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Tracy Langkilde appointed interim executive vice president and provost

16 April 2024
Tracy Langkilde.

Tracy Langkilde, the Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science, has been named interim executive vice president and provost of Penn State, effective April 15.

Langkilde succeeds Executive Vice President and Provost Justin Schwartz, who has been named as the sole finalist for chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder and will depart Penn State this summer. In the coming weeks, Penn State will begin a national search for a permanent provost.

“I sought the counsel of several constituencies in making this selection: faculty, including Faculty Senate’s Senate Council and faculty advisory council; deans; chancellors of our Commonwealth Campuses; vice provosts; and other senior administrators,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi. “Tracy’s personal journey as an internationally renowned scholar, her understanding of undergraduate students through the thousands both within the Eberly College and the thousands more who pursue General Education there, her support of research excellence and graduate students, and her commitment to leading collaboratively make her the ideal person to meet these needs at the University level.”

Langkilde will provide leadership for Penn State’s academic units, including all colleges and campuses, during her time as interim executive vice president and provost. She also will serve as a member of President’s Council, chair Penn State’s Council of Academic Deans and the Academic Leadership Council, and serve as an ex officio member of the University Faculty Senate and Senate Council.

“Tracy has been such a positive force for change in the Eberly College as a faculty member, department chair and as dean, earning the respect of her peers across the University, and working collaboratively with faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students,” said Bendapudi. “I greatly look forward to her bringing that thoughtful leadership to our team.”

Langkilde will play an important role as the University advances change, including through strategic planning and further developing the vision for Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses. Together with faculty and key leaders across the institution, Langkilde will work to move the Academic Program and Portfolio Review forward and lead key academic leadership searches. She also will be charged with continuing to develop a University-wide strategy around faculty and student retention, advancing graduate education and seeing through the reunification of Penn State Dickinson Law and Penn State Law.  

Also, beginning April 15, Mary Beth Williams, professor of chemistry and senior associate dean of science education in the Eberly College of Science, will assume the role of acting dean of the Eberly College of Science. She joined the Department of Chemistry in 2001 as an assistant professor, advancing the fields of analytical and inorganic chemistry. Williams joined the college leadership in 2009 and has subsequently overseen undergraduate education, research and administration, diversity and inclusion, undergraduate students at Eberly in interim roles, and has chaired important University-level task forces.

“I’m grateful for this chance to lead this institution that means so much to so many, and I thank President Bendapudi for giving me this opportunity,” said Langkilde. “I have a deep respect for the shared governance that makes universities work, and I will be focused on listening to our community and collaborating with academic leaders to strengthen and advance Penn State. I’m also greatly looking forward to working with the excellent team in the provost’s office and the dedicated deans and chancellors across the commonwealth in enacting President Bendapudi’s vision to strengthen Penn State for the future. I am fortunate that we have an outstanding leader in the Eberly College of Science to assume the role of acting dean during this time.”

Langkilde has been dean of Eberly since 2020 and on the college’s faculty since 2007. She came to Penn State as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and became an associate professor in 2012 and a full professor in 2016, the same year she was named head of the Department of Biology.

As dean, Langkilde leads a college of about 460 faculty, 250 staff, 130 postdocs, 1,200 graduate students, and 3,800 undergraduate majors. During her time as dean, Langkilde collaborated across colleges and campuses to narrow demographic gaps in student success through evidence-based practices. In support of faculty success and diversity in Eberly, Langkilde continued efforts to systematically identify and overcome professional hurdles by targeted training and interventions. She also led new efforts in the college to support and retain staff.

At the University level, she has chaired or served as a member of several executive searches and on committees focused on institutional change at Penn State, including the Budget Model Working Group and the IT Optimized Service Team. Langkilde held a Tombros Administrative Fellow for Undergraduate Research in the Eberly College of Science in 2014, where she developed initiatives to more effectively engage undergraduates in research.

As a scholar, Langkilde has published more than 100 refereed journal articles and book chapters and given numerous invited talks in the United States and internationally. Her research focuses on how animals deal with changes in their environment and the associated stress; for example, the introduction of a new predator species, or human-induced disturbances like road noise. She examines how invasive fire ants impact the behavior, morphology and physiology of native lizards, and how frogs adapt to road noise.

In addition, Langkilde has taught several undergraduate and graduate-level courses and has advised and mentored more than 60 undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

Among her multiple honors, in July 2019 Langkilde was named Distinguished Herpetologist by the Herpetologists' League, an international organization of scientists devoted to studying herpetology — the biology of amphibians and reptiles. In 2016 she was included as a featured researcher in “Campbell Biology,” one of the most widely used biology textbooks, now in its 11th edition and available in 19 languages. In 2011 she received from Penn State the Edward D. Bellis Award in Ecology for dedication to educating ecology graduate students.

Langkilde received her bachelor's degree in tropical biology at James Cook University and doctoral degree in biology at the University of Sydney. She also was a Gaylord Donnelley postdoctoral fellow at Yale University.