Melding Arts and Sciences

New dean aims to advance interdisciplinary research and

Headshot of Dean Joy K. Ward PHOTO: Anthony Gray

Dean Joy K. Ward

Joy K. Ward, PhD, became dean of the Case Western Reserve University College of Arts and Sciences in July as COVID-19's destructive advance underscored the importance of two of her greatest passions.

"The pandemic has shown non-scientists how the scientific enterprise benefits our world," Ward said. "The abundance of creativity has underscored that the arts are intrinsic to human identity and expression. Artists are making their work accessible in numerous ways, cultivating virtual communitiesand responding to the devastation of both the coronavirus and racial injustice."

Previously associate dean for research and dean's professor at the University of Kansas (KU),Ward is a career biologist. She ardently believes that "science is for everyone" and that students who meld the arts, humanities and sciences in their academic pursuits are more "equipped to think critically, ask the right questions, communicate effectively and become lifelong learners open to the viewpoints and perspectives of others."

Wardwho also has a faculty appointment in biologyis internationally recognized for studies on how plants adapt to changing environments. She has published more than 40 papers and received a series of national honors and awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, presented by then-President Barack Obama. Recently, she was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

She developed a solid track record as a leader at KU and aims to bring her most successful ideas to CWRU. One hallmark project was a donor-funded initiative she co-created and led that provided financial support to enable faculty members across the arts, humanities and sciences to excel in research while simultaneously mentoring and training students in interdisciplinary research. By the third year, it yielded a $9 return-on-investment in external grant funding for every $1 committed by donors.

Ward distinguished herself early as a graduate student in the Duke University lab of Boyd Strain, PhD, now a biology professor emeritus.

"Right off the bat, you could see the sparkle and intense curiosity she had regarding not only plants, but people, too," he said. "But she also seemed to have an innate sense that she could change the world for the better, and that made her a natural leader."

— Mike Scott