Adam Bradford, PhD, assumed his position as Dean of the Graduate School at Idaho State University in February 2020. In his time as Dean, he has responded to COVID-19, led a transition to virtual instruction, inaugurated the institution’s first Virtual Research Symposium, and pursued other undertakings. Bradford credits his graduate school experience at the University of Iowa and subsequent administrative roles for their impact in preparing him for his current office.
Bradford completed his bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Utah before teaching and serving as an administrator at a primary school in his hometown, Salt Lake City. After he decided to continue with graduate school and earned his master’s degree in English from Brigham Young University, he began to consider doctoral programs.
Iowa’s English PhD Program caught his attention with its reputation as a center of Walt Whitman research. English Professor Ed Folsom directs the Walt Whitman Archive as a joint project with the University of Nebraska’s Kenneth Price. Having completed his master’s thesis on Whitman, Bradford was excited by the opportunity to study the influential writer even further with Folsom.
“There’s no better place to go than Iowa if you’re interested in studying Whitman,” says Bradford. “I was familiar with Ed’s work and really wanted to work with him. When I applied to Iowa and was accepted, I was thrilled. It was my top choice. I am so grateful to Iowa for accepting me, Ed for being willing to work with me, and the entire English Department for a phenomenal graduate student experience.”
Folsom served as Bradford’s advisor throughout the program and describes his former student as passionate and committed. He reflected on some of the key strengths he saw in Bradford during their time working together.
“The quality I most associate with Adam, in addition to his strong work ethic, is his ability to be self-critical,” Folsom says. “He is not an academic who thinks or assumes he is right, but rather one who always knows he has more to learn and thus is eager for criticism of his work so that he can improve and enhance it. That is what made him such a memorable doctoral student for me and it is the quality I know he brings to his new job at Idaho State.”
Bradford’s motivation and commitment to his work is largely rooted in a deep interest and curiosity for research. He values being able to analyze things in novel ways and views this kind of engagement as crucial in contributing to research.
“Conducting research is especially compelling to me,” says Bradford. “Working alongside colleagues to create new knowledge or explore ideas that few others have explored is eminently fascinating and rewarding. Contributing to that is now hard-wired into me, thanks to my experience at Iowa. It is a truly engrossing thing to be a part of.”
His passion for research and graduate work was evident when Bradford began his PhD program at Iowa. He entered as a Presidential Fellow, the Graduate College’s most prestigious fellowship at the time. Bradford also took a position as a teaching assistant and was recognized as an Outstanding TA Award winner.
“That combined support made it possible for me to be a thirty-something, returning-to-grad-school student,” says Bradford. “I had a small family, so it was the perfect scenario. We fell in love with Iowa City. It’s an amazing environment with world-class faculty who could not have been more supportive of my work. Ed Folsom, Laura Rigal, Matt Brown, and Kathleen Diffley are all people who were integral to my development – and I’ll always be grateful to them and many others in the department who were important mentors to me.”
While viewing himself as a nontraditional student at the time, Bradford was very grateful for the opportunity to pursue his PhD at Iowa. The accessibility of his graduate program has had a lasting influence on his current work as an administrator of graduate programs.
“The very best part of my job is when I get to consider how to make graduate education a reality for a student, in much the same way that it was made a reality for me,” says Bradford. “Creating new opportunities for students – whether those are programs, scholarships, or other new means of support – is something I’m really grateful to be able to do.”
Following his graduate education at Iowa, Bradford accepted a position as an assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University. He went on to serve there as Associate Chair of the Department of English, Chair of the University Graduate Programs Committee, Department Head of the Department of Philosophy, Director of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Associate Dean of Graduate Study for the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters.
Those opportunities provided Bradford insight on how universities function from an administrative standpoint. He gained experience learning how to navigate policies and the various pressures placed on universities.
“He will be an ideal dean because he understands how tough it is for faculty and graduate students to balance and meet the demands of academic life,” Folsom says. “Academic life requires you to be able to devote yourself to your teaching without neglecting your responsibilities to continue to develop your research and publish your discoveries and, while doing all of that, to also recognize your duty to serve your colleagues in whatever roles allow you to make the greatest contributions to your college and university.”
Bradford similarly reflected on these priorities when describing his new institution in Pocatello, Idaho. He describes his colleagues at Idaho State as supportive, good-willed people who are also genuinely interested in making positive changes within the institution. This was made even apparent only a month into Bradford’s tenure, as he and other university officials were tasked with leading a response to the coronavirus crisis.
“I’ve been incredibly proud of our response, which has been completely student-centered,” says Bradford. “The focus of the leadership team has been on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on our students and helping them through it. Our faculty have shared this as their top concern. Seeing videos of faculty on Zoom experimenting with new lecture formats and trying to keep things light, in what are otherwise difficult times, has been inspiring.”
While the Iowa alumnus was thrown into the fire quickly with the COVID-19 crisis, he wasted no time calling upon those experiences and skills he gained as a graduate student and an administrator.
“My time in graduate school and the English Department at Iowa was critical in my development as a scholar and in preparation for the administrative work I’m doing now,” says Bradford. “I’m very grateful for the opportunities the Iowa faculty gave me and for the ways they shaped me as an individual. I’ll always bleed black and gold for that reason. I’ll always be a Hawkeye.”