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Professor Harry J. Elam Jr. appointed vice provost for undergraduate education at Stanford University

As vice provost, Elam will oversee Stanford's 6,500-student undergraduate program, including general education and overseas studies. He will assume his new position July 1.

Courtesy of Harry Elam Harry J. Elam Jr.

Harry J. Elam Jr.

BY LISA LAPIN

Professor Harry J. Elam Jr., a distinguished member of the Stanford faculty for two decades and a scholar of African American drama, has been appointed the Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford University, Provost John Etchemendy announced today.

As vice provost, Elam, 54, will oversee Stanford's 6,500-student undergraduate program, including general education and overseas studies. He will assume his new position July 1.

Elam is the Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities and the Robert and Ruth Halperin University Fellow for Undergraduate Education. During his 20-year tenure on the Stanford faculty, he has received six teaching awards, including the Humanities and Sciences Dean's Distinguished Teaching Award and the Bing Teaching Fellowship for Undergraduate Teaching.

Since 2007, Elam has served as senior associate vice provost for undergraduate education. And since January, he has been co-chair of the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford, the first university-wide examination of the undergraduate curriculum and general education requirements in 15 years.

"Harry Elam is an inspirational leader who has a vision for undergraduate education. I'm confident he can take Stanford's undergraduate program to the next level of excellence," Etchemendy said. "Harry is one of the faculty leaders now taking a radical new look at what an undergraduate education should be in the coming decades – what Stanford should be providing its students in the 21st century. Harry is the right person to lead us in executing any changes we decide need to be made."

"We thought it was very important that Stanford maintain its position as a leader in the country in terms of undergraduate education, and we'll all be delighted to work with Harry in implementing innovations in the undergraduate curriculum," said Brad Osgood, professor of electrical engineering and chair of the search committee that spent more than a month researching potential candidates to replace John Bravman, the outgoing vice provost for undergraduate education, who is leaving Stanford to become president of Bucknell University.

Osgood said the search involved broad consultation with faculty, students and deans and a town hall meeting with the staff of the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE). "It was a very thorough search. We felt we owed it to the university, to our undergraduates, and the faculty and students here. We also felt we owed it to John Bravman and the cause he worked so hard to develop for so many years."

Elam will be Stanford's third vice provost for undergraduate education, a position that encompasses oversight of undergraduate advising, programs and support for faculty, the Bing Overseas Studies Program, an array of undergraduate services in the Center for Teaching and Learning and diversity outreach, among other programs.

"I look forward to helping VPUE become the locus for a vibrant and exciting re-examination of undergraduate education at Stanford," Elam said. "I am eager to explore how we can make a liberal education even more central to our mission as we continue to create an undergraduate experience that is distinctive to Stanford."

Elam added, "I've also been very fortunate to be working with VPUE for the last two years and to have served with John Bravman."

Elam said one of his priorities will be to implement the recommendations of the Faculty Senate and the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford, which began last January and is expected to culminate in a report to the Faculty Senate in September 2011.

"I am excited about the opportunity and the challenges ahead," Elam said.

Osgood said that some of the ideas that have emerged include the office of VPUE playing a more active role in serving as an incubator for innovations in requirements for undergraduate majors, enhancing overseas studies and further strengthening undergraduate research opportunities.

Elam received an AB in social studies from Harvard College in 1978 and a PhD in dramatic arts from the University of California-Berkeley in 1984. Prior to joining Stanford as a visiting professor in 1990, Elam was an associate professor at the University of Maryland-College Park.

At Stanford, Elam has served as chair of the Department of Drama, director of the Introduction to Humanities program, director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts and director of the Committee on Black Performing Arts.

Elam's scholarly work focuses on contemporary American drama, particularly African American and Chicano theater. He is author and editor of six books including the Errol Hill Award-winning The Past as Present in the Drama of August Wilson. In 2006, Elam was winner of the Betty Jean Jones Award for Outstanding Teaching from the American Theatre and Drama Society, the winner of the Excellence in Editing Award from the Association of Theatre in Higher Education and the winner of the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Society of Theatre Research. He was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre in April 2006.