January 16, 2013

Alison Byerly

A nationally recognized scholar, Alison Byerly is one of the nation’s most prominent thought leaders on the role of technology in higher education today. She has extensive administrative experience at one of America’s most prominent and highly regarded liberal arts colleges with a long and deep involvement in and commitment to an interdisciplinary and global approach to higher education.

Byerly has served in leadership positions at Middlebury College for 13 years, most recently as provost and executive vice president. A member of the Middlebury faculty since 1989, she holds an interdisciplinary appointment as College Professor and has been a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and Oxford University.

Watch Byerly in a series of brief videos

Byerly served as Middlebury’s provost and executive vice president from 2007 to 2012, following appointments as vice president for academic affairs, dean of faculty, and associate dean. She was responsible for all undergraduate faculty and academic programs, research centers, arts facilities, admissions, environmental affairs, and international programs.

Alison R. Byerly

Alison R. Byerly

Among other accomplishments, she oversaw an expansion of the faculty by 28 new positions since 2005, enhancing staffing of interdisciplinary programs as well as core departments. Byerly worked to build connections between Middlebury’s residential-life system and academic program by encouraging residentially-based programming of academic events and lectures. She also appointed a series of task forces on curricular innovation that generated proposals and policy changes to encourage curricular experimentation. This included a change in course-evaluation processes that was featured in a recent article in Inside Higher Ed.

Byerly played a key role in developing Middlebury’s partnership with the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, a graduate school offering professional degrees and certificate programs with an international focus that was acquired by Middlebury in 2010. In addition to MBA, MPA, and MA degrees in international management, international policy, nonproliferation and terrorism studies, and translation and interpretation, the Monterey Institute offers certificates in such areas as conservation leadership, international negotiations and conflict resolution, business foundations, and project management. Middlebury and Monterey now offer five joint degree programs in fields that include International Environmental Policy, International Policy Studies, Teaching of Foreign Languages, and International Education Management.

A leading voice nationally on emerging forms of digital scholarship, the changing role of the humanities in the digital age, the importance of curricular innovation, and MOOCs (massively open online courses), Byerly has lectured widely on these topics at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association (MLA), the biennial Media in Transition conference, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Communications Forum, and other venues. Her essays have appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

Byerly has an appointment as a visiting scholar in literature at MIT during the current academic year. In October 2012, she led an online seminar on evaluating digital scholarship hosted by NITLE, the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. Earlier this month, at MLA’s annual convention in Boston, she led a workshop on the same topic and presented research on locative media and the environment. Later in January, she will speak on ways colleges and universities can respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by online education at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in Atlanta.

Byerly is the author of two books, Are We There Yet? Virtual Travel and Victorian Realism, published in 2012 by the University of Michigan Press, and Realism, Representation, and the Arts in Nineteenth-Century Literature, published by Cambridge University Press in 1997 and reissued in paperback in 2006. Are We There Yet? connects the Victorian fascination with “virtual travel” with the rise of realism in 19th-century fiction and 21st-century experiments in virtual reality. Byerly began research for the project as a visiting fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, in 2002-03 and completed the manuscript while a visiting scholar at Stanford University in 2008-09. Byerly also is the author of many scholarly articles and book chapters, including “Technologies of Travel in the Victorian Novel” in The Oxford Handbook of the Victorian Novel, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Byerly has continued to teach regularly while serving as provost at Middlebury. Her courses over the last several years include Time and Narrative, a team-taught International Studies seminar on Politics and the Novel, and a multimedia course on Fictional Worlds.

Among other leadership roles in national organizations, she served as a member of the Coordinating Committee of the Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges from 2010 to 2012 and as a member of the New Faculty Fellows Selection Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies from 2009 to 2011.

A native of Glenside, Pa., Byerly earned a bachelor of arts degree with honors in English at Wellesley College in 1983, a master of arts in English at the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, and a doctorate in English at Penn in 1989. At Penn, she was the recipient of a University Fellowship, Dean’s Fellowship, Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, and Mellon Dissertation Fellowship. As an undergraduate, she received Wellesley’s Jacqueline Award in English Composition and Mary C. Lyons Prize in Writing.

Byerly is married to Stephen Jensen, a medical editor. Their daughter, Laramie, is a sophomore at Carleton College, and their son, Ryan, is in his first year of high school.

Curriculum Vitae

Positions Held
Visiting Scholar in Literature, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2012-13

Provost and Executive Vice President, Middlebury College, 2007-12. Oversight of all undergraduate faculty and academic programs, research centers, arts facilities, Admissions, Environmental Affairs, International Programs.

Visiting Scholar in English, Stanford University, 2008-09

Dean of Faculty/Vice President for Academic Affairs, Middlebury College, 2003-07

Visiting Fellow, Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, 2002-03

Associate Dean of Faculty 1998-2000, Acting Dean of Faculty 2000-01, Acting Provost 2001-02, Middlebury College

Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor of English, 1989-present, Middlebury College

Ph.D., English, University of Pennsylvania, 1989

M.A., English, University of Pennsylvania, 1984

B.A., with Honors in English, magna cum laude, Wellesley College, 1983

Are We There Yet? Virtual Travel and Victorian Realism. University of Michigan Press, 2012.


Realism, Representation, and the Arts in Nineteenth-Century Literature.

Cambridge University Press, 1997. Paperback reissue, 2006.

