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Professor of Dance Named Associate Vice Chancellor for Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields at Illinois

Professor of Dance Named Associate Vice Chancellor for Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields at Illinois

Cynthia Oliver, a choreographer, professor of Dance, and affiliate in African American Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies, has been named Associate Vice Chancellor for Research for the Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields (AVCR-HARF) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her appointment starts August 16, pending approval from the Board of Trustees.

“Illinois has remarkable strengths in the Arts, Humanities, and related fields, and I want to ensure that members of that community have resources that support their creative and scholarly activities,” said Peter Schiffer, Vice Chancellor for Research.      

Oliver will provide leadership for the OVCR services that support the creative and scholarly work of faculty in the Humanities, Arts, and related fields. Working in close collaboration with the faculty affiliated with the OVCR as External Grants Faculty Advisors, she will build upon ongoing services in support of faculty research and creative work: proposal development for fellowship and grant applications, assistance with book proposals, project design, and a number of additional initiatives, such as the First Book Writing Group. She will also serve as the Executive Officer of the Campus Research Board.

“I am excited to work with colleagues across the campus on both internal and external funding opportunities for their own research and look for creative ways to assist in collaborative work across disciplines,” Oliver said. “These are areas the institution has expressed values in, and I want to look for creative and sustainable ways to make them happen.”

She holds a BFA in Dance from Adelphi University, an MA in Individualized Study from NYU (with a focus on Caribbean Literature, Performance and Museum Studies), and a PhD in Performance Studies from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts. Her scholarly work focuses on performance in the Anglophone Caribbean, particularly in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A noted performer and collaborator whose current project "Virago-Man Dem," a work exploring the nuances and complexities of black masculinities, will premiere in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival in October of this year, she joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2000.

“It is an important time for as many of us, in as many differing positions and disciplinary interests as possible, to advocate for the arts and humanities,” Oliver said. “I want to be a part of the force on the ground doing that work, and I will be looking to my colleagues for ways to ensure that our ideas, energies, and passions are reflected in how the campus thinks about research and the value of what we do,” she said.

Oliver has received numerous awards from national arts foundations to support her work, including a grant from Creative Capital (2002), Illinois Arts Council Choreography Fellowships (2004, 2014), support from the Rockefeller Foundation's MAP Fund (2007) and the Doris Duke & Andrew Mellon Map Fund (2016),  an award from the New England Foundation's National Dance Project (2009), awards from the National Performance Network's Creation Fund (2009, 2012, 2017), a prestigious nomination for the Alpert Award in the Arts for dance (2009), and a 2015 nomination for the Doris Duke Impact Award.

She has published works in anthologies, exhibition booklets, the Movement Research Journal, and Women and Performance. Her monograph, Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean, was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2009. She teaches technique, composition, post-colonial and feminist theory, and courses emphasizing the African-American and African-Caribbean influences in American performance.

“I am grateful to the search committee for excellent recommendations and guidance, the current External Grants Faculty Advisors for ongoing support of existing programs, and to the many members of the campus research community who provided input and advice on this important position,” Schiffer said.

Learn more about Illinois programs to support research in the Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields here