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Ayanna Thompson named associate dean of faculty


ASU Professor Ayanna Thompson standing in front of bookshelves
July 25, 2011

Ayanna Thompson, a Shakespeare scholar and professor of English, has been named associate dean of faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.

In this new position, Thompson will serve as the main point of contact for faculty-related issues, including promotion and tenure, annual reviews, faculty awards and mentoring.

“I wanted to have a faculty member in this position at the interface of faculty issues in the college,” said Robert E. Page Jr., the new vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

There are more than 1,100 faculty members in the college.

“Ayanna, coming from the humanities division in the college, brings balance to my background in the sciences,” said Page, an entomologist. “She will oversee P&T and the review process for faculty, organize processes and procedures related to grievances, and assist greatly with hiring priorities and processes.”

Thompson assumed her new duties July 1. She has been at ASU since 2004, when she was hired as an assistant professor in English. Thompson is the president elect of the Faculty Women’s Association at ASU, serving on the board since 2009. She previously served as a senator in the College and Academic Senates. From 2006-2008, Thompson served as a board member of the Institute for Humanities Research at ASU.

Thompson said her new role as associate dean “is one slice of administration that really interests me; to help faculty with the review process.” She already is looking at ways to bring efficiency and improvement to the process.

Thompson, who is an affiliated faculty member in women and gender studies in ASU’s School of Social Transformation, received her doctorate in English and American literature and language from Harvard. She has a master’s degree in English from Sussex University in the U.K. and an undergraduate degree in English from Columbia. She reads ancient Greek and Latin and speaks and reads Spanish.

Her research specialization is Renaissance drama with a focus on issues of race and performance. Currently, Thompson is working with producers from Triumvirate Films in Hollywood on her script “The History of Harold ‘King’ Henry IV: Crabs in a Barrel.” She also is working on a book with ASU English professor David Hawkes on the subject of revenge as a performance model in the Renaissance.

Additionally, Thompson is a co-project director of “The Shakespeare Cognition Research Project: Classical Drama and Perceptions of Race.” This interdisciplinary research group, with scholars in the humanities, social sciences and arts, is looking at audience receptions of nontraditionally cast classical performances.

Thompson is the author of two books, “Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America” (Oxford, 2011) and “Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage” (Routledge, 2008). She also is co-editor of “Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance” (with Scott Newstok) and editor of “Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance.”

Among her many awards, Thompson was recognized last year for undergraduate teaching by the ASU Parents Association. She also is the recipient of the faculty achievement award for “Defining Edge Research” from the Office of the Provost and several mentor of the year awards from the Graduate Scholars of English Association.

In addition to her research and teaching, Thompson is a seminar moderator for the Aspen Institute.