back to news Jan. 14, 2021

Susan Williams appointed chair of English

Professor Susan Williams has been appointed chair of the Department of English, effective January 2021 through June 2024, pending approval of the Ohio State Board of Trustees.

Williams, who has been on the English faculty since 1991, brings to the role a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the department, college and university. She served as vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2014 to 2018, during which time she built a faculty affairs office, implemented several new faculty awards, provided significant support to chairs and directors, and created clearer processes for faculty navigating promotion and tenure. She also served as vice provost for academic policy and faculty resources in the Office of Academic Affairs from 2009 to 2014. In this university leadership role, she managed promotion and tenure policies across the university and oversaw changes in faculty rules and policies.

As she begins her term as chair, Williams will draw on her decade of administrative leadership experience to connect the work of the Department of English to the college, university and beyond. The Department of English has a presence across all of Ohio State’s campuses and, in addition to its own undergraduate major and minors, is a cornerstone of undergraduate education at Ohio State through its first-year writing course. At the graduate level, the department offers three degree programs as well as a graduate minor and several interdisciplinary specializations. Williams also will place an emphasis on advancing research and interdisciplinary excellence and ensuring students in the department have the best experience they can.

“I am honored to be chairing English and appreciate the confidence my colleagues and the college have placed in me to assume the role at this pivotal time,” Williams says. “I look forward to advancing our departmental commitment to being a national leader that shows the importance of research and teaching in the humanities, with an emphasis on racial justice and navigating the challenges before us.”  

Williams is a scholar of 19th century American literature and author of Confounding Images: Photography and Portraiture in Antebellum American Fiction (1997) and Reclaiming Authorship: Literary Women in America, 1850-1900 (2006). She is the recipient of the Ohio State Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Ohio State Faculty Award for Distinguished University Service, The Founder's Award of the Ohio State Academy of Teaching, and grants and fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Coca-Cola Critical Difference for Women fund and the American Council for Learned Societies.

She becomes chair of the department following Robyn Warhol, Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of English, who concluded her extended term of service on Dec. 31 after leading the department since 2016. Warhol led the department in increasing first-year applicants to the English major, launching a new department website, developing courses for the new General Education curriculum and navigating the myriad disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Warhol will spend the spring semester working on her innovative digital media project, “Reading Like a Victorian,” before returning to teaching in fall 2021.