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Update on Senior Leadership Transitions

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff Members, 

I am pleased to share with you updates on two senior-staff searches that are underway.

Provost and Dean of the Faculty
As I shared with you in September, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Sarah Willie-LeBreton is leaving Swarthmore at the end of the academic year to become the 12th president of Smith College. In consultation with the Committee on Faculty Procedures (COFP), I have formed a search committee to help identify a slate of candidates for the position. The individuals who have graciously agreed to serve on that committee are:

  • Todd Anckaitis, Head Women’s Soccer Coach
  • Joshua Brody, Associate Professor of Computer Science
  • Nanci Buiza, Associate Professor of Spanish
  • Jane Gillham, Professor of Psychology
  • Jonathan Kochavi, Associate Professor of Music
  • Janet Talvacchia, Albert L. and Edna Pownall Buffington Professor of Mathematics

Professors Buiza and Talvacchia have agreed to serve as co-chairs. As you may know, candidates for Swarthmore’s provost come from within the faculty. The committee has begun the work of outlining an internal search process, and they anticipate formally launching the search next month. I expect to identify a new provost by mid-spring. That timeline will ensure that the incoming provost will be able to spend time with Sarah before she departs. 

As I wrote when I announced that Sarah was leaving, given the complex nature of the position and based on feedback from Sarah and others, now is an opportune time to evaluate whether the role and the office are appropriately structured. In consultation with COFP, I have assembled a study group on faculty governance to look at these questions, as well as broader issues of faculty governance, in conjunction with our strategic planning efforts. I have asked the members of the study group to prioritize helping me consider the scope of the provost’s role and the appropriateness of the organization of the office. I am the convener of this group, whose members include: 

  • Michael Brown, Morris L. Clothier Professor of Physics
  • John Caskey, Joseph Wharton Professor of Economics
  • Lynne Steurle Schofield ’99, Associate Professor of Statistics
  • Krista Thomason, Associate Professor of Philosophy
  • William Turpin, The Scheuer Family Chair of Humanities and Professor of Classics

The group will work in collaboration with members of the search committee as they finalize a process. The governance group will be reaching out to faculty and administrative colleagues during the next several weeks to seek broad input on these questions.

My deep gratitude to the members of both of these groups for undertaking this important work.

Vice President for Student Affairs
As you know, Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Terhune is also leaving the College, effective the end of the calendar year. The search for his successor is underway. I’m grateful to the members of the search committee who are assisting in this effort: 

  • Jim Adams, Director of Sustainable Maintenance
  • Tim Burke, Professor of History and Aydelotte Foundation Co-Director
  • Erin Brownlee Dell, Chief of Staff and Secretary of the College
  • Beth Glassman, Vice President for Human Resources
  • Val Gómez, Associate Director of Athletics
  • Bindu Jayne, Title IX Coordinator
  • Andy Hirsch, Vice President for Communications
  • Owen Mortner ’23
  • Michelle Ray, Associate Dean and Director of Case Management
  • Kathryn Riley ’10, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Assistant Softball Coach
  • Bethany Winters ’24

I am serving as the committee chair. We’ve engaged the firm Spencer Stuart to support this national search. Our primary liaison there, Ponneh Varho, has more than 15 years of experience leading senior-level searches at colleges and universities. She and her colleague, Irma Encarnación, have already met with numerous students, faculty, and staff members to gather community input that will help inform their recruitment strategy. If you would like to connect with Ponneh or Irma, including to nominate a candidate confidentially for the position, please email

As I shared previously, Dean of Students and Professor of Art History Tomoko Sakomura has agreed to serve as interim vice president for student affairs, and Senior Associate Dean of Student Life Nathan Miller has agreed to serve as interim dean of students. My thanks to Tomoko and Nate for their willingness to take on those additional responsibilities.

I appreciate that the work described in this note requires significant time and attention from many members of our community. Few roles are more central to our work than the chief academic officer and chief student affairs officer. I am grateful for your collective energy in ensuring the success of these searches.  

My best, 

Val Smith