Carl W. Lejuez, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at University of Kansas, has been selected as the next provost and executive vice president for academic affairs of the University of Connecticut, UConn President Thomas C. Katsouleas announced Wednesday.
Lejuez had served since April 2018 as the university’s interim provost and executive vice chancellor before returning in February to his current position. He previously was professor of psychology and associate dean of research for the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland.
Lejuez was selected after a nationwide search for UConn’s chief academic officer. He will begin at UConn on May 29.
“Carl’s experience as a seasoned provost and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Kansas prepares him well to lead us creatively and nimbly through the challenges of returning to a new normal after COVID-19,” Katsouleas said. “He impressed all constituencies through the extensive interview process with his values, integrity and energy, and I am delighted to have Carl’s leadership and partnership as our next provost.”
Katsouleas said the university plans to schedule a “virtual meet and greet” online later this spring to introduce Lejuez to the community, since most in-person opportunities must wait until the current COVID-19 pandemic threat passes and larger groups are allowed to congregate again.
“In a time of unprecedented crisis and uncertainty, the role of community has never been more important. With this in mind, I am honored beyond words to join the University of Connecticut as provost,” Lejuez said. “As a leading public research university, UConn excels in educating students and making discoveries that improve the world. I am excited to work with President Katsouleas and the university community to advance this mission, particularly in difficult times such as these.”
Lejuez’s attributes make him an ideal fit for UConn, Katsouleas said, including his experience leading a major research enterprise at University of Maryland and his strong commitments to inclusion, diversity, and breaking down barriers to provide wide access to opportunities for people from all economic and demographic realms.
“As a first generation student in college himself, Carl has a personal appreciation for being inclusive of all groups who have not traditionally been represented in the life of the University,” Katsouleas said.
UConn’s tremendous national and global reach, along with its crucial role within the state of Connecticut, make it a special institution, Lejuez said.
“The people of Connecticut rely on UConn to provide a transformative experience for students, to create healthier communities, and to drive economic growth and prosperity in the state. I look forward to partnering with the UConn community and external stakeholders statewide to enhance the way we do these things,” he said.
Lejuez also earned praise at the University of Kansas as a quick study who is unfailingly personable and able to quickly adapt to change, using his research background to examine all aspects of an issue and consider solutions.
“I am delighted for Carl to have been chosen for this leadership role at the University of Connecticut, and I know he will do great work for the university,” said KU Chancellor Douglas A. Girod. “Here at KU, he has proven to be a tremendous leader, a prolific scholar, and a wonderful colleague.”
Girod said Lejuez approaches his work with passion and enthusiasm, which inspires those around him.
“He is a steadfast advocate for public education and the university’s ability to improve the world through research,” Girod added. “He cares deeply about people and is unwavering in his belief in the university’s obligation to support its most vulnerable populations. These are admirable instincts that will continue to serve him well in his new role. Congratulations to UConn on bringing a terrific leader to your university.”
Lejuez’s research interests include mood disorders, addictions, mental health interventions or marginalized and underserved populations, and a range of related topics. At Maryland, he founded and led the Center for Addictions, Personality and Emotions Research. Before joining Maryland, he was an assistant research professor at Brown University, and he also has served as an adjunct faculty member at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven.
Those interests also made him an attractive candidate for the UConn provost’s position, Katsouleas said, noting that similar research is conducted at UConn Storrs, UConn Health and the regional campuses.
Lejuez has received grant funding from several sources for his research and is widely published, having also served on several editorial boards and having been a founding editor of the publication “Personality Disorders: Theory, Research and Treatment.” Moreover, he is the co-editor of the Cambridge University Press Handbook of Personality Disorders, due out later this spring.
He holds his M.A. and Ph.D., both in clinical psychology, from West Virginia University; and earned his B.A. in psychology from Emory University. He has strong family and professional connections at UConn and across Connecticut and, as a native of Secaucus, N.J., he said the move to UConn feels in many ways like a personal homecoming.
“Though I am just now getting started in my new role, I already feel at home at UConn because of the passionate students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends that make up the proud Husky family,” he said. “It is a wonderful feeling that I know will only grow stronger with each day on the job.”
Lejuez, whose name is pronounced like “lezsch-way,” is the first generation in his family to attend college, an accomplishment that he has in common with one of every four UConn students.
He will be joined in Connecticut by his wife, Sara Valinejad Lejuez. Sara was an executive producer for many years at Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe, where she oversaw programs providing objective and accurate news and other original programming to Iran, where she was raised and lived until moving in 1995 to the U.S.
Lejuez has other strong UConn links as well: His two nieces Corinne Simek Collins (CLAS ’03) and Stephanie Simek DiCicco (CLAS ’09) are UConn alums and met their future husbands on campus, former Huskies and Green Bay Packers football player Thomas Collins (BUS ’03) and Daniel DiCicco (CLAS ’10), respectively. In addition, his sister and brother-in-law, the parents of Lejuez’s nieces, are diehard Huskies fans, he said.
Lejuez was among a competitive national pool of applicants for the UConn provost’s position, which has been held on an interim basis since March 2019 by John A. Elliott, dean of UConn’s School of Business and Auran J. Fox Chair in Business. Elliott, who was not a candidate for the permanent position, plans to return to the dean’s position at the business school following his departure from the provost’s office.
“I cannot thank John enough for his excellent leadership as interim provost over the past year,” Katsouleas said. “His thoughtful and calming leadership style has been a key stabilizing influence during the presidential transition and will continue to be as we navigate the remainder of the semester and weather its unprecedented challenges together.”
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