Rosemary Blieszner, an Alumni Distinguished Professor, has been named dean of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Her appointment was based on the recommendation of the college’s Executive Council in consultation with the faculty and presented to Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis.
Blieszner, who is currently serving as interim dean, will continue to lead the college through June 2019.
“Rosemary’s proven leadership and outstanding record of service and scholarship will provide strength and direction for the college, and create new opportunities for its faculty, staff, and students,” said Rikakis. “I share the trust and confidence that the college’s Executive Council has in her leadership and look forward to continuing our highly productive and collaborative relationship as we work together to move Virginia Tech forward.
“Rosemary personifies our aspirations for VT-shaped discovery; she is strong in her discipline, knows how to connect her expertise to diverse groups of experts to solve problems, and is a leader who focuses on societal impact and inclusivity,” Rikakis added. “Her leadership role in Virginia Tech’s vision for Beyond Boundaries and Destination Areas and her deep understanding of the role of liberal arts and human sciences in this vision puts her in a unique position to advance a nationally leading college of liberal arts and human sciences within a beyond-boundaries context.”
A faculty member in the Department of Human Development and Family Science since 1981, Blieszner was named an Alumni Distinguished Professor in 2002. The university’s Board of Visitors reserves this preeminent rank for faculty members whose outstanding record of accomplishment in creative scholarship and exceptional contributions to the instructional program of the university have touched the lives of generations of alumni. Only 10 members of the Virginia Tech faculty hold these endowed professorships.
For more than 30 years, Blieszner helped lead the university’s Center for Gerontology as its associate director. She also served as associate dean of the Graduate School from 2009 until March of this year, when she assumed the interim deanship. Her university-level appointments have included assistant vice provost for enrollment and degree management from 2015 to 2017 and director of strategic planning in the Office of the President from 2000 to 2001.
More recently, Blieszner served as chair of the Steering Committee of Beyond Boundaries. A visioning initiative of Virginia Tech, Beyond Boundaries seeks to tackle complex problems by transcending economic, geographic, social, spatial, and institutional boundaries.
In addition to her ongoing faculty appointment in the Department of Human Development and Human Science, Blieszner was an adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology from 2001 to 2017. She also served as a long-time faculty affiliate in religious and cultural studies, women’s and gender studies, and the Center for Race and Social Policy.
Blieszner’s areas of research interest include spiritual resiliency and aging, mild cognitive impairment in older adults, and the impact on families of caring for older relatives. She has written or edited six books, 42 book chapters, and 78 peer-reviewed journal articles. One recent study, on the impact of loneliness on older adults, received coverage in major media outlets, including the New York Times and National Public Radio.
In 2014, Blieszner was elected president of the Gerontological Society of America, the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging. She has also been named a charter fellow of both the International Association for Relationship Research and the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, and a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, the National Council on Family Relations, and the American Psychological Association.
Her other honors include the Distinguished Alumna Award for Outstanding Service to a Chosen Field from Mercyhurst University, the Alumni Recognition Award from the College of Health and Human Development at Pennsylvania State University, an Outstanding Educator designation from the Virginia Association on Aging, a Distinguished Teacher of Gerontology designation from the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, and numerous teaching awards from Virginia Tech.
Blieszner holds a bachelor’s degree from Mercyhurst College, a master’s degree from Ohio State University, and a doctorate from Pennsylvania State University.
“The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences brings crucial consideration of the human condition to the university’s work,” said Blieszner. “We encompass a rich diversity of disciplines, and we are strongly positioned to contribute to teaching and creative scholarship in a range of arenas even beyond our traditional scope, including health, technology, the environment, and entrepreneurship. I look forward to working with faculty, staff, and students in our college and across Virginia Tech as we continue to enhance existing programs and build exciting new ones.”