Mark Rollins, professor of philosophy and chair of the Performing Arts Department at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named dean of University College, the professional and continuing education division of Arts & Sciences.
Barbara A. Schaal, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor, announced his appointment, which is effective July 1.
Steve Ehrlich, associate dean for academics in University College, has served as interim dean since Robert E. Wiltenburg, who was University College dean for nearly 20 years, stepped down June 30, 2015.
“As dean of University College, Mark will provide strategic leadership, vision, management and planning for the programs in University College,” Schaal said. “University College and its related components form a critical part of Arts & Sciences and fulfill the university’s mission in opening our doors to adult learners, the St. Louis community and nontraditional students.
“Mark will guide the university’s continuing education programming, supporting the development of outstanding students in their pursuit of a wide range of certificates and degrees,” Schaal said.
“I’m also extremely grateful to Steve Ehrlich, who stepped up to serve as interim dean and has done a terrific job.”
During his nearly three decades at Washington University, Rollins has served on or chaired virtually every major academic committee and held numerous administrative roles, including as associate dean in both University College and in Arts & Sciences, and as a faculty fellow in the Office of the Provost.
“Mark is the right person to lead University College and I am thankful he will continue his many years of service to Washington University through this new role,” said Provost Holden Thorp.
University College enrolls more than 1,270 students a year in programs ranging from certificates and associate degrees to master’s degrees and a doctorate.
As University College dean, Rollins will oversee the Lifelong Learning Institute, which has some 650 participants a year, and Summer School, which offers 16 programs to more than 800 students.
“University College plays a very important role in the life of Washington University,” Rollins said. “It epitomizes our commitment to diversity by providing knowledge, skills and degrees to a wide range of students, connecting the university to the larger community. It gives these students access to the rich history of ideas that inform the liberal arts tradition and also to new forms of knowledge production that are developing at an increasingly rapid pace.
“My goal is to ensure that the classes and programs in University College are of the highest quality and to make Washington University a leader in continuing education among our peers,” he said. “There are exciting opportunities for pedagogical innovation, born out of new technologies and research in cognitive learning theory, and for higher education to further realize its potential to foster social change.”
Rollins is also a professor in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology program in Arts & Sciences, which he helped create more than 20 years ago. He joined Washington University in 1987 as an assistant professor of philosophy.
He served as chair of the philosophy department from 2002-10, during which time the department had an impressive period of growth, including the addition of 14 full-time faculty members.
Also during his tenure as chair, the department rose significantly in the rankings of philosophy graduate programs, and the number of applications to its graduate program quadrupled.
Rollins served as associate dean in University College and director of its Summer School from 1997-2001. While director, the school introduced faculty teaching grants, increased enrollment and developed a strong high-school summer honors program.
Rollins’ academic interests include topics at the intersection of aesthetics and cognitive science. These include theories of picture perception, the role of attention in aesthetic experience and a cognitive psychology of artistic style.
In his forthcoming book, “The Strategic Eye: Perception and the Pictorial Arts,” Rollins attempts to explain how humans understand and evaluate works of pictorial art. He recently did a “Hold That Thought” podcast and a TedX Talk on the topic.
He is also the author of “Mental Imagery: On the Limits of Cognitive Science,” editor of “Danto and His Critics” and co-editor of “Begetting Images: Studies in the Art and Science of Symbol Production.”
Active on many university committees, Rollins has served as chair of the Faculty Senate Council, the Faculty Council for Arts & Sciences and the Arts & Sciences Curriculum Review Committee and as a member of the Arts & Sciences Academic Planning Committee.
Rollins, who holds a courtesy appointment in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, curated a Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum Teaching Gallery exhibition on “Art and the Mind-Brain” in 2012.
In September 2014, Schaal presented Rollins the Distinguished Leadership Award during Arts & Sciences’ annual faculty reception.