Two New Colleges Form From CLAS, Creating Additional Pathways to Top-Tier Research, Student Success

Two new colleges have formed from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, creating new pathways for student and research success — the College of Science and the College of Humanities & Earth and Social Sciences. The colleges’ names are pending approval from the Board of Trustees at its next meeting.

“These two focused colleges allow each to evolve uniquely in ways that best encompass their expertise and strengths,” said Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber. “The transition supports our strategic plan goals of becoming a top-tier research university and adapting to meet the needs of current and future students.”

Two interim deans have been appointed. John Smail will continue his role of interim dean through June 30, 2024, overseeing the College of Humanities & Earth and Social Sciences. Bernadette Donovan-Merkert has been named interim dean of the College of Science; her term runs through June 30, 2025. Both interim deans are currently in place supporting students, faculty and staff. 

“Our students, faculty and staff will continue to benefit from strong and consistent leadership at the helm of both of these colleges,” said Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Jennifer Troyer. “We remain confident in the guidance they will provide.”  

The College of Science will house four departments: Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Mathematics and Statistics, and Physics and Optical Science, and the College of Humanities & Earth and Social Sciences will remain the largest of the colleges on campus. The academic departments forming the College of Humanities & Earth and Social Sciences are:

Africana Studies, Anthropology, Communication Studies, Criminal Justice and Criminology, English, Geography and Earth Sciences, Global Studies, History, Interdisciplinary Studies, Languages and Culture Studies, Philosophy, Political Science and Public Administration,Psychological Science, Religious Studies, Sociology, and Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies. 

The timeline for completion of the initial transition will span the 2023-24 academic year.

The University is in the process of launching a search for the permanent dean of the College of Humanities & Earth and Social Sciences. The search webpage contains a list of the members of the search committee and will be updated throughout the search process to include the position description, application instructions and details about finalists and campus interviews. 

Bernadette T. Donovan-Merkert Named Interim Dean of the College of Science

Bernadette T. Donovan-Merkert has been named interim dean of the College of Science, one of two colleges created from the reorganization of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, effective immediately. The name of the college is pending final approval from the Board of Trustees. 

“This reorganization moves us closer to our goal of serving the Charlotte region and the state of North Carolina as a top-tier research university by allowing the two distinct colleges to become more focused in their areas of expertise,” Troyer said. “Bernadette’s leadership over the past several months as interim divisional dean for the departments that now comprise the College of Science has been critical to the success of the transition. I know she will continue to help foster success in research and teaching within these departments.” 

Prior to serving as interim divisional dean of these departments, Donovan-Merkert was chair of the Department of Chemistry for over 18 years. She also led the design and implementation of the Nanoscale Science Ph.D. program and served as the program’s director. In these roles, she worked with faculty, staff and students to promote a departmental culture that embraced excellence in research, teaching and engagement. Under her leadership, the Chemistry Department’s funding portfolio grew substantially, from less than $500K in extramural funding in 2005 to over $3.5 million in 2022, including major grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies.

“I have had the privilege of working with some of the most dedicated and talented faculty, staff and students during my career at UNC Charlotte,” said Donovan-Merkert. “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work with the faculty, staff and students of the College of Science to support the University’s strategic plan by cultivating a college ecosystem that will facilitate student success, cutting-edge research, innovative teaching and engagement with the Charlotte region.” 

Donovan-Merkert received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Duke University and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Vermont. She held postdoctoral research associate positions at Dartmouth College and the University of Texas at Austin prior to her appointment as assistant professor of chemistry at UNC Charlotte in 1992. She was promoted to associate professor in 1998 and to the rank of professor in 2003.

Donovan-Merkert’s research focuses on electrochemically induced reactions of organometallic complexes. She has held leadership positions in professional organizations and was a long-time advocate for construction of the science building that opened in 2021. She was named a fellow of the American Chemical Society, was a finalist for the University’s highest teaching award, the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence, and received the Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award, among many internal and external honors.