Leadership: Dean Elizabeth Spiller
The UC Davis College of Letters and Science is made up of three powerhouse divisions, each led by a vice dean who is an expert in her field and committed to the success of the College and its people: Alexandra Navrotsky, Mathematical and Physical Sciences; Li Zhang, Social Sciences; and Susan Kaiser, Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies. Together, the dean and vice deans foster collaboration, leading the way in guiding students to learn exemplary complex-problem solving skills and refining their ability to view issues through a diversity of disciplines.
Elizabeth Spiller begins her tenure as dean of the College of Letters and Science on March 6, 2017.
A professor of English, Spiller came to UC Davis from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech; prior to this, she served as associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida State.
At Virginia Tech, Dean Spiller oversaw 12 academic departments and programs, the university’s three ROTC programs and two independent schools, in disciplines that range from English, history, performing arts, and religion and culture, to sociology, political science, and science and technology in society. Her college is also home to the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought, or ASPECT, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program.
She oversaw curricular revisions in undergraduate degree programs, providing support for departments to create majors and minors in such areas as Multimedia Journalism, National Security, Criminology, and Politics, Philosophy and Economics, with additional programs being developed in Public Health, Social Justice, Creative Technologies in Music, Sports Media and Analytics, and Science and Technology Studies. She created a position in enrollment management and curriculum to help departments and faculty develop new courses and integrative minors in the implementation of the university’s new “Pathways” curriculum in liberal studies.
During her time at Virginia Tech, her college achieved a 59 percent increase in applications and a 42 percent increase in incoming freshmen. These were the largest percentage increases at the university and reversed a seven-year decline in enrollment across the college.
She established the Destiny Scholars program, using multiyear pledges to create four-year scholarships for underrepresented and underserved student populations, and initiated a rebranding campaign to focus on the distinctive value of the liberal arts and human sciences at Virginia Tech.
Dean Spiller received a Bachelor of Arts in English literature at Amherst College and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in English and American language and literature at Harvard University. She specializes in early modern literature and culture, with emphasis on the history of reading, and on literature and science.
She is the author of two books: Reading and the History of Race in the Renaissance (2011) and Science, Reading and Renaissance Literature: The Art of Making Knowledge, 1580–1670 (2004), both published by Cambridge University Press. In addition, she edited a two-volume collection, Seventeenth-Century English Recipe Books: Cooking, Physic and Chirurgery (2008). She has twice been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship.