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Historian, Author Named Dean of College of Arts and Sciences

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Historian, Author Named Dean of College of Arts and Sciences

David Wrobel


OKLAHOMA CITY – A celebrated educator, historian and author, David Wrobel has been named dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences. At the recommendation of OU President-Designate James L. Gallogly, his appointment was confirmed today at the June meeting of the OU Board of Regents.

“I am confident in David Wrobel’s ability to continue to lead the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Gallogly. “His vision is well-suited for advancing the college’s many academic programs on a national level.”

Wrobel, who also holds appointments as David L. Boren Professor of History and Merrick Chair of Western American History, joined the OU faculty in 2011 on the Norman campus as the Ward Merrick Chair of Western American History and professor of history. Wrobel has served as interim dean of the college since 2017.

“I am truly grateful to President David L. Boren and to President-Designate Gallogly for the confidence they have shown in me through their respective appointments to the position of interim dean and now dean,” said Wrobel. “I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to lead and to serve the students, staff and faculty of the oldest, largest and most disciplinarily and demographically diverse college at this great public flagship university, and to help serve the needs of the state of Oklahoma.”

Wrobel holds master’s and doctoral degrees in American intellectual history from The Ohio University and a bachelor’s degree in history/philosophy from the University of Kent, Canterbury, England.  

He serves as an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer and was Senior Research Fellow in Western American History at Yale University from 2005 to 2006. Wrobel is past president of the American Historical Association’s Pacific Coast Branch and of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honor Society. He is the incoming president-elect of the Western History Association.

Wrobel teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the West, modern American thought and culture, the Progressive Era, the Great Depression and New Deal, John Steinbeck and the introductory U.S. history survey, 1865-present. He received the James and JoAnn Holden Teaching Award from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2016.

A dedicated promoter of partnerships with K-12 educators, he has participated in and directed numerous teacher institutes, workshops and colloquia sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and U.S. Department of Education, among other organizations.

Wrobel’s books include “America’s West: A History, 1890-1950”; “Global West, American Frontier: Travel, Empire and Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression,” winner of the Wrangler Western Heritage Award for Non-Fiction; “Promised Lands: Promotion, Memory, and the Creation of the American West”; and “The End of American Exceptionalism: Frontier Anxiety from the Old West to the New Deal.”

Prior to joining the faculty at OU, Wrobel taught at Widener University; Hartwick College; College of Wooster; and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he also chaired the history department.

His wife Janet Ward is a distinguished scholar, a professor in OU’s history department, the founding director of the OU Humanities Forum, and is the president-elect of the German Studies Association. They have three children, Davey, Ethan and Miranda.

The College of Arts and Sciences has 28 academic units, including two accredited schools, and numerous independent research centers, institutes and surveys. The college is home to almost half of OU’s full-time faculty and provides a significant portion of the general education curriculum for undergraduate students enrolled in the other colleges of the university. It is also the center for advanced study, research and creative activity at the university and accounts for over a quarter of the OU Norman campus research expenditures.

Since its establishment in 1909, the OU College of Arts and Sciences has contributed to the education of every undergraduate student at the university. With more than 2,000 faculty and staff and over half of the general education credit hours offered at OU, the college serves as the academic cornerstone of the university. For more information, visit