Rackham Graduate School welcomes Catherine Sanok as associate dean for academic programs and initiatives. Her appointment was approved today by the U-M Board of Regents. As associate dean, Sanok will have responsibility for relationships with Rackham programs in the humanities and the arts.
In her new position at Rackham, Sanok will work closely with master’s and Ph.D. degree-granting programs to promote academic excellence, cross-unit partnership, student recruitment, graduate career outcomes, and improved campus climate and student experience. In collaboration with Rackham partners, Sanok will lead initiatives that advance the vision and major goals of the graduate school.
Sanok says many of the challenges currently facing graduate education in the humanities and the arts can be turned into crucial opportunities.
“I’m eager to support important Rackham initiatives for career exploration and public-facing scholarship at a moment when the creative and imaginative work of graduate students in the arts and the skills honed by humanities Ph.D. students—sustained attention to complex cultural issues, an understanding of the past as it bears on the present and the future, and analysis of the modes and media of expression, representation, and communication—are necessary to addressing some of the big challenges the world faces today,” she explains.
Sanok’s research has focused on women’s participation in medieval English literary culture, the role of religious narrative in sustaining and challenging gendered norms, medieval historiography and ideas of history, and the use of literary form to map and imagine religious and secular communities at different scales. She has authored two books, co-edited an essay collection, published 20 academic articles, and delivered 16 keynote or invited lectures related to her work.
“I am especially drawn to the way that the Rackham team works collaboratively across divisions to tackle core challenges facing graduate students and graduate programs.”
In English Language and Literature, she has served as the director of the English Honors Program (from 2009 to 2011), director of undergraduate studies (from 2015 to 2017), director of graduate studies (from 2017 to 2019), and as interim associate chair since January 2023. Among her many service contributions at the university, Professor Sanok was a member of the Rackham Graduate Mentoring Awards Committee in both 2022 and 2023. She has also served as the dissertation chair for seven students and as a dissertation committee member for 21 others.
Beyond the university, she served on several committees and advisory boards, including the Modern Language Association Committee on Scholarly Editions and the editorial board of Exemplaria, a peer-reviewed journal covering the Middle Ages and early modern period, in addition to conducting manuscript reviews for multiple university presses and grant reviews for organizations including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Her dedication to her work, her students, and her peers has repeatedly been recognized by her colleagues and institutions, including twice being the recipient of the Michigan Humanities Award, as well as the John Dewey Award for Commitment to Undergraduate Education, a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, and the Medieval Academy of America’s Van Courtland Elliott Prize.
“I look forward to working with Professor Sanok to develop initiatives in collaboration with our program partners around campus that support and enhance graduate scholarship, teaching, and education in the humanities and the arts,” Rackham Dean Mike Solomon says. “Her accomplishments and insights as a scholar, educator, and mentor will prove essential as we continue to advance new directions in graduate education.”
Sanok looks forward to building and enhancing collaboration between Rackham, graduate students, faculty, and programs across the humanities and the arts to advance the core initiatives of the Rackham strategic vision, particularly ensuring that the insights and innovations being developed at Rackham are shared effectively across the university community.
“I am especially drawn to the way that the Rackham team works collaboratively across divisions to tackle core challenges facing graduate students and graduate programs,” Sanok says. “With its student-facing orientation, Rackham plays an essential role in supporting graduate students and partnering with programs to ensure that all students have an opportunity to thrive. This involves attending to students’ well-being, thinking about the kinds of community and mentoring they need to be successful, creating pathways to fulfilling careers, and especially prioritizing an inclusive, supportive climate for all students.”
Sanok earned her undergraduate degree in English from Yale University in 1992, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1995 and 1999, respectively. After serving as an assistant professor at the University of Washington, she joined the faculty of the U-M Department of English Language and Literature as an assistant professor in 2001, and was made an affiliate faculty member of the U-M Department of Women’s and Gender Studies by courtesy in 2003. She was promoted to associate professor in 2007 and to professor in 2018.