Anthony J. Kolenic will return to the University of Michigan to become director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.

Anthony J. Kolenic
Anthony J. Kolenic

Kolenic, whose five-year appointment is effective March 1, 2021, will oversee 40 staff and partners across the university who support and maintain more than 840 acres across two Matthaei-Nichols properties.

He succeeds Bob Grese, who was director of Matthaei-Nichols since 2004 and retired in June 2020. David Betz, program manager of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, has been serving as interim director and will continue to do so until Kolenic’s appointment takes effect.

“MBGNA is vital to the university’s mission and serves as a catalyst for sustainability and inclusive community engagement and education,” Kolenic said. “I look forward to working with campus and community partners to protect, restore and utilize MBGNA to its fullest extent.”

He will enter his role at U-M deeply familiar with the university, having served as associate director and interim executive director of ArtsEngine and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities from 2013-15. He managed interdisciplinary research and curricular initiatives among the arts, architecture, engineering and other fields.

During his time at U-M, Kolenic was co-principal investigator for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Research Project, a three-year, $500,000 effort to create the first comprehensive guide to best practices for the integration of arts practices in U.S. universities.

In 2015, Kolenic joined the College of the Arts at the University of Florida and currently serves as associate dean for research and strategic initiatives, and is an associate professor of digital arts and sciences in the Digital Worlds Institute.

As associate dean, he oversees community engagement and strategic partnerships, in addition to securing external grants, interdisciplinary initiatives, and growing and managing the college’s research portfolio.

Prior to joining ArtsEngine and a2ru at U-M, Kolenic taught at Michigan State University’s Center for the Integrative Studies of Arts and Humanities from 2006-12. He also was the Ph.D. adviser and specialist for Peace and Justice Studies from 2010-13, working closely with community organizations and external partners to craft environmental justice initiatives.

“As a leader, Dr. Kolenic has demonstrated an impressive ability to effectively combine vision and action,” said Michael Solomon, dean of the Rackham Graduate School and vice provost for academic affairs. 

“I am confident that he will build relationships with scholars, students and the broader public to further strengthen their engagement with Matthaei-Nichols, along with supporting its dedicated community of staff, interns and volunteers.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in social relations from the James Madison College at Michigan State University in 2005, focusing on environmental policy. He received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in American studies from MSU.

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