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Announcing Swarthmore's Next Chief of Staff and Secretary of the College

Dear Students, and Faculty and Staff Colleagues, 

I’m delighted to share the wonderful news that Erin Brownlee Dell will join our community as the next chief of staff and secretary of the college (CSSC). Erin’s experience, combined with the deep knowledge of higher education that she displayed through several conversations with faculty and staff colleagues, members of the Board of Managers, and me, set her apart from a remarkably strong pool of candidates.

Erin’s colleagues with whom I spoke praised her commitment to collaborative, consensus-driven decision making; her expertise across a broad range of higher education issues and functions; and the optimism and energy she brings to even the most challenging conversations. 

Erin comes to us from Guilford College, a Quaker-founded liberal arts college in Greensboro, N.C., where she has served in multiple roles during her 18-year tenure. As an associate academic dean, she worked closely with faculty, staff, and students and was integral to the success of a range of offices, including Guilford’s Library, the Multicultural Education Department, and experiential education, among others. She served on the college’s reaccreditation leadership team during successful reaccreditation initiatives in 2006 and 2016. And she sat on numerous institution-wide committees charged with overseeing a broad range of areas, such as college policy, strategic planning, enrollment management, student retention, international education, diversity, and space allocation.

In 2016, Erin was appointed as Guilford’s inaugural chief of staff and assistant secretary to the board of trustees. In that role, Erin helped oversee the administrative, operational, and financial affairs of the Office of the President. As a key member of the college’s leadership team, Erin served as a liaison between the Office of the President and all academic and administrative areas of the college. She also supported the college’s Board of Trustees, including by helping to guide the restructuring of board committees and the revision of its bylaws. Most recently, she helped lead the college through the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Erin holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kalamazoo College; a Master of Education, Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education; and a Ph.D. in Educational and Cultural Studies from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. 

I want to thank everyone who participated in the search process for helping us reach this successful outcome. For the past eight months, Vice President for Communications Andy Hirsch and Assistant Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment Robin Huntington Shores have served as acting chief of staff and acting secretary of the college, respectively; Meg Gebhard, administrative coordinator to the CSSC, has also taken on many additional responsibilities during this interim period. All three have displayed exceptional commitment to the College, and I am deeply grateful to all of them. I know they will work to make Erin’s transition to Swarthmore a seamless one.

Erin’s first day will be Sept. 7. Please join me in welcoming her, her husband, Kyle Dell, who is an associate professor of political science and environmental and sustainability studies as well as an associate dean in the provost’s office at Guilford, and their family to the Swarthmore College Community. 


Val Smith