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Tromp brings unique perspective to New College dean's office

Marlene Tromp
September 17, 2013

From first-generation college student to college dean at a major research university, Marlene Tromp has viewed the higher education experience from multiple perspectives. As her career has progressed, she has maintained a commitment to scholarship and service that will serve her well in her new role.

Tromp became dean of ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on July 1. New College, the core college on ASU’s West campus, attracts significant numbers of students who, like Tromp, represent the first generation in their family to attend a university.

“I value all of our students and I feel fortunate that I can support our first-generation students with knowledge born from experience,” Tromp said. “I know the special challenges that first-generation college students often face when others in their families don’t understand what they are experiencing in a university environment, and the personal and professional rewards they ultimately will reap from their work toward a bachelor’s degree.”

She sees those rewards as being especially significant for students in New College, who enjoy a nationally unique experience that combines an elite liberal arts college setting with the resources of a major university.

“We bring together the best of both a small-college experience, with its close personal relationships, and a top-tier research university, with its cutting-edge research faculty,” Tromp said. “Most small colleges simply don’t have the exceptional faculty records that we have at New College. And our faculty members offer something really exciting for students because they work across old disciplinary boundaries to produce the innovative research on which others just report.”

Tromp has extensive experience in a liberal arts college environment, having spent nearly 12 years at Denison University in Ohio before coming to ASU in 2011 to direct New College’s School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies (SHArCS).

While serving as director of SHArCS, she developed a campus-wide series focusing on the theme “War and Peace,” collaboratively created an innovative New College writing program and developed a faculty writing support program. Tromp also serves on the ASU-wide Project Humanities Advisory Committee.

Tromp said she will continue to support and encourage the interdisciplinary spirit that New College faculty members have infused into the curriculum.

“For example, students think about law in their psychology classes and real-world problems in their math courses,” she said. “They don’t just learn one mode of artistic expression, but a range – video, sound, movement, performance, even video game design – and ask, as our faculty teach them: ‘In what mode should this concept be born?’”

New College backs up its talk of commitment to outstanding student experiences through programs including NCUIRE, which pays undergraduate students a stipend to work collaboratively with faculty members across the college on research projects.

“From guided team research with a faculty member to independent research supervised by a faculty member, NCUIRE offers our students the chance to do work that is often available only to graduate students,” she said. Numerous NCUIRE projects have led students to become co-authors of papers in prestigious refereed academic journals and to travel to conferences to present the results of their work.

Tromp sees the telling of the New College success story as a key part of her mission as dean. “I also am committed to providing all the support I can to the faculty in their research and teaching endeavors, and to make sure our students have all the support networks they need to be successful,” she said.

“I would describe Marlene’s leadership as visionary, collaborative and empowering,” said Majia Nadesan, professor of communication and associate dean in New College. “She is very collaborative in her decision-making and her proposals aim to empower students, staff and faculty to enrich their knowledge and day-to-day experiences.”

Added Nadesan, “Marlene has a strong vision for the future of New College as a liberal arts institution that combines the best of the liberal arts experience with the expertise of a world-class research institution. The vision isn’t just hers. I believe it reflects the way New College sees itself.”

Tromp describes herself as having a passion for work in academic administration, but not because she wants to be able to tell people what to do. “I love my job because it provides the opportunity to serve many people at once,” she said.

Her own academic career started at Creighton University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in English. Tromp then returned to her native state of Wyoming to earn a masters's in English from the University of Wyoming. She received her doctorate in English from the University of Florida.

Tromp’s commitment to continue as an active scholar while serving as dean was in evidence during a recent visit to the National Archive in London, where she conducted research on unsolved murder cases from 19th century Britain.

Tromp is a well-published scholar on 19th century literature and culture. She is the author of the books “Altered States: Sex, Nation, Drugs, and Self-Transformation in Victorian Spiritualism” and “The Private Rod: Sexual Violence, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England.” She also edited or co-edited and contributed to “Fear and Loathing: Victorian Xenophobia,” “Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in the Nineteenth Century” and “Mary Elizabeth Braddon: Beyond Sensation.”

Her many professional activities include serving as vice president of the board of directors for the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association and on the board of directors for the North American Victorian Studies Association, as well as membership in the International Narrative Association, the Modern Language Association and the National College Teachers of English.

“One of the strengths of ASU is that it’s typical for our academic administrators to continue to be active scholars,” Tromp said. “This is not the case nationally.”

She is following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Elizabeth Langland, who chose to leave the dean’s office after six years of service, but who continues her scholarly work as an ASU professor.

“New College has grown in strength and size under the clear-sighted and able leadership of Elizabeth Langland over the last six years, and now we are poised to share our message with students across the country who are yearning for a chance to have the remarkable experience we offer,” Tromp said.

“Marlene Tromp has brought to ASU a commitment to great teaching, as well as academic leadership that extends across the disciplines,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow in announcing Tromp’s selection for the dean’s position. “With Marlene as dean, New College is well-positioned to further enhance its academic programs and to move into new and exciting areas.”

New College offers programs of study from across the sciences, humanities and social sciences. In addition to the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, New College includes the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences and the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.