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UW–Madison International Division dean named

April 4, 2023 By Käri Knutson

Frances Vavrus has been named vice provost and dean of the International Division at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

She joined the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2008 and is a professor and associate chair in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development in their College of Education and Human Development. Vavrus has served as chair, associate chair, director of graduate studies, and coordinator of the graduate program in Comparative and International Development Education .

Frances Vavrus

Previously, she was a faculty member for eight years at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York, the largest graduate school of education in the United States, and an Andrew Mellon/Takemi Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropological Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

A UW alum, she received a doctorate from the School of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction with an African studies minor, a master’s from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a bachelor’s from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

“As a proud graduate, I benefited greatly from the international programs and global orientation for which UW is famous,” Vavrus says. “I have carried the Wisconsin Idea with me during my career and look forward to continuing the great work of the International Division by promoting the Wisconsin Idea at home and abroad through the work of students, graduates, faculty and staff.”

Her experience includes developing and leading study abroad programs, increasing the number of international students supported through university fellowships, and serving as the co-principal investigator on a four-year U.S. Agency for International Development project with higher education institutions in Zambia.

“The International Division will benefit greatly from her international experience and scholarship along with her commitment to the Wisconsin Idea,” says Provost Karl Scholz. “We are thrilled to welcome Frances back to campus.”

As a master’s student, Vavrus benefited from a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship for the study of Swahili, a Less Commonly Taught Language, and participated in the Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad to Tanzania, led by UW Professor of African Languages Dr. Magdalena Hauner. As a doctoral student at Wisconsin, she received a Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship to support a year of fieldwork in Tanzania and, upon graduation, taught a course on gender and international development in the International Studies Major.

“I know firsthand the life-changing potential of the international programs and services supported by the International Division,” Vavrus says. “Based on these formative experiences, I have built a commitment to study abroad and area studies into my career.”

She is scheduled to begin Aug. 1 and will succeed Guido Podestá, who stepped down at the end of 2022 after serving for 10 years. Barry Gerhart, Bruce R. Ellig Distinguished Chair and professor of Management and Human Resources in the Wisconsin School of Business, has served as interim vice provost and dean since Jan. 1, 2023.

Ellen Sapega, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese in the College of Letters & Science, chaired a 13-member search-and-screen committee consisting of faculty, academic staff, and students.

“I am delighted that Frances has been named the new vice provost and dean of the International Division,” Sapega says. “She comes to this position with a great deal of experience as well as a clear understanding of where the division currently stands and has many exciting ideas about its future.”

The International Division dean provides leadership to more than 120 faculty and staff across seven units and directs a budget of approximately $60 million. The International Division provides support and services to nearly 7,000 international students per year as well as to 600 faculty and staff. In addition, the division sends more than 2,000 students abroad each year to 200 programs in 60 countries.

Reporting to the provost, the dean/vice provost’s primary roles and areas of responsibility are to serve as the Senior International Officer for UW–Madison and oversee the Institute for Regional and International Studies (including the International Studies Major), International Academic Programs, the International Internship Program, the International Projects Office, the Language Program Office, International Student Services, International Faculty and Staff Services, and the Dean’s Office, which includes International Safety and Security and other units.