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Bruce Bursten, dean of the UT Knoxville College of Arts and Sciences, announced Friday that he would be stepping down as dean and returning to the faculty as of Dec. 31.

Bursten is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry.

“It has been a privilege to serve as dean for the last 5-plus years,” Bursten wrote in the letter announcing his decision to Provost Susan Martin. “The College of Arts and Sciences is an extraordinary organization of outstanding faculty, dedicated staff and passionate students. We have accomplished much in our time together as the college has continued its quest for increased excellence.”

Martin commended Bursten for his achievements as dean, saying he has provided strong leadership that advanced an agenda of excellence, even in extraordinarily difficult times. She noted Bursten’s role in strengthening the university’s relationship with ORNL, in recruiting Governor’s Chairs and in helping his college surpass its development campaign goal. She also thanked him for his work in leading the Top 25 Task Force.

Martin said she will consult with faculty and administration and then appoint an interim dean. A search for Bursten’s permanent replacement will then commence.