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Tomoko Sakomura Named Swarthmore's Next Provost

Tomoko Sakomura in front of grass near Parrish Hall

Sakomura joined the Student Affairs Division in 2017 as associate dean of academic affairs and previously served as chair of the Art and Art History Department.

Swarthmore College President Valerie Smith recently announced that Tomoko Sakomura, interim vice president for student affairs and professor of art history, will serve as the next provost and dean of the faculty of Swarthmore College. A member of the Swarthmore community since 2005, she will assume the position on July 1.

"Tomoko brings experience, enthusiasm, compassion, and outstanding judgment to this critical position," says Smith. "Thanks to her varied leadership positions on campus and her strong relationships with students, as well as staff and faculty colleagues, she understands both the academic and community values that define Swarthmore."

Sakomura joined the Student Affairs Division in 2017 as associate dean of academic affairs. Previously, she served as chair of the Art and Art History Department as well as on several College committees. She also served as dean of students from 2020 until taking on her interim role last year. 

Sakomura, whose research explores relationships between text and image in Japanese art and design, holds a B.A. from Keio University in Tokyo and an M.A. and Ph.D. in art history and archaeology from Columbia University. At Swarthmore, she has offered courses on visual and material cultures of East Asia, past and present, including calligraphy and tea culture. Her book, Poetry as Image: The Visual Culture of Waka in Sixteenth-Century Japan (Brill, 2016), is part of a multi-volume series devoted to the visual culture of the Japanese archipelago.

As principal academic officer of the College, the provost oversees the curriculum and the faculty. All academic departments report to the provost, as do the Libraries; Athletics, Physical Education & Recreation; 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 works with department chairs on appointments, re-appointments, 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.

Sakomura will replace outgoing provost Sarah Willie-LeBreton, who will become Smith College’s 12th president on July 1.

"Sarah’s steady leadership and wise counsel have been critically important to the College during her five years as provost and dean of the faculty and her 25-year tenure on the faculty of the College’s Sociology & Anthropology Department and the Black Studies Program, and invaluable to me since I arrived at Swarthmore in 2015," says Smith. "I hope you’ll join me in celebrating her service to the College at a reception later this spring."

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