CLAS Expands Diversity and Research Efforts with New Deans

Katharine Capshaw and Lisa Park Boush stand together in the Wilbur Cross Building
Katharine Capshaw, professor of English and CLAS associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion (left); and Lisa Park Boush, professor of geosciences and CLAS associate dean for research and graduate affairs. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Dean Juli Wade of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has named new leaders who will work to strengthen the College’s commitment to two of its core tenets: diversity, equity, and inclusion; and research and graduate student success.

The two associate deans assumed their new roles on January 2.

New Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs Lisa Park Boush spent the last five years leading the transformation of the Center for Integrative Geosciences into the Department of Geosciences.

“It was sort of like pushing a boulder up a hill,” she jokes. “But the secret to its success is that everybody worked on it together. That’s what I want to bring to this role.”

The professor of geosciences formerly served as a program director in the Geoscience Directorate at the National Science Foundation and managed combined budgets of more than $50 million. But she notes that funding and support for research projects looks very different than it did even 10 years ago.

“The research enterprise can be pretty expansive and tricky, and raising money is not easy,” she says. “I want understand the very different sets of circumstances everyone faces.”

As an undergraduate, Park Boush attended the liberal arts program at the College of Wooster, where she studied Russian studies and art history along with her geoscience courses. In her spare time – which she admits “is quite minimal,” she practices plein air painting, and spends time in France each summer working on her portfolio.

She says she appreciates now being in a role where she will be able to “feel the whole elephant” – a reference to the Indian philosophical tale about understanding the broad, whole picture of a subject, instead of just a piece.

Park Boush has plans to implement programming and data collection in line with the CLAS strategic plan. This semester she will coordinate workshops on grant development and book proposal writing. She also hopes to establish a College-level mentoring network for new and seasoned proposal writers, and expand existing panel review processes for national awards, such as CAREER early investigator awards, to other types of grant awards.

Among her first tasks as the College’s first research-focused associate dean, she says, is to visit with faculty and students to understand the issues they face.

“I have been told that I like to build things and fix things, and I definitely like to help people,” she says. “I’m eager to listen and learn, and help people build their programs.”

Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Katharine Capshaw grew up in an interracial, multicultural, and international family built through adoption, and her two sons are from Haiti.

The professor of English says her research program in Black children’s literature stemmed directly from personal experience.

“I study what I study because I grew up in a family that was immersed in Black literature,” she says. “Recognizing what’s been left out [of the American educational experience] is a big reason I do what I do and is where I see opportunity in this role.”

The academy has always privileged certain groups, she notes, and “we need to think hard about what’s been sidelined.”

Capshaw is a former president of the Children’s Literature Association, where she founded the organization’s diversity committee in 2006. The committee created grant and scholarship opportunities, and through the organization Capshaw helped develop mentoring networks and inclusive discussions for minority and women scholars.

Here at UConn, Capshaw founded and leads the minor in diversity studies in American culture. She has also worked on the CLAS Courses and Curricula Committee, the General Education Oversight Committee, and chaired the visioning committee for the 2020-2025 CLAS strategic planning process.

Capshaw notes that true inclusion of underrepresented groups requires both tangible, structural supports and intangible, individual efforts to build community and recognize publicly the intellectual value of others’ work.

Some of her initial goals include establishing mentorship networks for scholars across the College; creating guidelines and procedures for inclusive faculty searches; developing community networks to sustain faculty during their formative first years at UConn; and working on collaborative projects with the incoming UConn Chief Diversity Officer.

Working with others on these issues is the only way to have success, she says, and she believes that everyone in the College should be committed to issues of diversity and inclusion.

“These issues should be a priority in every search, in the curricula, and in our research and undergraduate communities,” she says. “I hope to be the person who can sustain those efforts at the College level.”

Have a question or a comment for our new associate deans? Reach out to them:

Lisa Park Boush: (860) 486-1668, lisa.park_boush@uconn.edu

Kate Capshaw: (860) 486-1202, capshaw@uconn.edu