On February 20, 2018, William & Mary's Board of Visitors unanimously elected Katherine A. Rowe as the 28th president of the university. Rowe is deeply interested in design thinking, entrepreneurship and the digital humanities and is nationally recognized as an innovator in higher education. She began on July 1, 2018 and was inaugurated on February 8, 2019.
Under her leadership, William & Mary has advanced a whole-institution approach to learning through a number of initiatives. These include a central Entrepreneurship Hub, a Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation, W&M’s first long-range Sustainability Plan and a university-wide approach to diversity and inclusion. William & Mary successfully closed its For the Bold campaign in June 2020, raising just over $1 billion.
During her first year, Rowe convened a series of university-wide conversations Thinking Forward to the 20-year future of knowledge, work and service. These discussions shaped William & Mary’s strategic planning effort, currently underway. In the first phase of planning, the university community crafted William & Mary’s first-ever statement of shared values.
Previously, Rowe served as provost and dean of faculty at Smith College in Massachusetts. Rowe led academic strategy and planning, overseeing all academic operations. During her tenure, Smith launched a design thinking curriculum, greatly increased diversity in faculty hiring and established one of the first statistical and data sciences majors at a liberal arts college (and the first at a women's college). Rowe also served as Smith's interim vice president for inclusion, diversity and equity.
Rowe is cofounder and former CEO of Luminary Digital Media, which developed a series of educational apps enhancing student engagement and learning of classic Shakespearean texts.
Rowe earned a bachelor's degree in English and American literature from Carleton College and a master's and a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard. She has completed graduate work in Cinema and Media Studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Her areas of research and scholarship include Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser, Medieval and Renaissance drama and media history.
Rowe spent 16 years at Bryn Mawr College as an English professor, department chair and director of the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center for leadership and public engagement. She was awarded the Rosalyn R. Schwartz Teaching Prize for Excellence and Innovation in 2011. Rowe also directed two collaborative programs with Haverford and Swarthmore, Tri-Co Digital Humanities and the Mellon Tri-College Faculty Forum. Before that, she was assistant professor of English at Yale.
Rowe has published three books: New Wave Shakespeare on Screen with Thomas Cartelli (Polity Press, 2007), Reading the Early Modern Passions: Essays in the Cultural History of Emotion as co-editor (Penn Press, 2004) and Dead Hands: Fictions of Agency, Renaissance to Modern (Stanford, 2000). She also has editing credits in the Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare and introduced G.B. Evans' The Tragedy of Macbeth.
The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare, with more than 350 scholarly contributors from five continents, was honored in 2016 by the American Association of Publishers with two PROSE awards, considered the most prestigious in the publishing industry, for excellence in reference works and multi-volume reference in the humanities and social sciences. This international collaboration was also recognized in 2016 by the Library Journal for outstanding print reference work for the Cambridge Guide as well as the American Library Association's outstanding academic title.
Rowe serves on the Northern Virginia Technology Council and is a past president of the Shakespeare Association of America. She is also a past member of Harvard's Board of Overseers' Visiting Committee of the Library and the Executive Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies. She has held memberships and other service positions in the Modern Language Association, International Shakespeare Association and Society for Cinema and Media Studies. In 2020, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education named Rowe one of the top 35 women in higher education.
Rowe has spent more than a decade coaching Ultimate Frisbee and has led multiple teams to state championships in Pennsylvania. She was a World Ultimate Club Finalist and a Women's Nationals Finalist. She also co-founded the nonprofit Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance and the Carleton College women's Ultimate team.
Rowe shares her love of Ultimate with her spouse, Bruce Jacobson. They have two adult children, Daniel and Beah.