Valparaiso University announces Susan VanZanten, Ph.D., will join the Valpo faculty as dean of Christ College — The Honors College, effective July 1, 2018. VanZanten joins the college as its first female dean during its 50th year as an honors college, marking another milestone in the college’s rich history.
In her role as dean, VanZanten will be responsible for the strategic leadership, coordination and guidance of Christ College. She will establish a vision for the college’s future, centered around curricular innovation and ongoing development of the dedicated, accomplished faculty. VanZanten will work closely with faculty to propel the college into the future, remaining dedicated to the cultivation of intellectual, moral and spiritual virtues and fulfilling the University’s mission of preparing students to lead and serve in both church and society.
“Professor VanZanten brings with her an accomplished track record of leadership and innovation, a dedication to scholarship and faculty development and a deeply rooted commitment to Christian higher education,” said Mark L. Biermann, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Susan will play a vital role in the college’s future through curricular development and heightened intellectual exchange, preparing students to pursue their individual callings. I am confident Christ College will continue its long-established tradition of excellence and grow and prosper under her leadership and guidance. Susan possesses the powerful combination of teaching excellence and scholarly accomplishment and she is well-prepared to lead the College in both respects.”
VanZanten has served at Seattle Pacific University since 1993, most recently as professor of English and interim co-chair of the languages, cultures and linguistics department. During her tenure at Seattle Pacific University, she held several leadership positions, including director for the Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development, director of the University Scholars Program, as well as co-director for SERVE (Spiritual and Educational Resources for Vocational Exploration).
“I’m thrilled to be joining the Valparaiso community,” VanZanten said. “Christ College’s focus on the liberal arts; close faculty-student relationships; extensive reading, writing, and discussion; and good hard thinking about life and faith are practices that I highly prize. It’s an honor to enter into this work.”
VanZanten’s accomplished history in private, liberal arts educational settings, leadership experiences and passion for fostering faculty scholarship and supporting educational excellence will shape the college and reinforce the University’s mission, preparing Valpo graduates with the knowledge, character, integrity and wisdom required to improve our world.
Recently, Christ College has experienced a pattern of momentum, with the student body developing into a higher caliber, more diverse community. The College recently underwent a curriculum revision process, ensuring students hailing from all colleges are primed for success both in Christ College and their individual majors.
VanZanten’s expertise lies in African literature, American literature and literary criticism. She is a frequent speaker and writer on both African and American literature, as well as faculty development and Christian higher education. VanZanten currently serves as a senior mentor in the Lilly Graduate Fellows program at Valpo. Her professional memberships include Phi Beta Kappa, Emily Dickinson International Society, Modern Language Association, and the Conference on Christianity and Literature.
VanZanten has published numerous articles, essays and books in both peer-reviewed journals and for the general reader. Her recent books include “Reading a Different Story: A Christian Scholar’s Journey from America to Africa,” “To Mend a Tattered Faith: Devotions with Dickinson” and “Joining the Mission: A Guide for (Mainly) New College Faculty,” for which she was a finalist for the Lilly Fellows Program Book Award. And, among Professor VanZanten’s many honors, is her receipt of the Choice Outstanding Academic Book award for “A Story of South Africa” in 1993.
VanZanten holds a Ph.D. and master of arts from Emory University and a bachelor of arts from Westmont College.
Assistant Dean of Christ College
Anna Stewart joined Valparaiso University in 2012 as a Lilly Postdoctoral Fellow and has taught courses for the English department, Christ College, and the College of Arts & Sciences. Stewart received her B.A. in English and Spanish from the University of South Carolina (with honors from the South Carolina Honors College). She went on to complete her master’s and Ph.D. in English at the University of Texas at Austin, where she focused on African American literature, book history and textual studies, and race and gender studies. Stewart serves as the CC academic advisor and enjoys working with students as they consider opportunities on campus as well as competitive fellowships, graduate programs, and other possibilities beyond their undergraduate education.
Assistant to the Dean
Patrice Weil received a B.A. from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, with a double major in English and secondary education and an M.S. in education from Indiana University. She coordinates functions of the Christ College Dean’s Office, including new student recruitment, college development efforts, and co-curricular student programming. Her professional interests include student academics and affairs, honors education, and writing.
Sharon Dybel provides valuable administrative support to both the CC Dean’s staff and the CC faculty. She implements and monitors programs, procedures and policies that enhance the workflow of the College. Sharon additionally assists with the CC Freshman Program.