Date December 1, 2021
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Kevin McLaughlin to complete extended term as Brown’s dean of the faculty

The accomplished dean and professor, who oversaw the creation of renowned academic centers and recruited world-class faculty, will return to research and to teaching English, comparative literature and German studies after a sabbatical.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — After more than a decade of accomplished service, Kevin McLaughlin will finish his extended term as Brown University’s dean of the faculty effective June 30, 2022, and complete a sabbatical before returning to the faculty as a professor of English, comparative literature and German studies.

During his 11 years as dean, McLaughlin collaborated with University and academic department leaders to grow and diversify the faculty and worked tirelessly to enhance the academic strength of departments, centers and institutes across campus. In a Tuesday, Nov. 30, letter to the Brown community, Provost Richard M. Locke said he was honored to have worked with McLaughlin in the role and will miss his leadership. 

“Kevin has been a longstanding presence on Brown’s senior leadership team and has been a tireless advocate for faculty,” Locke said. “He leaves an enduring legacy and impact on our institution, and I am endlessly grateful for his contributions over the last 11 years. Kevin richly deserves our gratitude for his remarkable service and our best wishes for his future endeavors.”

As dean, McLaughlin worked to establish innovative interdisciplinary academic centers, including the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice in 2012. Photos by Nick Dentamaro

Through the course of McLaughlin’s tenure, the number of regular faculty under the dean of the faculty grew from 517 to 609, the largest expansion of the faculty ranks in Brown’s history. Among those faculty, the number from historically underrepresented groups increased by more than 130%.

McLaughlin helped the University create post-tenure sabbaticals, “regularized” many long-serving temporary faculty into permanent lecturer positions with benefits, and reduced the teaching load in the humanities and qualitative social sciences from four to three courses per year. Each of those efforts highlights his work to ensure equitable treatment of faculty across disciplines and demographic lines, and to build and maintain an inclusive environment for faculty, staff and students across the University.

McLaughlin played a key role in enhancing and launching a number of signature academic entities at Brown, including the Cogut Institute for the Humanities, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.

“Each of these centers has had a significant impact at Brown and in an international context where Brown is a recognized leader,”  McLaughlin said. “I have been very fortunate to have been able to collaborate with outstanding colleagues to build an environment  for innovative interdisciplinary research and education.”

McLaughlin first arrived at Brown in 1996 as an assistant professor of English, rising to the position of associate professor of English and comparative literature with tenure in 2000 and full professor in 2003.  He was named the George Hazard Crooker Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and German Studies in 2012. McLaughlin was appointed dean of the faculty in 2011 by then-president Ruth Simmons; in addition to assuming  his new responsibilities as dean, he also continued his scholarship, publishing two books and teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses on 19th-century European literature and philosophy.

“ I have seen Brown really change a lot over the past three decades .... We developed a focused and reasonable — yet very  ambitious — set of goals, and we’ve largely achieved those goals as of 2021.

The University is absolutely stronger today than when I first arrived. ”

Kevin McLaughlin Dean of the Faculty

“I have seen Brown really change a lot over the past three decades,” McLaughlin said. “In the most recent Building on Distinction plan under President Paxson we worked on strategic goals for several years starting in 2012 within the context of a highly collaborative process. We developed a focused and reasonable — yet very  ambitious — set of goals, and we’ve largely achieved those goals as of 2021. The University is absolutely stronger today than when I first arrived.”

McLaughlin said a crucial part of that success is the University’s culture of intellectual engagement, openness, achievement and mutual respect. Working with faculty across a wide variety of fields in his role as dean, he said he strived to extend those values in all of his interactions.

“A dean must have genuine curiosity about the work that faculty are doing in different areas and openness to the fact that there are lots of ways to think about problems and also about life,” he said. “University administrators must never lose that sense of intellectual engagement in the work of faculty and students. There is important work that can only happen in universities and it is critical that academic leaders recognize and take responsibility for promoting it.”

Locke noted that McLaughlin has been a prolific scholar of literature and philosophy in the 19th century, with a large number of publications including four books, three edited volumes, and essays and articles on a range of topics. He has been the recipient of research grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Program and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst. 

Next summer, McLaughlin will begin a sabbatical year, during which he will be working on a new book project.

“While I will certainly miss his presence and counsel, I am so excited that Kevin has the opportunity to take a sabbatical year and return to his research and teaching,” Locke said.

Locke will lead a search committee in seeking McLaughlin’s successor.