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Whitworth Appoints New Deans of the College of Arts & Sciences and Continuing Studies & Graduate Admissions

April 12, 2022

Whitworth University Provost & Executive Vice President Gregor Thuswaldner is pleased to announce the appointment of John Pell as dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Brooke Kiener as dean of the School of Continuing Studies & graduate admissions.

The national search for both deanships was highly competitive, producing dozens of qualified applicants including sitting deans, associate deans and other top administrators. Both search committees unanimously selected Pell and Kiener.

John Pell

John Pell joined Whitworth’s English department faculty in 2012 and has served as the interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences since late last year. He previously served since 2016 as associate dean of the college. In that role, Pell was charged with program development, stewarding the liberal arts curriculum, and developing career and professional development opportunities for students in the college.

Pell is also director of the University Writing Program, whose first-year writing courses reflect Whitworth’s commitment to the liberal arts and play a crucial role in helping students connect with the university during their first semesters at college. One of his first initiatives as director was to transform the program curriculum by emphasizing one-to-one and small group-based instruction. This high-engagement model provides students with an opportunity to be known by their instructors, work closely with peers, and develop familiarity with the academic demands of Whitworth. 

In 2019, Pell revised the writing program’s mission statement to center on diversity, equity and inclusion, and to support writing instruction that is anti-racist and inclusive of students with disabilities. Pell is a first-generation college graduate, which has aided in his desire to innovate and to create inclusive learning environments

“In supporting a world-class faculty of teacher-scholars who carry out Whitworth’s mission with creativity and wisdom,” Pell says, “Whitworth can remain a top choice for a diverse student body who see the next step of their educational journey beginning in this special place among the pines.”

 “Pell’s outstanding work has continuously proved he thoroughly understands not only the academic challenges in front of faculty members, but the personal challenges faced by college students in this day and age,” Thuswaldner says. “Under his exceptionally creative leadership, the College of Arts & Sciences will be able to move to the next level.”

Pell holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from Western Washington University. 

Pell will begin his permanent role on May 1. 

Brooke Kiener

Brooke Kiener ’99 was appointed as Whitworth’s associate provost in 2017. A Whitworth alumna with a degree in theatre and arts administration, she returned to the university in 2002 as an adjunct professor in the theatre department and was hired to a tenure-track role in 2006. 

In addition to teaching and directing, Kiener worked in partnership with community organizations to create theatre productions that brought awareness to social justice issues such as socioeconomic discrimination, injustice in the justice system and environmental impacts of food systems. She also chaired two task forces that laid a foundation for Whitworth’s general education assessment and revision.  

As associate provost, Kiener has worked on issues related to student persistence and retention and has overseen new faculty orientation and mentoring. In 2019, she received a grant from the Lilly Foundation to develop a two-day training module for faculty mentors.  

“Brooke Kiener is a highly gifted and visionary administrator,” Thuswaldner says. “She will bring an innovative design-thinking approach to our School of Continuing Studies.”

Kiener’s desire to understand and solve the issues that often impact faculty led to the formation of her own consulting business that specializes in coaching post-tenure faculty who experience compassion fatigue. This skill set will be invaluable in her new role as she oversees the continuing studies program and interacts with adult learners who are interested in furthering their education or finding new career paths. 

“The School of Continuing Studies has a rich history of providing transformational learning experiences for adult learners seeking undergraduate degrees,” Kiener says. “In the coming years, we want to provide even more of our signature high-impact education for lifelong learners by adding non-credit-bearing professional and personal development opportunities in formats that are easy to navigate and that can fit into the nooks and crannies of a busy adult life. We look forward to serving an even broader audience of adult learners who are curious, passionate and motivated with programs that help them upskill, change directions and thrive.”  

Kiener holds a master’s degree in educational theatre from New York University’s Steinhart School an MFA in interdisciplinary art from Goddard College. She also holds a coaching certificate from the Academy of Creative Coaching and certificates in Advanced Design Thinking and Collaborative Leadership from IDEO U.  

Kiener has left her imprint on the arts in Spokane. She was board chair for Spokane Arts for 10 years and was a key architect for that organization’s transition from a department within City Hall to an independent nonprofit with contractual partnerships with the city of Spokane, the Public Facilities District, Visit Spokane and the Downtown Spokane Partnership.

Kiener will begin her role as dean on July 1.

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or