The U Welcomes Dr. Hollis Robbins as the New Dean of Humanities


(Courtesy of the College of Humanities)

By Vanessa Hudson, Editor in Chief


Dr. Hollis Robbins will be joining the University of Utah as the new dean of Humanities on July 1. The current dean, Stuart Culver, will resume his research and begin teaching at the U in the fall.

Robbins said she is thrilled to be working with the U Humanities Department. “I’m excited to meet more students to see what I can do to help,” Robbins said. 

She plans on taking an active role within the department. She said, “The dean is very much both supporter and leader at the same time, a kind of servant leader is the way I think about it.”

Robbins’ college career began at Johns Hopkins University, where she studied math, however, her passions lay elsewhere. “I realized that my real love was in literature,” she said.

After working at The New Yorker Magazine, she attended Harvard to earn a degree in public policy. She started to pursue a communication degree at Stanford, but said, “it wasn’t a great fit at the time.”

Robbins moved to Colorado with her family and went to the University of Colorado, Boulder, and earned her master’s degree in English. She said she fell in love with teaching and loved “being in the classroom.” After her career in teaching launched, she went to Princeton and earned her doctorate in English.

Along with her extensive education, Robbins has authored seven books about various forms of poetry and literature, such as sonnets and African-American poetry and literature. Her most well-known book is “The Annotated ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.'” She is a co-editor with Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Robbins is currently working on a book about African-American poet Robert Hayden. 

Culver, the current dean of Humanities, will be stepping down to resume his research and teach at the U. 

“With humanities, we have a large role to play in general education,” Culver said. He added the majority of students will take a class in the humanities department, whether it is a general education course or a major-focused course.

“We have to be good partners and work together because pretty much any student who enters the university goes through our doors at one point or another,” he added. 

Culver is leaving behind a strong foundation for Robbins to continue to build upon. Several projects were completed or started during his time as dean. One project that Culver is especially proud of is the ongoing development of the Student Success Center.

“We raised a lot of money to develop what we’re calling a ‘student success center,’ but it won’t be up and running until I’m out of the picture,” he said.  

Culver believes that some of the most important accomplishments are the connections made between the humanities department and other departments within the U. 

“One of the things that college has done is bring the humanities into closer relationships with other areas on campus, both with the hospital and medical schools and with computer science and video gaming,” he said. 

Culver hopes these relationships have a lasting effect long after he has stepped down. 

Robbins is coming from Sonoma State University, which means there is a new outside perspective being introduced to the Humanities department. Culver says this is a good thing in many ways. “There’s a lot of expectation about new vision, new energy,” he said. “There’s more of a sense that there’s a new beginning taking place.”

Robbins is ready and willing to step up and take on her work as dean of humanities. She said, “My role is to inspire and lead all of these faculty members who are doing really extraordinary work, [along with] staff and students, to ask, ‘How can we work best together?’”


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