Joseph Urgo comes to St. Mary's College of Maryland from Hamilton College in upstate New York, where he served as the chief academic officer. As such, he led the faculty and oversaw the College Library; the Registrar's Office; the Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center; the Emerson Gallery; Hamilton's study-away programs; intercollegiate athletics; and several other academic support programs and centers. He is a professor of English, and taught courses in American literature while serving as dean of faculty.
Urgo created the position of associate dean for diversity initiatives, improving the recruitment and retention of faculty of color during his time at Hamilton College. He also conducted a series of alumni association meetings around the country, "an evening with the dean of faculty," in cooperation with the Development Office. Urgo also coordinated a campus-wide strategic planning process, resulting in the publication of Foundations for Hamilton's Next 200 Years.
A native of Hartford, Connecticut, Urgo received his bachelor's degree in 1978 from Haverford College with a major in political science. He holds a master's degree from Wesleyan University and a master's and Ph.D. in American civilization from Brown University.Urgo served as professor and chair of the English department at the University of Mississippi from 2000 to 2006. At the University of Mississippi, he led a department of 40 full-time faculty members as well as the freshman composition program, the speech program, the writing center and the freshman seminar program. He led several curricular revisions and served on university committees and task forces that addressed general education, racial reconciliation, faculty governance, internships, interdisciplinary programs and the establishment of residential colleges. He also served on the governing council of the McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College.
Prior to arriving at the University of Mississippi in 2000, Urgo was a member of the Bryant College faculty for 11 years. He held a Fulbright lectureship in Spain in 1992. He also taught as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in American studies and assistant professor of English at Vanderbilt University from 1986-89, as a visiting assistant professor of English at Syracuse University from 1985-86, and as a teaching fellow while earning his Ph.D. at Brown University from 1983-85.
He received the Bryant College Alumni Association's Distinguished Faculty Award in 2000. Four years later, a $100,000 endowment created the Lindsay McCauley Kirkley Women's Council Scholarship in his honor at the University of Mississippi. He serves on the Board of Governors of the Willa Cather Foundation in Red Cloud, Nebraska.
Urgo's research interests focus on the works of 20th-century American novelists and writers William Faulkner and Willa Cather. He has published five books: Faulkner's Apocrypha: A Fable, Snopes, and the Spirit of Human Rebellion; Novel Frames: Literature as Guide to Race, Sex, and History in American Culture; Willa Cather and the Myth of American Migration; In the Age of Distraction; and Reading Faulkner: Absalom, Absalom!, which he co-authored with Noel Polk. Urgo has edited or co-edited numerous volumes, including a classroom edition of Willa Cather's My Antonia. He has also written dozens of essays, including analyses of affiliation and collegiality in the academy.
Urgo is married to Lesley Dretar Urgo, a native of Akron, Ohio. They have one son, George, and Doodle, a Jack Russell terrier.