Cole Woodcox Named Director of COPLAC

Cole WoodcoxCole Woodcox has been selected as the next director of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC), a consortium of 30 North American universities with its headquarters at UNC Asheville.  He is scheduled to start his new position on June 1, 2017.

“Cole has all of the qualities we are looking for in a leader of COPLAC.  His entire career reflects a passion for the public purpose of a liberal arts education.  He is a Renaissance man of many talents and interests, and he has both the temperament and skill set necessary to work collaboratively with all of the member institutions and their faculty to build on the excellent work of Bill Spellman. We are very excited about the future of COPLAC under Cole’s leadership,” said COPLAC President and University of Mary Washington President Troy Paino.

A veteran of public liberal arts education, Woodcox has served as a professor of English at COPLAC-member institution Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri since 1987 including one term as chair of the Department of English and Linguistics from 2009 to 2012. He specializes in British literature–18th Century, Romantic, Victorian, and Modern periods; literary theory; film studies; and art history.

Woodcox’s recent teaching and research have focused on the intersection of technology and the humanities, working with COPLAC colleagues to teach curriculum designed to help prepare students to integrate digital platforms into their study of the liberal arts. He has published dozens of scholarly articles and served as co-editor of two books, Buildings of the United States: Missouri and Dorothea’s Widow: Essays from the 1991 George Elliot Conference. A scholar of historic buildings and architecture, Woodcox also has nominated nine buildings to the National Register of Historic Places.

“Some of the most rewarding work I do is working with students, staff and faculty on interdisciplinary projects and investigating topics from multiple perspectives,” said Woodcox. “I’m excited to work with COPLAC in this position and to promote its making liberal arts education and collaborative interdisciplinary teaching, creative, and scholarly opportunities available to students, staff and faculty.”

A specialist in historic preservation and an advocate for the liberal arts, Woodcox has received numerous awards and honors including the Dixon Fellowship Grant for Faculty Research, a School of Arts and Letters Travel Grant for International Scholarship, an Allen Fellowship for Faculty Excellence, Educator of the Year at Truman State University, and the Governor of Missouri’s Award for Excellence in College Teaching.

Woodcox holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah; a Master of Philosophy from the University of Oxford; a Master of Arts in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art; and a Doctor of Philosophy in English Literature from the University of Oxford.

“Through his work in historic preservation and digital humanities, Cole understands the deeply rooted history of the liberal arts and how we connect to an ever-changing world. As director of COPLAC, he will bring skills at the heart of the liberal arts to transform the way that we connect to our communities and the world, building on a trajectory that has placed public liberal arts at the forefront of a conversation about high-quality public education in the 21st century,” said UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant, who led the search committee for the COPLAC director.

Woodcox was selected from a competitive search process among COPLAC’s 30 institutions and by its governing board of constituent presidents and chancellors. He succeeds COPLAC Director Bill Spellman, professor of history at UNC Asheville, who has served in the role since 2009.

“In recent years COPLAC has received generous support from both the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Teagle Foundation of New York. These multi-year grants allow the consortium to leverage faculty expertise on multiple campuses and provide students with learning opportunities in cutting edge digital liberal arts. Cole’s work in the Mellon grant project, together with his desire to expand collaborative opportunities for students, faculty, and professional staff at our member institutions, signals an important next step in COPLAC’s development,” said Spellman.


The Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, headquartered at UNC Asheville, drives awareness of the value of high-quality, public liberal arts education in a student-centered, residential environment. Established in 1987 and now consisting of 30 colleges and universities in 28 states and one Canadian province, COPLAC represents an important distinguished sector in higher education.

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