Dean Paula Marantz Cohen will be stepping down as dean of Drexel University’s Pennoni Honors College at the end of the academic year, after ten years in the role. The decision was announced Oct. 26, in a letter from President John Fry and Provost Paul E. Jensen.
Cohen says she is stepping down to focus on other pursuits. She will be taking a sabbatical to write a book based on a talk she presented on the current state of universities. She also plans to spend more time with family, particularly after the recent birth of her granddaughter. After her leave, she will return to teaching at Drexel as a Distinguished Professor of English.
Cohen is excited to see someone else step into the role and to watch the college continue to evolve.
“I’ve been a dean for ten years; I feel I’ve accomplished more or less what I wanted to, and so I’ll step back into the faculty,” Cohen added.
Still, she describes the change as bittersweet. The college has a staff of sixteen people, and honors students represent about ten percent of the student body. Also, professors from across the university teach honors courses. Cohen feels saddened to leave behind the Pennoni community.
Cohen graduated from Yale University with bachelor’s degrees in English and French. Afterwards, she spent a year teaching English to high school students in France as part of a Fulbright Scholarship. Back in the states, she received a PhD in English Literature from Columbia University. In New York City, she held a few teaching jobs before starting at Drexel.
As a professor, Cohen specializes in 19th-century British literature, her personal favorite period. She has taught a variety of English classes, as well as courses in film. A literature lover at heart, she keeps a framed portrait of Jane Austen next to her desk computer.
She is the author of five nonfiction books and five novels. Her works reflect her academic interests, as seen in her debut novel “Jane Austen in Boca,” which reimagines “Pride and Prejudice” as the story of a group of retirees trying to find love again.
“I consider myself a writer just as much as a dean or a professor,” Cohen said.
Cohen is only the third dean in her title. Cohen says she has followed in the footsteps of her predecessors, while continuing to push the college into the future. Most notably, during her tenure she oversaw the renovation of Calhoun Hall into Bentley Hall. The renovation expanded the building to include classrooms, offices, and meeting spaces for Pennoni Honors College, which had previously been scattered across campus.
Cohen also initiated several programs, including a weekly community Shakespeare Read-Aloud and the Center for Civil Discourse, which creates a platform for students to engage in conversation about difficult topics. Cohen believes in the benefits of the honors college and the seminar style coursework it offers.
“I have a great affection for this university and especially for my students,” Cohen said.