Scholz named dean of College of Letters & Science

June 4, 2013

by Susannah Brooks

Photo: Scholz

John Karl Scholz will succeed Gary Sandefur as the dean of the College of Letters & Science.

Photo: Jeff Miller

John Karl Scholz, Nellie June Gray Professor of Economic Policy and chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been selected as the next dean of the College of Letters & Science, UW-Madison’s largest academic unit.

Scholz will succeed Gary Sandefur, who has led Letters & Science since 2004. Sandefur, a sociologist, will spend the next year on research leave before returning to the faculty.

“Karl is an outstanding academic and colleague whose wide-ranging experience will continue to be an asset,” says Interim Chancellor David Ward. “We are fortunate that the leadership of the College of Letters & Science will remain in such capable hands.”

Incoming chancellor Rebecca Blank, who will begin her appointment in mid-to-late July, also praised Scholz’s selection. Both Blank and Scholz are economists who have worked in intersecting areas.

“I am extremely pleased to begin my tenure at the same time Karl takes on this crucial leadership role,” says Blank. “I have long respected his work.  He is passionate about the value of a liberal arts education, and I know that he will bring insight and energy to his new position.”

Scholz, who has led his department since 2011, came to UW-Madison in 1988 after receiving his doctorate from Stanford University. A former director of UW-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty, his studies include work on household saving, the earned income tax credit and low-wage labor markets, financial barriers to higher education and bankruptcy laws. He co-edits the American Economic Journal – Economic Policy and is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Previously, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department and senior staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisors.

“The faculty, staff and students in the College of Letters & Science do remarkable things,” says Scholz. “It’s an honor to take over for Gary Sandefur, who has provided great leadership over the last eight years. I’m excited about working with campus colleagues and outside stakeholders to build on his legacy, preserving and enhancing our research and teaching excellence while navigating the challenges facing higher education.”

Jeff Hardin, professor and chair of zoology, chaired the 17-member search and screen committee, which recommended the finalists to Provost Paul M. DeLuca Jr. and Ward.

The College of Letters & Science provides the liberal arts foundation for the university at all levels of study. It confers nearly half of all UW-Madison degrees (including 57 percent of undergraduate degrees in 2011-12) and teaches more than 60 percent of all UW-Madison credit hours, including 84 percent of all freshman and sophomore credits.

The dean oversees more than 3,100 faculty and staff positions across 39 departments, 22 interdisciplinary programs, 70 research centers and institutes, and five professional schools. In 2011-12, the college received $105.1 million in federal research awards, second only to the School of Medicine and Public Health.