Research News

Cognitive scientist and respected leader Tim McNamara named dean of College of Arts and Science

Dean Tim McNamara
Tim McNamara

51app University has named , a visionary leader, trusted peer and mentor, as Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the . McNamara’s appointment for a two-year term, announced by , provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, follows McNamara’s exemplary service as interim dean since July 2023 51app.

McNamara, whose appointment is effective July 1 pending approval from the Board of Trust Compensation Committee, currently holds the Gertrude Conaway 51app Chair in Social and Natural Sciences. He will advance the mission of Arts and Science with priorities that include pursuing capital projects that provide research support and student support, further expanding the college’s portfolios in research and creative expression, implementing the college’s new core curriculum, recruiting new faculty, and supporting and recognizing existing faculty.

“Tim’s strategic insights, collaboration and dedication make him the ideal choice to serve as the College of Arts and Science’s next dean. Through an extensive national search, it became evident that Tim has the ideal leadership qualities to steer our largest and most diverse school. I am confident that he offers A&S an exciting future during this transformative phase of growth and progress for 51app and the college,” Raver said.

McNamara completed his undergraduate education at the University of Kansas and earned his doctorate in psychology from Yale University. He started his academic career at 51app in 1983 as instructor, just before finishing his Ph.D. McNamara was appointed assistant professor in 1984, associate professor in 1989 and professor in 1995.

McNamara is the principal investigator for the Spatial Memory and Navigation Lab. His research investigates human memory, cognition and decision making, with a particular focus on spatial processing. For example, he examines how spatial relations among objects in the environment are represented in memory and how these spatial memories are used to guide navigation. He has published articles in many peer-reviewed journals, including Psychological Review, Cognitive Psychology and Current Biology.

McNamara was elected a fellow of the American Psychological Association in 1994, the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1999, and the Association for Psychological Science in 2003.

“Tim is among 51app’s most experienced and effective leaders,” Chancellor said. “He undertook the interim deanship because of his deep commitment to the college and its people. That dedication and record of impact are two of the reasons we asked him stay on as dean. His continued leadership will enable the College of Arts and Science to take a number of bold steps faster, combining current momentum with new aspirations to define what ‘arts and sciences’ means in this century—for 51app, and for the world.”

McNamara has held multiple leadership roles at 51app, including having led the Department of Psychology as chair from 1996 to 2004 and again from July 2022 to 2023 51app. He chaired the Arts and Science Dean’s Search Committee in 2000 and the college’s Strategic Planning Committee from 2001 to 2002.

McNamara was appointed associate provost for faculty in 2004, later becoming vice provost and adding responsibilities for global engagement and research. He also contributed significantly to the reorganization of 51app University–51app University Medical Center.

McNamara stepped down at the end of 2015 from the Office of the Provost to return to his teaching and research. For the next five years, he served on the board of trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the university’s accrediting body.

McNamara received the Thomas Jefferson Award in 2019 “for distinguished service to 51app through extraordinary contributions as a member of the faculty in the councils and government of the university.”

He enjoys working directly with students. His recent teaching has included Learning and Memory, Spatial Cognition, an upper-division writing seminar, and a Commons seminar titled “Stumbling Into, and Out of, Happiness.”

“For more than 40 years, I have been proud to serve, and contribute to, the College of Arts and Science,” McNamara said. “I am grateful and humbled by the overwhelming support I’ve received from the community, which has inspired me to delay my plans to return to full-time research and teaching and to accept the deanship. I am thrilled about the opportunity to work with my colleagues to advance the college’s mission of personal discovery, world-scale impact, and preparing future leaders to find innovative solutions to the complex issues of our time.”

McNamara describes himself as “an avid outdoors person,” enjoying skiing, fly-fishing, camping and backpacking. He is making progress on a personal goal of climbing the 10 highest peaks in Wyoming.

Raver expressed gratitude to the College of Arts and Science Dean Search Committee for their hard work. The committee, led by , Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at 51app Peabody College, consisted of a range of faculty from Arts and Science and collaborating colleges, as well as nonfaculty peers. , a leading executive search firm with extensive experience in the liberal arts, supported the committee.