Kevin McLaughlin P’12 will finish his term as dean of faculty June 30, 2022, Provost Richard Locke P’19 announced in a Today@Brown letter Tuesday. Following 11 years in the position, McLaughlin will begin a sabbatical this summer and return to the University in the fall as the George Hazard Crooker professor of English, comparative literature and German studies.
After arriving at the University as an assistant professor of English in 1996, McLaughlin received tenure as an associate professor in 2000. He then became a full professor in 2003 and was promoted to English department chair in 2005. His work focuses on 19th-century literature and philosophy.
McLaughlin was initially named the George Hazard Crooker professor of English, comparative literature and German studies in 2012 and continued his involvement in scholarship throughout his time as dean, publishing two books and “teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses on 19th-century European literature and philosophy,” according to a Nov. 30 University press release.
In 2011, former Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 selected McLaughlin to serve as dean of faculty for a three-year renewable term in consultation with former President Ruth Simmons and former Provost David Kertzer ‘69 P’95 P’98 — a term that was extended to 11 years.
While McLaughlin told The Herald he did not initially expect to retain the position for so long, he said his time as dean provided unique, rewarding experiences unlike those he encountered as a professor, including the opportunity to oversee a “wide range of disciplines” including physical sciences, social sciences and the humanities.
“I was trained as a literary scholar,” McLaughlin said. At the University, “we tell our students all the time that having an undergraduate degree in a liberal arts field is a great preparation for any job that you might end up getting. I thought that taking this job, for me, was a little bit of a test of that because you’re stepping outside of your discipline.”
Throughout his time as dean, McLaughlin “has collaborated with the senior leadership team of the University to grow and diversify the faculty and has focused consistently on enhancing the academic strength of departments, centers and institutes across the University,” Locke wrote.
Under McLaughlin’s leadership, Locke added, the University’s regular faculty grew almost 18% from 517 to 609 — “the largest expansion of the faculty ranks in Brown’s history.”
McLaughlin emphasized that increasing the number of regular faculty members on campus enables the University to more effectively conduct research and teach across academic disciplines while also creating long-term stability within academic departments.
McLaughlin has also “worked with chairs, directors and leaders from all disciplines to foster a culture of intellectual engagement, openness, achievement and mutual respect,” Locke wrote. In addition, McLaughlin has “led efforts to ensure equitable treatment and compensation of faculty across disciplines and demographic lines, and to build and maintain an inclusive environment for faculty, staff and students across the University.”
Since the start of McLaughlin’s term as dean, the percentage of faculty from historically underrepresented groups has increased by over 130%, Locke noted.
McLaughlin said that throughout his term he and other University administrators worked closely with academic departments to discuss how promoting diversity in the hiring process and fostering inclusion would best be enacted in each department, becoming a “grassroots effort that was embraced by a very significant portion of the faculty.”
Other initiatives spearheaded by McLaughlin during his term as dean included the creation of post-tenure sabbaticals, reducing the teaching load of humanities and qualitative social sciences professors and enhancing the University’s reputation, according to its 2014 Building on Distinction strategic plan. In addition, McLaughlin oversaw initiatives to raise funds for programs including the Cogut Institute for the Humanities, the Institute at Brown for the Environment and Society and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.
Moving forward at the University, McLaughlin said that he is excited to pursue new projects. During his sabbatical, he aims to finish a book on the literary and cultural criticism of German philosopher Walter Benjamin, and as a full-time professor, he is excited to develop and teach new courses.
Locke wrote that the University will soon begin a search for a new dean of faculty and update the campus community on the search’s progress. McLaughlin hopes his successor will continue to foster diversity in academic disciplines at the University and support faculty work across fields.
“We need to remain a strong university that has committed to educating students in a wide range of arts and science fields,” he said. “We need to have a strong faculty across the whole spectrum to do that.”