Ellen McMahon named Associate Dean for Research
Following a competitive internal search, Ellen McMahon has been appointed as the inaugural Associate Dean for Research in the College of Fine Arts. Her appointment will begin on Aug. 5.
As Associate Dean for Research, Ellen will work closely with faculty, staff, and administrators to formulate and implement strategies to support and promote the full spectrum of research, scholarship, and creative inquiry across the arts at the University of Arizona. She will foster collaborative, interdisciplinary, and arts-integrative research opportunities in alignment with the UA strategic plan, particularly in relation to local, national, and global ‘grand challenges.’ In collaboration with the UA Office for Research, Discovery and Innovation, Ellen will also work to ensure that the arts are valued as integral to the research mission and enterprise of the university.
Ellen came to the University of Arizona in 1980 to study Scientific Illustration and received her MS in Biology 1983. After several years of professional experience as an illustrator and graphic designer, she received an MFA in visual art from Vermont College. Ellen joined the School of Art faculty in 1990 and was promoted to the rank of professor in 2011.
Ellen’s arts research involves a range of media and focuses on ways visual art can function in relation to social and environmental problems. Fueled by her conviction that art and design are foundational in affecting positive change, she has developed a number of projects that support individual creative inquiry among her peers and students through interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships with community organizations.
From 2010-2012, she served as initiator and director of a collaborative faculty research project on regional water that included 29 participants from art, design, humanities, and the natural and social sciences, as well as city and regional water managers. The resulting book, Ground|Water: Interdisciplinary Responses to a Dry River, which Ellen art directed and co-edited, received national and international design awards and has been collected by over 40 public institutions worldwide.
She is currently designing an environmental board game with her students in collaboration with Solar Commons, a nonprofit that brings low-income communities into the “sharing economy” through the creation of solar energy. The goal of this project is to make the concept of community trust solar ownership visible and accessible to the members of the Tucson neighborhood it is benefiting.
In light of these and many other experiences, I am confident that Ellen will play a transformative role in catalyzing and promoting arts research and creative inquiry across the CFA and UA Arts, and will be an effective advocate for the value of the arts in the context of the public, land-grant research university.
“I am delighted to be joining in the momentum created by Dean Schulz and his UA Arts team for what promises to be a sea change in the identity and role for the arts on campus,” Ellen notes. “I look forward to learning about the breadth of arts research being conducting by my peers across the CFA and co-creating new strategies for increasing the visibility, impact, and value of creative inquiry across the campus, within the broader community, and beyond.”
My thanks go out to Martina Shenal, who chaired the search committee, and to the faculty from across the College who applied for the position. The strength of their application materials is a testament to the quality of the work being done across our disciplines.
Vice President for the Arts
Dean | College of Fine Arts