University of Illinois Professor Christopher Span assumes role from Wanda Blanchett

Christopher Span

Christopher M. Span, a scholar, historian, educator and higher education administrator whose expertise spans the fields of history and education policy, has been appointed dean for the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Span, who assumes the role July 1, comes to Rutgers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also earned his doctoral degree, as a professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership.

“I am absolutely thrilled about becoming the next dean of the Graduate School of Education,” said Span. “The GSE’s legacy of excellence, its esteemed faculty, its vibrant student body, its ever-growing impactful research enterprise and supportive alumni are truly impressive. Together, I am confident we can further enhance the school’s reputation as a leader among leaders in the field of education.”

The Rutgers school is New Jersey’s top-ranked graduate school of education and among the top 10 percent in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report, and recently celebrated a century of national excellence in preparing education leaders.

“Through his research, teaching, and leadership, Dr. Span continues to make profound contributions to the field of education, enriching our understanding of the past while informing the future of education policy and practice,” said Rutgers–New Brunswick Chancellor Francine Conway. “He is an ideal choice to lead the GSE and we look forward to him joining the Rutgers community.”

His research focuses on the educational history of African Americans, particularly during the 19th century. He is widely recognized as a leading authority in this field and has authored several influential works including From Cotton Field to Schoolhouse: African American Education in Mississippi, 1862-1875. Additionally, Span is a co-editor of Using Past as Prologue: Contemporary Perspectives on African American Educational History and has contributed numerous articles and book chapters on the subject.

In addition to his scholarly contributions, Span also has held several prominent administrative roles at the University of Illinois, including serving as chief of staff and associate chancellor for administration and pre-K-12 initiatives, where he oversees strategies and fosters collaborations to advance the university’s mission.

Previously, Span was an associate dean in the College of Education at Illinois for more than 10 years, where he helped shape curricular development and oversaw student affairs. He also was a faculty athletics representative for both the university and the Big Ten Conference.

In addition, Span has been involved in professional organizations dedicated to the study of educational history, including vice president for the American Educational Research Association and as president of the History of Education Society.

At Rutgers, Span will succeed Dean Wanda J. Blanchett, who served as dean for 10 years and assisted in the nationwide search that recruited Span. Blanchett will continue to work at Rutgers and the Graduate School of Education as a faculty member.