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May 18, 2006

Georges Van Den Abbeele named dean of humanities

By Scott Rappaport

Georges Van Den Abbeele, a scholar of French literature and philosophy with a wide expertise in public humanities programs and education, has been named the new dean of the UCSC Humanities Division, effective July 1.

Photo of Georges Van Den Abbeele
Georges Van Den Abeele
Photo courtesy of UC Davis

Van Den Abbeele will come to Santa Cruz from UC Davis, where he is a professor of French and Italian and has held a number of significant administrative appointments overseeing academic departments and directing local and regional interdisciplinary research centers.

Since 1997, Van Den Abbeele has been the director of the Davis Humanities Institute, a campuswide unit established to foster and support humanistically oriented research by UC Davis faculty. He also directs the Pacific Regional Humanities Center, one of nine regional humanities centers established in 2002 through a National Endowment for the Humanities competition. The center generates, convenes, and brokers humanities research and programs for the states along the West Coast, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the U.S. Pacific Territories.

Van Den Abbeele has also served as president of the Western Humanities Alliance, a growing consortium of 23 West Coast universities, since he was elected in 1999. He is currently a professor of French and Italian on the UC Davis faculty and was chair of the university’s Department of French and Italian between 1997 and 2001. Both before (1993-97) and after (2000 to present) his chair appointment, he also served as the director of the Humanities Program at Davis, where he engaged faculty from across the Davis campus in developing and teaching a wide range of interdisciplinary courses for freshmen and sophomores.

“Georges Van Den Abbeele is an ideal choice to provide quality academic leadership and administrative direction for the UC Santa Cruz Humanities Division,” noted Chancellor Denice D. Denton. “His extensive background and experience will help the campus expand its interdisciplinary programs and ongoing innovative research in the humanities.”

Van Den Abbeele will succeed Gary Lease, who has served as interim dean of humanities since September of 2004.

“UC Santa Cruz is a wondrous exception in today's higher education--a distinguished research university that consistently maintains a high premium on learning for its own sake, whether through classroom teaching or scholarly inquiry,” Van Den Abbeele said. “I am extraordinarily proud and honored to continue building the most dynamic humanities faculty in the country.”

Van Den Abbeele earned his B.A. from Reed College in 1976, and his Ph.D. in Romance Studies from Cornell University in 1981. He began his academic career at UCSC, when he was appointed as visiting assistant professor of literature in 1981, and was promoted to associate professor in 1985. He joined the faculty at Ohio’s Miami University in 1986, before accepting an appointment in 1991 as associate professor at UC Davis.

Van Den Abbeele has published more than 35 scholarly articles and has guest-edited several recent special issues of scholarly journals related to public policy and humanities education. He is the author of Travel as Metaphor: From Montaigne to Rousseau (University of Minnesota Press, 1992), and currently has two new books in progress: The Retreat of the French Intellectual and The Children of Belgium: Myths of Failed National Identity. Van Den Abbeele is also coeditor of 2003’s A World of Fables, a collection of traditional fables spanning the globe, and French Civilization and its Discontents: Nationalism, Colonialism, Race.

UCSC’s Division of Humanities has three alumni MacArthur “Genius” recipients, 13 faculty Guggenheim Fellows, plus 27 faculty and 38 alumni who have received Fulbright awards. Its linguistics doctoral program was ranked in the nation’s Top Ten by the National Research Council, and the campus is internationally known for its groundbreaking Department of Feminist Studies. The division’s Dickens Project is additionally recognized as the premier center for Dickens studies in the world and is one of the leading sites for research on 19th-century British culture.

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