MISSOULA – Christopher Comer, dean of the College of Humanities & Sciences at the University of Montana for nearly a decade, will rejoin the UM faculty for the start of the fall semester.
Dr. Comer, who also is a professor of biology and neuroscience, had led UM’s largest college since 2009. Jenny McNulty, the current associate dean of the humanities and sciences college, will take over as interim dean on Aug. 15.
“I look forward to continuing to teach and pursue the scholarly work that has been my passion professionally,” Comer said. “I’m confident that Interim Dean Jenny McNulty’s knowledge, experience and deep commitment to serving our students will make this transition a smooth one and keep the college moving forward in exciting ways. She is smart and committed to the value of the liberal arts and sciences as a core of the UM experience.”
Highlights of Comer’s tenure as dean include renaming the college, creating the Humanities Institute, helping launch the Elouise Cobell Land and Culture Institute and Planetarium, overseeing extensive renovations to the Liberal Arts Building and the establishment of Eck Hall, boosting classroom technology, and helping create two endowed professorships – the Lucille Speer Research Chair in Politics and History and the David Emmons Visiting Professorship in Irish History.
Comer also led many searches for high-level positions at UM, including those that resulted in the hiring of new Provost Jon Harbor and current Vice President for Research and Creative Scholarship Scott Whittenburg.
“Leading our largest college at UM is a huge undertaking, and Chris has been an impactful leader at this institution for more than a decade,” UM President Seth Bodnar said. “He has a passion for our students and, despite the demands of leading our largest and most complex college, he always found time to connect with students in the classroom and through his research.
“Our students will benefit from even more from Chris’s talents as he returns to the faculty,” Bodnar said. “I’m also excited that Jenny McNulty will serve as interim dean and I look forward to working with her.”
While dean, Comer still found time to teach one of UM’s Global Leadership Initiative courses, as well as other courses. He also did research in Ireland on neuroscience and literature. His past work in neuroscience focused on sensorimotor integration – the process by which sensory information in the brain is translated into motor programs that determine the form of a behavioral response.
Comer holds a Ph.D. in biology/neuroscience from the University of Chicago and completed postdoctoral work at Cornell University. His extensive academic career included a series of faculty and administrative positions at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and he also was director of the behavioral neuroscience program at the National Science Foundation. He has had great success in earning grants and has published extensively.