Date March 18, 2022
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Academic leader and scholar Leah VanWey appointed Brown’s next dean of the faculty

An accomplished administrator, researcher and teacher, VanWey will lead recruitment, retention and development of Brown faculty across the humanities, social sciences and a portfolio of physical and life sciences departments.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Leah VanWey, an accomplished scholar and academic leader who serves currently as dean of Brown’s School of Professional Studies, has been appointed the University’s next dean of the faculty, effective July 1, 2022.

The dean of the faculty is the senior academic officer responsible for developing and implementing programs, initiatives and policies to support the recruitment, retention and development of Brown faculty in academic departments in the humanities and social sciences, as well as physical and life sciences departments not housed within the School of Engineering, School of Public Health, or Division of Biology and Medicine.

VanWey will succeed Kevin McLaughlin, who after 11 years as dean of the faculty will complete a sabbatical before returning to the Brown faculty as a professor of English, comparative literature and German studies.

A professor of environment and society, and sociology, VanWey came to Brown in 2008. Before her appointment as dean of the School of Professional Studies in 2019, she served in a range of academic leadership positions, including associate provost for academic space, senior deputy director for research at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, and associate director of the University’s Population Studies and Training Center.

I look forward to playing my part in advancing Brown’s teaching excellence across the disciplines and supporting high-impact interdisciplinary research as we work collaboratively to grow the research enterprise of the University.

Leah VanWey Incoming Dean of the Faculty
Leah VanWey

Brown Provost Richard M. Locke announced VanWey’s appointment in a Friday, March 18, message to the University community. He said VanWey will bring to the dean of the faculty role deep experience building collaborative relationships across campus, and essential academic and administrative skills needed to ensure that the recruitment and retention of faculty advance the University's overall strategy for sustaining and building on the strength of its academic programs.

“With her extensive experience advising, teaching and mentoring students, directing multiple academic units and conducting her own high-impact research, Leah’s deep understanding of Brown’s academic ecosystem positions her to support faculty across a wide range of disciplines,” Locke said. “She’s a collaborative and innovative leader who will partner effectively with departments across campus to ensure that their standards for faculty excellence support the University’s teaching and research mission.”

VanWey said she has enjoyed working with faculty, staff and students across a wide variety of academic and administrative departments, and she is honored and energized by the opportunity to partner with diverse and talented faculty members across campus and especially in the departments reporting to the dean of the faculty.

“I look forward to playing my part in advancing Brown’s teaching excellence across the disciplines and supporting high-impact interdisciplinary research as we work collaboratively to grow the research enterprise of the University,” VanWey said. “And I’m particularly excited to build on the foundation of progress made in faculty hiring through the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and the upcoming recommendations of the Task Force on the Status of Women Faculty.”

As dean of the School of Professional Studies, VanWey has expanded the University’s portfolio of executive education graduate programs for professionals — which includes Brown’s globally ranked executive MBA program, offered in partnership with IE Business School in Spain — as well as open-enrollment, non-degree and custom corporate academic programs. She developed new initiatives to support academic excellence and the student experience for all master’s programs at Brown, introducing new student support and career services resources, centralizing recruitment efforts and collaborating with the Graduate School and academic departments across Brown to increase master’s program enrollment by nearly 50%.

As associate provost for academic space from 2017 to 2019, VanWey developed and helped to implement a plan to link Brown’s strategic priorities and collaborations among departments to physical spaces available for renovation and relocation. The plan resulted in multiple academic units moving into new or renovated spaces, consolidating others that had been spread across disparate locations, and moving some units into close proximity with other frequent collaborators. While in the role, she also provided essential leadership in Brown’s path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and the development of Brown’s sustainability strategic plan.

VanWey served as part of the founding leadership team at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, where she collaborated on the development of policies and practices and helped to launch seed research funding and post-doctoral scholars programs to spark research collaborations. She also led the development of the institute’s departmental diversity and inclusion action plan. Previously, she worked from 2011 to 2016 at the Population Studies and Training Center, where she successfully secured renewed federal funding for the graduate training program in demography.

As a scholar, VanWey is a social demographer and environmental social scientist. Her core research interests lie in the interplay between environmental change, demographic processes and human well-being in developing countries, especially Brazil. She is currently focused on household responses to a payment for reforestation program in the country’s Atlantic Forest, as well as the environmental impacts of the program. With a commitment to interdisciplinary research, she works frequently with anthropologists, demographers, urban planners, geographers, sociologists, historians, geoscientists and ecologists.

VanWey earned both a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From 2001 to 2008, she was a member of the sociology faculty at Indiana University, serving as a fellow at the school’s Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change, and the Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change.

As Brown’s dean of the faculty, she’ll serve as a member of the president’s cabinet and a member of the provost’s leadership group of senior academic deans, which coordinates academic priorities across the University.

Locke noted that in looking for VanWey’s successor as dean of the School of Professional Studies, Brown is fortunate to have a number of talented internal candidates; the University is finalizing an offer to a prospective dean for SPS and expects to announce the appointment in the coming days.