Dr. Elizabeth McDermott

Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF) has named Elizabeth McDermott, Ph.D., the new dean of the USF College of Arts & Sciences (CAS). McDermott had served as interim dean for CAS since this past summer.

“Dr. McDermott led a smooth transition as interim dean since last summer, earning respect for her leadership style. We welcome Dean McDermott to this ‘new’ role, and look forward to a vibrant future for CAS and USF,” offered Beth Roth, USF Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

McDermott believes her experiences both as a faculty member and an interim dean helped to prepare her for this new role.

“Teaching introductory courses to first-year students and major courses to juniors and seniors has helped me understand how important it is to mentor students in the College of Arts and Sciences as they achieve their academic and professional goals at USF and beyond. As coordinator of the St. Francis Writers’ Conference, for example, I was able to work individually with students on their conference presentations and offer them practice ahead of a more public presentation opportunity or a prospective publication—both of which are good ways to build a resume,” she said.

“As interim dean of CAS, I collaborated with the Career Success Center and faculty in the College of Health and Business Administration on a Business Panel for USF students and assisted specific departments with arranging student internships when exciting opportunities arose. These experiences helped prepare me for championing the big picture of a USF student’s experience—from the first time they step on campus to attend a SOAR event, until they graduate and apply for jobs or pursue additional schooling,” McDermott added.

While her focus during her role as interim dean was transitory in nature, she now shifts her attention to working more closely with the CAS faculty.

“A primary area of focus as I begin my role will be working with faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences to promote interdisciplinary education so that we continue graduating people who thrive in a rapidly changing workforce. CAS supports the other colleges through our numerous general education offerings, and helping students develop ethical awareness as well as problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking skills, will be an important next step I hope to support through the integration of our general education curriculum,” McDermott said.

McDermott also plans to engage her humanities background to promote the importance and impact that a USF liberal arts education offers to students.

“As a new dean with a background in the humanities, I enjoy ensuring USF students are truly experiencing the College of Arts and Sciences mission, which follows from the university’s Catholic Franciscan nature and educates “the whole person intellectually, morally, spiritually, emotionally, and socially.” It comes somewhat naturally to me to celebrate the College of Arts and Sciences as we work together to educate students across the disciplines while preparing them for degrees and certifications in specific fields. This includes promoting the exciting ways our liberal arts curriculum is already educating our students, which includes trips to the Art Institute and performance opportunities, alongside finding ways to further integrate a liberal arts curriculum with the professional preparation desired by today’s employers,” she said.

McDermott added that the individualized and personalized experiences available to USF students demonstrate the university’s mission-based focus.

“We offer students a very personalized experience that is nearly impossible to come by at larger institutions. USF students have the opportunity to experience firsthand the exciting ways faculty are serving the Joliet community by participating in service-learning or engaging in cutting-edge research projects as collaborative partners. It’s perhaps part of other institutions’ marketing campaigns that students aren’t just a number, but it’s characteristic of USF’s mission and culture that students are at the forefront of what we do,” McDermott said. 

McDermott joined the University of St. Francis College of Arts and Sciences as a faculty member in the English department in 2016. She is the author of Figure 1 (Pine Row Press), a 2022 finalist for the Foreword Indies and a 2023 finalist for the da Vinci Eye/Eric Hoffer Award. Her chapbook titled How to Leave a Farmhouse (Porkbelly Press), was published in 2015. Her poetry appears in such publications as Pine Row, Tupelo Quarterly, Terrain.org, and Memorious. She’s the recipient of a Distinguished Teaching Award from USF, an Illinois Speaks Micro-Grant from Illinois Humanities, and has served as an editor for various literary magazines and presses. Her degrees include a Bachelor of Arts from Hope College, a Master of Fine Arts from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Chicago.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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