynamics using a variety of laser spectroscopy techniques. She has published over thirty peer-reviewed journal articles and is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a designation conferred on less than 0.5 percent of the membership for exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise (e.g., outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education).

McCormack was a National Science Foundation CAREER award recipient and a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar at the University of Paris XI. At Bryn Mawr, she has served as chair of the faculty, director of the Center for Science in Society, director of the STEM Posse Program, dean of graduate studies, and most recently, as associate provost. She received the College’s McPherson Prize for Faculty in 2007. She has also served as a curriculum consultant for Effat College in Saudi Arabia and was a fellow of the American Council on Education at Lesley University. She is a member of the Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs of the American Physical Society, chair of the board of directors of The Research Corporation for Science Advancement, a leadership mentor for Project Kaleidoscope at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and a consultant to the Scientific Equipment Program at the Sherman Fairchild Foundation.

“I am very excited to join the Bowdoin community, and I am looking forward to supporting Bowdoin’s faculty members in their work as dedicated teachers and exceptional scholars,” said McCormack. “For me, the most distinctive aspect of a liberal education is its integrative approach to learning through multiple disciplines and through co-curricular opportunities that connect the classroom with the world. At its best, it prepares and motivates students to investigate and tackle complex and important questions. There is an impressive record of success at Bowdoin in supporting this kind of student learning and the accomplished faculty that it takes to sustain it. I am eager to take up the work of ensuring its continued effectiveness while also exploring new opportunities to broaden access to and enhance the best of what we do.”

McCormack was selected for the position following a national search by a committee of faculty, staff, and students that was chaired by Bowdoin’s president. As dean for academic affairs, she will serve as the chief academic officer at Bowdoin, with oversight for 31 academic departments and programs; Bowdoin’s library and museums; its research centers and field stations; the registrar’s office; the Office of International Programs and Off-Campus Study; student fellowships and research; health professions advising; special academic programs; and the Center for Learning and Teaching. She will play a central role in promoting and sustaining excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service, and will ensure the long-term composition and strength of the faculty. She will support the College’s faculty governance structure and will be responsible for faculty hiring and mentoring, reappointment, promotion, and tenure. She will also develop and implement budgets for all academic departments and programs and lead discussions focused on innovation in the curriculum and pedagogy. Reporting to the president, she will also serve on Bowdoin’s senior leadership team.

A native of Boston, Mass., McCormack grew up in upstate New York state and has vacationed in western Maine for many years. Her partner, Jeff Bush, works for a multinational software company where he holds a sales enablement role. They both enjoy the outdoors, including kayaking, skiing, canoeing, and fly fishing.

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