Faculty Profile: Kathy Bassard, Ph.D., Interim Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs

“Being chair of the department that nurtured me as a scholar and writer and set me on my career path is my biggest accomplishment at the university. It was my privilege to provide leadership at a pivotal point in VCU's history.”
Kathy Bassard

After 21 years of service at VCU, Katherine Bassard, Ph.D., will leave Richmond for Memphis to join Rhodes College as the provost and vice president for academic affairs beginning July 1. Kathy has served in many roles at VCU—professor, department chair, associate dean and senior vice provost—but her first impressions of VCU were as a graduate student in the Department of English.

“The very first class I had as a graduate student was Dr. Bryant Mangum's Fitzgerald and Hemingway class. I remember sitting in class thinking that I would never know as much as Dr. Mangum.”

Admittedly, the university looked a good bit different to her back then. “At that time, VCU was mostly a commuter school and I have seen the university grow to a major urban research university. What has stayed the same, however, is the collegiality of the faculty and staff and the curiosity and determination of the students.”

Before VCU, Kathy earned her undergraduate degree at Wake Forest, and after a master’s degree at VCU, she pursued her doctorate at Rutgers University. From 1992-1999, Kathy taught at the University of California Berkeley before returning to Richmond as an associate professor in the department where she began her graduate studies. Her scholarship and teaching on the poetry, novels, speeches, sermons and prayers by African American women has been inspiring new generations of students for more than two decades now.

“I have enjoyed every course I have taught at VCU but my favorite is the graduate seminar on the novels of Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison. It was a thrill to see students encounter her work and when she passed away last year, I received notes from students who had taken the course over the years thanking me for introducing them to her work.”

"Kathy has been and is an incredible role model for our students, as well as for faculty and administrators. Her impact on VCU, including our students, academic programs and faculty success will persist for many years."

Kathy says she is grateful for all of the opportunity the department and university have shown her.

“Being chair of the department that nurtured me as a scholar and writer and set me on my career path is my biggest accomplishment at the university. It was my privilege to provide leadership at a pivotal point in VCU's history.”

That feeling is shared by fellow colleagues and university leadership. “Kathy’s service on committees at every level of the university are too numerous to list. Kathy has been and is an incredible role model for our students, as well as for faculty and administrators. Her impact on VCU, including our students, academic programs and faculty success will persist for many years,” says Don Young, interim dean for the College. 

What will Kathy miss most? “Hibbs Hall. Cabell Library. The Compass. Too many precious colleagues to name. The fact that as large as VCU is, it feels like a small town. I will be forever grateful to VCU for giving me the opportunity to discover a passion for academic leadership, especially in the times we are experiencing now.”

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