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Jeffrey Runner named dean of the College

June 4, 2017
portrait of Jeffry RunnerJeffrey T. Runner, professor and chair of the Department of Linguistics, will begin his five-year term as dean of the College on July 1. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Jeffrey T. Runner, professor and chair of the Department of Linguistics in the School of Arts and Sciences, has been appointed the next dean of the College in Arts, Sciences and Engineering. He will begin a five-year term beginning July 1, pending final Board of Trustees approval.

Peter Lennie, Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences & Engineering, announced Runner’s appointment, which follows a search co-chaired by Gloria Culver, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Wendi Heinzelman, dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Runner succeeds Richard Feldman, who served as dean of the College for the past decade. Feldman is stepping down and will return to the philosophy faculty following a year of leave in the 2017-18 academic year. The College dean leads the units, programs, and initiatives that serve both the academic and non-academic needs of the undergraduates in Arts, Sciences & Engineering. The dean is responsible for 16 offices and centers that focus on areas including academics, research, undergraduate support and advising, student life, and diversity.

“I am delighted that we have been able to recruit Jeff to succeed Rich Feldman as dean of the College,” said Lennie. “Jeff’s broad experience with, and understanding of, the many dimensions of undergraduate academic and co-curricular life equip him well for success with this large and complex portfolio of responsibilities.”

“The dean of the College is a key leadership role at the University that helps ensure students are successful here and they learn the value of our community,” said Seligman. “I’m delighted that Jeff has accepted this position and I look forward to working with him.”

Runner has been teaching at the University since 1994. He has been a professor of linguistics since 2015, and has held a secondary appointment in Brain and Cognitive Sciences since 2005. He served for many years as a freshman and sophomore pre-major adviser, and has advised many bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. candidates on theses, undergraduate research and independent study projects. In 2006, he received the Goergen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

He was appointed chair of the Department of Linguistics in 2014 and has been a member of the Center for Language Sciences— an interdisciplinary center supporting research and training in natural language—since 1994. He served as CLS director from 2009-14.  He was also director of graduate studies in linguistics from 2015-16, and has been a faculty associate of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies since 2003, serving at different times as its curriculum director, chair of the Curriculum Committee, chair of the Governance Committee and acting director.

Runner currently serves as Faculty Development and Diversity Officer for Arts, Sciences and Engineering, a position that works with University leadership and faculty to develop strategies for greater hiring and retention of underrepresented faculty.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help build on the foundation that Rich and his team have developed over the past decade,” said Runner.  “What makes the College so special is our emphasis on integrating academic and co-curricular experiences to allow students to develop into the thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. I’m interested in enriching students’ classroom experience by increasing opportunities for independent research, community-based learning, and international experience. Diversity and inclusion is a center piece in my vision for the College. We have a growing multicultural campus community—a kind of microcosm of the world outside the College—which can help both domestic and international students to learn to adapt to a multicultural world. I plan to continue to create opportunities for students from all different backgrounds to succeed in the College, to have opportunities to learn—from each other, from our faculty, from the Rochester community, and from the world—and to grow into critical thinkers who can contribute to the larger community in many ways.”

“I’m confident that Jeff will do a great job in this role,” said Feldman. “Over the years, he has been very engaged in the life of the College through many service and leadership roles, and I that know that he cares very deeply about making sure that every Rochester student has the most fulfilling learning experiences while they are here.”

Runner’s research focuses on syntax—the study of the sentence structure in the world’s languages—and his lab uses visual world eye-tracking and other experimental methodologies to examine how sentence structure affects meaning. Experimental syntax uses tools from experimental psycholinguistics to learn more about the ways these structures differ cross-linguistically, as well as to understand how a language’s structures affect how people use and produce their language. Runner’s research has been supported by National Science Foundation since 2002 and he has published in some of the top journals in the field, including Linguistic Inquiry, Cognition, Syntax and Cognitive Science, and in The Blackwell Companion to Syntax.

He received a Ph.D in linguistics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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