YaleNews

After months of searching, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced religious studies professor Kathryn Lofton would continue her interim role as dean of the humanities and will serve until 2024, pending Yale Corporation approval.

Since former humanities dean Amy Hungerford accepted an offer to lead the FAS at Columbia University in 2019, Lofton has served as her replacement for this academic year. Now that she has been appointed to continue her role, Lofton said she will take her years of experience as a university professor and apply it towards empowering other faculty. According to Lofton, she hopes to help them make bold, “intellectually daring” academic decisions. If formally approved, her term will end
in mid-2024.

“It’s such a privilege to work with faculty that understand the value of innovative research and classroom teaching,” she said. “I feel really proud of the opportunity to serve them.”

FAS Dean Tamar Gendler wrote in a Feb. 17 announcement to the FAS that a search advisory committee identified a list of candidates, and Lofton was ultimately .

Lofton’s decision to accept the offer will serve the University exceptionally well, according to Gendler.

“[Lofton] is brilliant and tireless, ingenious and practical, original and imaginative. She is creative and rigorous and fierce and bold,” she wrote. “I am delighted that the FAS will continue to be touched by her labors. We are deeply fortunate that she has agreed to continue in this role for an additional four years.”

While deliberations among Gendler’s advisory committee were confidential, Gendler formerly told the News that she hoped to select Hungerford’s permanent replacement by late 2019 or early this spring. Germanic languages and literatures professor Paul North — who chaired the search committee — did not respond to requests for comment. Political science professor Ian Shapiro, who also served on the committee, wrote in an email to the News that he is “delighted” by Lofton’s appointment.

As a writer and thinker in the history of religion, Lofton has penned dozens of articles, encyclopedia entries and presentations — ranging from speeches on Kanye West to a book about Oprah — in hopes of expanding scholarship. Since coming to Yale in 2009, she has chaired numerous units — including LGBT Studies; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; and Religious Studies.

In her more permanent position, Lofton will guide the FAS through the official opening of 320 York St. — redubbed the Humanities Quadrangle. This move will centralize much of Yale’s humanities offerings into the renovated former Hall of Graduate Studies. Lofton also said she will draw on her prior experience as an FAS senator to investigate issues that affect faculty, including service time inequities and academic freedom.

The acting dean told the News that she has three main focus areas for her term: research and innovation, curricular reform and faculty governance.

She added that she wants to encourage professors to write books that “define generations” and to foster a culture where argumentative risk-taking is possible. Lofton is responsive to faculty members who want more involvement in University decision making, but she said she hopes to avoid tacking on extra duties to already packed schedules.

“[Yale is] the leading home for the humanities in America,” Lofton said.

As dean, Lofton will continue her work overseeing all divisions and departments of the humanities as well as supervising tenure appointments, among other activities. She will also keep her spot on the FAS Steering Committee with some of the FAS’s top executives, including Gendler, Social Science Dean Alan Gerber and FAS Dean of Faculty Affairs John Mangan.

Lofton received her doctorate in religious studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

Matthew Kristoffersen | matthew.kristoffersen@yale.edu