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New Dean Chosen for College of General Studies

Natalie McKnight named to post after serving as interim dean

Boston University BU, College of General Studies CGS, dean Natalie McKnight

Natalie McKnight, the new dean of the College of General Studies, says her main goal will be to continue to enhance the reputation of CGS. Photo by Frank Curran

Natalie McKnight, who for the past year has served as interim dean of BU’s College of General Studies, has been named dean by President Robert A. Brown and Jean Morrison, University provost. The announcement follows a series of meetings Morrison held with CGS faculty earlier this summer and a comprehensive review of McKnight’s performance during the past year.

“We are very pleased to formally welcome Dean McKnight to this new role,” says Morrison. “She is a proven scholar, and by every measure she performed exceptionally well in her interim role over the last year, both in continuing to enhance the CGS program and in further garnering the respect of faculty and staff. We believe strongly in her ability to guide the College of General Studies and look forward to following her success.”

McKnight, a member of the CGS faculty since 1990, has held a number of key leadership positions within the college. She was chair of the humanities division from 1997 to 2011 and associate dean for faculty research and development from 2011 to 2013. During the latter period, she was also director of the CGS Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning.

As dean, McKnight will oversee the second largest undergraduate college at BU, with approximately 1,150 students. “Our greatest strength is that we offer the close student-teacher interactions of a small, private liberal arts college, but within the context of a major research university,” says McKnight. “Students get the best of both worlds—a great sense of community and connection, but also the opportunity to work with professors on research projects that lead to conference presentations and publication.”

McKnight says her chief goal as dean will be to continue to enhance the reputation of CGS, both “within and beyond BU.

“We want to continue spreading the word about the excellent undergraduate education and experience we offer,” she says. “I find that even within BU, there are still a lot of people who don’t have a clear sense of the nature of the college, so we need to continue to educate our colleagues.”

Part of that process, McKnight, says, will involve integrating CGS more fully into the BU community at large. “For over 60 years, we have sent our students into other colleges at BU to finish the last two years of their undergraduate degrees, but we would like to see the exchange between BU colleges go both ways.” For the past several years students enrolled in other BU schools have been able to sign up for CGS courses, she says, and the college is currently developing general education courses that she believes will be of “particular interest to students in the professional schools.”

McKnight points to several CGS initiatives, including its Capstone project—a group research project completed by sophomores—and its e-Portfolio program, which serves as a self-assessment and career tool for students, as examples of ways the college has enhanced its national and international reputation as a leader in general education.

Among her other goals is renovation of the four CGS teaching labs, which have not been refurbished in nearly 40 years. McKnight says the project “will produce a very dynamic and attractive new science center that many BU students will be able to benefit from.” She also plans to continue honing CGS’s assessment methods to gauge the effectiveness of its new January freshman program. Another priority on her agenda will be to increase funding for student scholarships and other kinds of financial aid.

An expert on Victorian fiction and a noted scholar of Charles Dickens, McKnight is the author of several books, including Idiots, Madmen, and Other Prisoners in Dickens and Suffering Mothers in Mid-Victorian Novels, and coauthor and editor of Fathers in Victorian Literature. She is also the current coeditor of Dickens Studies Annual and archivist of the Dickens Quarterly. She says she also hopes to continue doing directed studies with students and overseeing some undergraduate research projects.

McKnight holds a bachelor’s degree in English and drama from Washington College, a master’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD in English and American literature from the University of Delaware.

How has McKnight’s year as interim dean helped her prepare for her new appointment? “I think I’m learning to approach all projects and changes more strategically,” she says. “And my appreciation for the strengths of this University, which was already strong, has also grown as I’ve become more aware of the excellent research and teaching being done in the other colleges.”

john o'rourke, editor, bu today
John O’Rourke

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.

10 Comments on New Dean Chosen for College of General Studies

  • Anne DiNoto on 09.26.2014 at 6:27 am

    Congrats Natalie!

  • Robin Olson on 09.26.2014 at 7:43 am

    Congratulations to Dean McKnight and to CGS! An excellent choice!!

  • John Battaglino on 09.26.2014 at 8:30 am

    So happy for Dean McKnight and for our students at CGS. FANTASTIC news!!!

    Congratulations Natalie!!

  • Vika Zafrin on 09.26.2014 at 8:58 am

    Congratulations, Dr. McKnight! So excited for your continued leadership.

  • Judith Simpson on 09.26.2014 at 9:25 am

    Congratulations, Natalie. Your appointment is well deserved.

  • Peri Onipede on 09.26.2014 at 10:21 am

    Natalie, this is fantastic…Congratulations!!!

  • Jeffery Vail on 09.26.2014 at 12:41 pm

    Congratulations Natalie! I am so happy for you and our college!

  • Robert J. Alessi on 09.26.2014 at 1:42 pm

    Congratulations to Dean McKnight, to Boston University adminsitrators (for an excellent choice), and to the students at BU. Our oldest graduated last spring from BU CAS and Comm and our youngest is a sophmore in CGS. We are very pleased with BU, and are big BU fans. When we heard and saw Dean McKnight speak to us and our fellow parents of incoming CGS students a few years ago at BU, we were immediately impressed with her scholarly credentials, presentation skills, and overall persona. She and the choice is most impressive. Keep it going BU!

  • Tim Hegan on 09.26.2014 at 4:22 pm

    Congratulations and Best Wishes in your new position as Dean of the College of General Studies!

  • Gerald Collins on 04.26.2016 at 12:19 pm

    When I was student at CLA, the CGS ( CBS) was looked down upon and names like BU junior college or college fore later bloomers. But many of the students went on and did well such as Howard Stern. The GPA’s are much higher now. The smaller classes are appealing.

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