Liller Appointed Dean of Grad School & AVP of Research & Innovation

Nationally Recognized Researcher in Children’s Injury Prevention Appointed USF Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation


TAMPA, Fla. (July 24, 2009) The University of South Florida is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Karen DeSafey Liller as Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation. Liller has served in an interim capacity since August 2008. Her appointment will become permanent on August 1. Reporting jointly to the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice President for Research and Innovation, Liller will be responsible for leading and managing the Graduate School and building stronger collaborations with the Division of Research and Innovation.


Her appointment follows a national search for a proven administrator who will enhance graduate student recruitment and success; strengthen policies, guidelines, and procedures; develop and enforce governance and accountability; create a structure for seamless unification of graduate education across the USF system as well as improve communication and collaboration. The dean of the Graduate School is a key academic leader charged with promoting student and faculty success and support for innovative research across the university.


Liller is a professor in the College of Public Health and served as the Associate Dean for Academics and Student Services in the college. Her teaching, research, and service activities focus on public health and the prevention and control of children's unintentional injuries. She has published extensively in peer-reviewed publications and has been named one of the nation’s top 15 women scholars in health education and health promotion.


“I am very excited about continuing the strategic initiatives that were developed this year and building our future so that we become one of the premier graduate schools in the nation,” said Liller. “By partnering with the Office of Research and Innovation, the colleges and schools, and related administrative offices at USF, our graduate students will become the global leaders they are poised to be.”


Liller has the enthusiastic support and confidence of the senior administration of the university who believes she is the right leader to move the Graduate School forward in support of USF’s strategic goals. “USF has set forth a bold and ambitious vision, and excellence in graduate education, postdoctoral programming, and research is fundamental to achieving our goals. Appointing a proven administrator of Dr. Liller’s caliber to lead the growth and success of graduate education at USF is an investment in the future success of our graduate students as they become the next generation of world-class scholars,” said Ralph C. Wilcox, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.


Karen Holbrook, Vice President for Research and Innovation, shares these sentiments and welcomes Liller’s appointment to help strengthen the connection and collaboration between graduate studies and research. “Dr. Liller’s work both as interim dean and as a researcher demonstrates her deep understanding of the relationship between research and graduate education,” said Holbrook. “Continuing her leadership in a permanent capacity will further strengthen the partnerships and programs established over the past year, positioning USF as a leader in graduate education and research.”


In the past year, Liller led the development of a strategic plan for the Graduate School to position it to be recognized among the ranks of the nation’s top 10 percent of graduate schools by 2012 and has successfully outlined a plan for the Graduate School to streamline academic policies and procedures and enhance academic support programs for graduate students. In addition, interdisciplinary research challenge grants were introduced last year to provide seed funding to graduate student research teams to pursue projects in USF’s signature research areas. The seven teams are currently conducting research on renewable energy, education, health and medicine, and sustainability.


As dean, Liller will continue the projects established in the past year with a focus on increasing graduate student enrollment and diversity, enhanced student support services, and promotion of emerging research opportunities. Liller has also set her sights on establishing formal relationships with universities around the world to offer doctoral programs at partner institutions. USF graduate students can also look forward to increased funding for fellowships and assistantships and new academic workshops to support student success.


Liller has laid the foundation for a new Office of Postdoctoral Affairs to serve as an administrative and academic center of excellence for postdoctoral fellows across USF. The office will foster a robust postdoctoral community; provide opportunities to enhance the postdoctoral experience and future success for the scholars; and serve as a dedicated resource for postdoctoral scholars, faculty, and administrators. The office will be fully operational this fall.


USF is continuing the expansion of emerging research opportunities and graduate-level degree programs. This fall, three new integrated Ph.D. programs in history, government, and sociology will welcome their inaugural class of students. Continuing in the tradition of interdisciplinary scholarship, the Graduate School remains the academic home of the cancer biology Ph.D. program, positioning the program to be truly cross-disciplinary by actively involving faculty from any department at USF.


Liller’s experience coupled with her dedication to the success of graduate studies and innovative research endeavors will help solidify USF’s position among the nation’s leading research institutions. Now more than ever, the USF Graduate School is poised to become a nationally recognized center of scholarship and discovery.


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 224 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.