With Meredith Jung-En Woo’s term approaching its conclusion in May 2014, the University of Virginia plans to launch a search for a new dean for the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
Woo, the Buckner W. Clay Dean of Arts & Sciences, joined the U.Va. faculty in the summer of 2008, and is currently in her sixth year in the role after extending her original appointment by a year. After a sabbatical when her term ends, Woo plans to return to the College and focus full-time on teaching and research.
She and her leadership team have led the creation of new programs and efforts to distinguish the College’s offerings at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as broadening its presence globally. Annual philanthropic support for the College nearly tripled during this time, from $24 million in 2009-2010 to over $62 million in 2012-2013.
“Meredith Woo has elevated the College during her time here and positioned it to meet the opportunities ahead,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “I am grateful for the momentum she created and for the successes she and her leadership team spearheaded.”
Woo said her initial challenges included a focus on creating an effective structure of finance and management, as well as fundraising – both of which support research and teaching.
“I am proud to say that we have done it. This year the College is recruiting over 50 new faculty members,” she said. “We have also done extremely well in retaining top faculty, with an annual retention rate of approximately 75 percent.”
As the University’s intellectual core, the College comprises more than 12,000 students and more than 700 faculty members. Offering more than 50 undergraduate majors and concentrations and more than two dozen graduate programs, Arts & Sciences spans the liberal arts and incorporates the social sciences and sciences.
Woo’s contributions across such an expansive and critical component of the University helped earn her recognition from her peers as the winner of the 2013 Elizabeth Zintl Award from the U.Va. Women’s Center. The award goes annually to a female employee at U.Va. who demonstrates professionalism, creativity and commitment.
Woo also has earned a reputation as a particularly effective communicator with College alumni, frequently engaging them on the issues facing the University, higher education and society in general.
“My colleagues and I appreciate the energy, enthusiasm and expertise that Dean Woo brought to bear in our efforts to build a stronger foundation for the future,” said Peter D. Brundage, a 1975 graduate and president of the College Foundation. “She has thoughtfully and skillfully provided the appropriate direction and priorities and as a result we have accomplished much under her leadership.”
Woo and her team have continued to move the College forward in a challenging environment for all of higher education. During this time, the College comprehensively restructured the graduate programs, significantly improving fellowship offerings and guaranteeing five years of financial support for all doctoral students. The College also established the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, with support of the Mellon Foundation and the Asia Institute. The Quantitative Collaborative, an effort to encourage diversity of approaches to complex social problems, was also launched during her term.
Woo’s efforts have helped broaden interaction between undergraduate students and faculty, exemplified by the interdisciplinary “Pavilion Seminars” and the expansion of the first-year advising seminars known as COLA.
Under her leadership, the College saw tremendous enhancement of facilities supporting teaching and research. New facilities include South Lawn, Physical and Life Sciences Building, Ruffin Hall, Smith Rehearsal Building, and the Ruth Caplin Theatre. The renovation of New Cabell Hall will be completed in the spring.
Before joining U.Va., Woo served as professor of political science and associate dean for the social sciences in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan. She previously taught at Northwestern University.
A native of Seoul who was educated in Seoul and Tokyo through high school, she came to the United States to study at Bowdoin College in Maine. She completed her master’s and doctoral degrees in international affairs, Latin American studies, and political science at Columbia University.