UTEP Names Dean of College of Liberal Arts

The University of Texas at El Paso is pleased to announce that Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., has been appointed Dean of the College of Liberal Arts effective July 1, 2018. He comes to UTEP from Texas A&M University, where he has led the Department of Sociology since 2016.

O’Hearn, a native of Carlsbad, New Mexico, earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1988. He also earned master’s degrees in sociology (’85), and in economics and Russian & Eastern European Studies (’78) from the same institution. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of New Mexico in 1975.

Before arriving at Texas A&M, O’Hearn was a professor of sociology at Binghamton University, which is part of the State University of New York. He also has held academic positions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Notre Dame, and institutions in Turkey, Japan, Portugal, Ireland and Réunion Island. He was a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Sociology at University College-Dublin, Ireland, in 1991-92.

“We are pleased that Dr. Denis O’Hearn will join UTEP as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts,” said University President Diana Natalicio. “His combination of regional roots, international experience and a deeply held belief in the central role UTEP plays in creating authentic higher education opportunities for talented students in this region, will enable him to build on the college’s many major accomplishments.”

O’Hearn said he was delighted to be part of the University because of its commitment to access and excellence for its students, and its genuine connection with the Paso del Norte region. He said he was impressed with the University’s cross border connection and vowed to strengthen ties with Mexico.

“I’m excited about the University’s mission,” he said. “It’s serious about educating students.”

O’Hearn, a first-generation college student, said he was familiar with the struggles that many UTEP students experience and looked forward to helping them succeed. Some of his initial ideas are to increase the number of graduate courses offered and enhance service-learning opportunities, especially for undergraduates, because they are excellent teaching tools.

The new dean is a prolific and award-winning author. Most of his publications are about the effects of transnational corporations on socio-economic development and on communities in prisons. His book subjects range from Irish economic history to Cossacks in Russia and the Zapatistas in Mexico. He also wrote a biography on Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands. The American Sociological Association presented him with two Distinguished Book Awards and he also won the Alessandro Tassoni Prize and the International Award Citta ‘di Cassino Letterature dal Fronte, the top Italian book prizes.

The new dean takes over the University’s largest college with 22 departments and programs and almost 7,000 students. It is home to UTEP’s social and behavioral sciences, humanities and visual and performing arts programs.

UTEP Provost Carol Parker said she believes that O’Hearn is highly qualified for this position.

“Our goal for this appointment was to find a dynamic and visionary leader for the college,” Parker said. “As dean, Dr. O’Hearn will have exceptional opportunities to promote access and excellence in education and research within the college.”

Until O’Hearn’s arrival on the campus, Stephen Crites, Ph.D., professor and former chair of the Psychology Department, will continue serving as interim dean, a position he assumed upon the retirement of Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., in May 2017.

“All of us at UTEP are deeply grateful to Steve Crites for his outstanding leadership of the College of Liberal Arts during this critical transition,” said President Natalicio