Grants, Fellowships, Awards
NEH/NINES Summer Institute, “Evaluating Digital Scholarship,” May 2011

Visiting Fellow, Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, 2002-03

Ada Howe Kent Grant, Middlebury College, 1994

Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1988-89

Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, University of Pennsylvania, 1986

Dean’s Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1986-87

University Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1983-84

Jacqueline Award in English Composition, Wellesley College, 1983

Mary C. Lyons Prize in Writing, Wellesley College, 1983

“Formerly Known as Students.” Inside Higher Ed, Oct. 29, 2012. http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/10/29/essay-how-moocs-raise-questions-about-definition-student 

“Before You Jump On the Bandwagon…” Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 3, 2012. http://chronicle.com/article/Before-You-Jump-on-the/134090/ 

“Pass-Fail Option for Professors.” Inside HigherEd, August 7, 2012. http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/08/06/essay-urging-new-option-faculty-course-evaluations 

Lectures, Presentations, and Panels
“The Online Checklist.” Talk to be presented at American Association of Colleges and Universities annual conference, Atlanta, January 2013.

“You Are Here: Locative Media and the National Parks.” Paper presented at the Modern Language Association annual conference, January 2013.

“Negotiating Presence: Victorian Social Media.” Invited lecture, MIT, December 2012.

“Information Networks in Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and BBC’s Sherlock.” North American Victorian Studies Association Conference, September 2012. 

Institutional and Public Policy Contexts in Higher Education.” Panel discussion, ADE Summer Seminar West, Boulder, June 2012.

“Everything Old is New Again: The Digital Past and the Humanistic Future.” [.docx] Modern Language Association Conference, Seattle, January 2012.

“Performing Presence: Victorian Media and the Attenuation of the Self.” North American Victorian Studies Association Conference, November 2011. 

“Inside/Out: Rapid Transit and the Railway Perspective.” North American Victorian Studies Association Conference, November 2010. 

“Humanities in the Digital Age.” Panel discussion with Steven Pinker and David Thorburn. MIT, October 20, 2010.

“What Not to Save: The Future of Ephemera.” Media in Transition (MiT) 6 Conference, MIT, April 2009.

“Signal Crossings: Railway Travel and Middle-Class Identity.” North American Conference on British Studies, November 2006 

“Dickens and Virtual Travel.” Modern Language Association (MLA) Conference, Washington, D.C., December 2005 

“’A Prodigious Map Beneath His Feet’: Air Travel, Virtual Travel, and the Panoramic Perspective.” Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Association Conference, London, July 2003

“Virtual Travel and Victorian Culture.” Invited lecture, Oxford University, March 2003 

Chair, session on “Imperial Tastes: Women, Gender, and Food in the British Empire,” Ninth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Vassar College, June 1993

Scholarly Articles and Book Chapters
“Technologies of Travel in the Victorian Novel,” Oxford Handbook to Victorian Literature, ed. Lisa Rodensky (Oxford UP, forthcoming)

“‘A Prodigious Map Beneath His Feet’: Virtual Travel and the Panoramic Perspective,” Nineteenth-Century Contexts Vol. 29, Numbers 2-3 (June/September 2007): 151-69.

“Accident or Murder? Intentionality, the Picturesque, and the Body of Thomas De Quincey,” Nineteenth-Century Prose 29:2 (Fall 2002): 48-68.

“Rivers, Journeys, and the Construction of Place in Nineteenth-Century English Literature,” in Steven Rosendale, ed., The Greening of Literary Scholarship: Literature, Theory, and the Environment. (Iowa University Press, 2002): 77-94.

“Effortless Art: The Sketch in Nineteenth-Century Painting and Literature,Criticism 41, 3 (Summer 1999): 349-64.

“The Uses of Landscape: The Picturesque Aesthetic and the National Park System,” in The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology, ed. Harold Fromm and Cheryll Glotfelty. (University of Georgia Press, 1996).

“Cathy Johnson,” American Nature Writers, ed. John Elder, Vol. I (New York: Scribner’s, 1996): 425-38; “Lewis Thomas,” American Nature Writers, ed. John Elder, Vol. II (New York: Scribner’s, 1996): 919-931.

“‘The Masquerade of Existence’: Thackeray’s Theatricality,” Dickens Studies Annual 23: (1994): 259-86.

“From Schoolroom to Stage: Reading Aloud and the Domestication of Victorian Theater,” in Culture and Education in Victorian England, ed. Patrick Scott and Pauline Fletcher (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1990): 125-41.

“‘The Language of the Soul’: George Eliot and Music,” Nineteenth-Century Literature, June 1989: 1-17.

Selected Book Reviews
Review of Charles Dickens: Sketches of Young Gentlemen and Young Couples: With Sketches of Young Ladies by Edward Caswell (Oxford, 2012). Ed. Paul Schlicke. Review-19 www.nbol-19.org.

Review of Peter Brooks, Realist Vision (Yale UP, 2005), English Studies in Canada. Vol. 34, 2-3 (June/Sept 2008): 243-7.

Review of Julia Thomas, Pictorial Victorians: Inscription of Values in Word and Image (Ohio UP, 2004), Victorian Studies 47.2 (Autumn 2005): 173-4.

Review Forum on Realism, Representation, and the Arts: “Response to George Levine, James Heffernan, and Patricia O’Neill,” Australasian Victorian Studies Journal 4 (1998): 148-50.

Professional Memberships and Service
Coordinating Committee, Alliance for the Advancement of Liberal Arts Colleges, 2010-12

ACLS New Faculty Fellows Selection Committee, 2009-11

NEASC Visiting Committee for Colby College Reaccreditation, 2007

ACLS-Teagle Working Group on Liberal Education; joint author, “Student Learning and Faculty Research: Connecting Teaching and Scholarship,” 2007

Modern Language Association

posted in Uncategorized

1 Comment

  1. My wife Dodie (Wellesley ’66) and I both are delighted to welcome Alison to the Lafayette family. We look forward to getting to know her when we return to College Hill for my 50th Reunion in June.

    says Dan Headington '64
    January 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Leave a Comment