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Sociologist Sarah Willie-LeBreton Named New Provost

Sarah Willie-LeBreton

Sarah Willie-LeBreton

In a message to the community, President Valerie Smith announced that Professor of Sociology Sarah Willie-LeBreton has been selected as the College’s next provost.

A member of the Swarthmore community since 1997 and chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department since 2013, Willie-LeBreton will assume the position on July 1. She succeeds Tom Stephenson, who will return to the Chemistry Department as a full-time faculty member.

In her message to the community, Smith says that Willie-LeBreton “brings experience, enthusiasm, compassion, and outstanding judgment to this critical position,” and that she “understands both the academic and community values that define Swarthmore.”

In her 20 years at the College, Willie-LeBreton has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments. She served as associate provost from 2005 to 2008; chaired the President’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct in 2013-14; and was the coordinator of the Black Studies Program from 1998-2005, 2010-11, and 2013-14.

“Swarthmore’s excellence is the result of many partnerships among faculty, staff, administrators, and students,” says Willie-LeBreton. “I look forward to fostering those relationships while advancing the academic mission as we continue to provide Swarthmore students with an extraordinary education for a complex world.”

As a scholar, Willie-LeBreton’s interests include higher education, social inequality, social theory, African-American culture, and work and occupations. She has taught courses on African American culture, race, racism, and social inequality. A self-described applied sociologist, Willie-LeBreton has worked with a variety of groups on inclusivity and justice initiatives. She is the author of Acting Black: College, Identity and the Performance of Race (2003), a study of college-educated African Americans in the post-civil rights movement era, and editor of and contributor to Transforming the Academy: Faculty Perspectives on Diversity and Pedagogy (2016).

Willie-LeBreton graduated from Haverford College in 1986 and received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1995.

Members of the search committee included Professor of Philosophy Peter Baumann, Associate Professor of Economics Erin Todd Bronchetti, Professor of Studio Art Syd Carpenter, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Don Shimamoto, Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science Rick Valelly ’75, and Professor of Biology Liz Vallen.

The provost is the principal academic officer of the College, overseeing the curriculum and the faculty. All academic departments report to the Provost, as do the Library, Athletics, and Information Technology Services. The Provost chairs the Council on Educational Policy and the Curriculum Committee and is a member of the Committee on Faculty Procedures and the Committee on Promotion and Tenure, among others. The Provost also works with department chairs on appointments, reappointments, and tenure and promotion decisions; develops budgets for the academic programs; provides faculty with opportunities for professional development as scholars and teachers; and proposes, evaluates, and implements curricular changes.

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