Ari Kelman Named Interim Dean

Portrait photo of UC Davis historian and administrator Ari Kelman
Ari Kelman will serve as interim dean of the College of Letters and Science. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Award-winning historian Ari Kelman to lead college as interim dean.

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter today (Feb. 7) named historian Ari Kelman, an associate dean of the UC Davis College of Letters and Science, to serve as the college’s interim dean starting March 21, 2020.

He has agreed to serve until the campus identifies a permanent successor to Elizabeth Spiller, who steps down March 20 to become executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Kelman, Chancellor’s Leadership Professor of History, has won the Bancroft Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other honors. He is also the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of his teaching and mentoring.

He has been associate dean of Undergraduate Studies and Academic Programs in the College of Letters and Science since 2017. He served as associate vice provost and director of University Honors, in Undergraduate Education, in 2013–14.

Kelman joined UC Davis in 2005. He is the author of Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War (Hill and Wang, 2015), A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard, 2015), and A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans (UC Press, 2003). His books have been recognized nationally, and he is the recipient of the Antoinette Forrester Downing Book Award, the Avery O. Craven Award, the Bancroft Prize, the Tom Watson Brown Book Award, the Robert M. Utley Prize and the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize. Kelman’s essays and articles have appeared in Slate, The Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, Journal of Urban History, The Journal of American History, and many others. The recipient of a 2012 UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award, Kelman received his Ph.D. at Brown University in 1998.

Extensive consultation

Kelman's appointment as interim dean follows a process that brought forward a number of outstanding nominees who agreed to be considered for the role, Hexter said in a message to the Council of Deans and Vice Chancellors. “As part of that process, I consulted with more than 30 chairs, program directors, staff and other members of the Letters and Science community to solicit input on the most important characteristics and attributes of an interim dean," Hexter said. 

“The chancellor and I are convinced that Ari exceeds those aspirations, and we have every confidence that Ari’s leadership will enable the college to continue moving forward during this important transitional period.”

Hexter and Chancellor Gary S. May previously communicated that the recruitment of a new permanent dean will proceed under the direction of the new provost and executive vice chancellor, likely commencing in the 2020–21 academic year. Hexter plans to step down at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

— This article was adapted from an article on the UC Davis News and Information site.