Social Psychologist To Be Dean of the Faculty

Prof. Kathryn Oleson will serve as Reed’s chief academic officer starting in July.

By Chris Lydgate ’90 | January 28, 2020

Prof. Kathryn Oleson, a social psychologist with deep expertise in classroom dynamics, will become Reed’s next dean of the faculty on July 1, 2020.

Prof. Oleson has devoted much of her professional career to finding ways to make the classroom more inclusive—and more effective. She is the author of the forthcoming book Promoting Inclusive Classroom Dynamics in Higher Education: A Research-Based Pedagogical Guide for Faculty and has authored scores of scholarly articles on topics such as social identity theory, unconscious bias, uncertainty, self-doubt, self-handicapping, stereotyping, and even productive procrastination.

“Kathy is an exemplary teacher and scholar who has demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing Reed’s academic program,” said President Audrey Bilger.

Prof. Oleson joined Reed’s psychology department in 1995 and has held numerous leadership roles. She served as the founding director of Reed’s Center for Teaching and Learning, where she developed a program where professors can learn more about the social dynamics on their own classrooms with the help of student consultants. From 2014-2016 (under her leadership), the center held 20 workshops for faculty to strengthen their pedagogy, drawing more than 100 professors from 25 departments. She frequently leads campus workshops on classroom dynamics, unconscious bias, and the use of “productive discomfort.”

“I feel honored to be selected as dean and appreciate the warm reaction from students, alums, staff, faculty, and trustees,” she said. “I am passionate about Reed’s educational mission and I look forward to this opportunity to support and develop our outstanding academic program as Reed responds to the ever-changing demands of higher education.”

Prof. Oleson earned her PhD in social psychology at Princeton University, funded by a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship. She was then a National Institute of Mental Health Postdoctoral Fellow at Ohio State University from 1993 to 1995. 

Since joining Reed, she has taught courses on social psychology, research design and data analysis, interpersonal perception, stereotyping and prejudice, and the social self. She has also taught Intro Psych and Senior Symposium and supervised no fewer than 96 senior theses.

Prof. Oleson will succeed outgoing dean Prof. Nigel Nicholson, who will be returning to the Reed faculty as Walter Mintz Professor of Classics.

Tags: Academics, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, Institutional, Professors