Date May 3, 2023
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Thomas A. Lewis named Brown’s new dean of the Graduate School

An accomplished scholar, mentor and administrator, Lewis will lead efforts to shape and strengthen the academic experience for Brown’s nearly 3,000 graduate students.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Thomas A. Lewis, a Brown University alumnus, faculty member and administrator, will become the University’s new dean of the Graduate School, effective July 1.

Lewis, a professor of religious studies, has served as interim dean of the Graduate School during the current academic year, after longtime leader Andrew Campbell completed his term as dean in June 2022. Previously, Lewis served as the school’s associate dean of academic affairs, as well as co-deputy dean.

In his permanent role as dean, Lewis — known to most as Tal, informally — will continue to advance the excellence of the University’s master’s and doctoral programs, increase support for graduate students and strengthen the broader structure for graduate education at Brown, according to Interim Provost Larry Larson. Larson shared news of the appointment in a Wednesday, May 3, letter to the Brown community, noting the campus will benefit from Lewis’s “continued leadership, support and advocacy for our graduate students.”

“Tal has been a tireless advocate and mentor for graduate students across the University over the past seven years,” Larson said. “He has been an exemplary teacher, leader and citizen of the University.”

In leading all aspects of the Graduate School — which engages and supports more than 2,900 students enrolled in 50 doctoral and 31 master’s programs across Brown’s departments, schools and centers — Lewis will help implement a strategic vision for the school, provide financial oversight and planning, oversee graduate student admission and funding, and lead the school’s staff.

“I’m passionate about the future of Brown and the role of graduate education,” Lewis said. “Brown’s growing commitment to research and the vital role of graduate students in research — combined with the work of the task force on doctoral education — really position us to take graduate education at Brown to the next level.”

During Lewis’s tenure as interim dean, he has shepherded recommendations from the doctoral education task force that he chaired in 2021-22, with a focus on promoting outstanding, innovative graduate education and preparing graduate students for their desired career outcomes, among many accomplishments, Larson said.

“In his leadership roles, Tal has partnered with faculty across all academic divisions to ensure excellence and manage enrollments,” Larson said. “He has led efforts to streamline the graduate program review process, improve graduate student advising with a focus on inclusion of students from historically underrepresented groups, and provide extended support to doctoral students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Shaped by Brown, strengthening its future

Lewis initially came to Brown as an undergraduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in religious studies in 1990.

“One of the things I’ve always loved about Brown is the centrality of intellectual curiosity,” Lewis said. “I spent a long time away from Brown before coming back as a faculty member, but I have always been heartened by how much that characteristic continues to define this university.”

Since joining the faculty in 2007, Lewis has taught undergraduate and graduate students and served as director of both graduate and undergraduate studies for the Department of Religious Studies.

“Having been intimately connected to the undergraduate experience at Brown also contributes to my sense of the way in which graduate students are not in competition with undergraduates, but rather, provide a kind of connective tissue to pull the community together,” he said.

Through his academic leadership roles and his engagement on a wide variety of committees and working groups, Lewis has been driven by a commitment to students, embracing collaboration and advancing the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, all of which he looks forward to deepening as dean of the Graduate School.

“We’re seeing continued growth in the number of applicants and matriculating students coming from historically underrepresented groups,” Lewis said, noting the importance of a diverse campus community in advancing Brown’s teaching, research and academic excellence. “There is a broad and deep commitment to supporting all students while they are here so that they thrive, and there is significant work to do.”

Prior to joining the Brown faculty, Lewis earned his Ph.D. in religious studies at Stanford University and taught at Harvard University and the University of Iowa. He specializes in religious ethics and the philosophy of religion in the modern West. He has held fellowships at Princeton University and published dozens of journal articles and three books, including “Why Philosophy Matters for the Study of Religion — and Vice Versa” (2015).

“I’ve learned a lot about graduate education across Brown, as well as nationally, through collaboration with peers,” Lewis said. “I think it has positioned me well to lead graduate education at Brown into its next stage. I’m thrilled to continue working with students and faculty across all departments and divisions to support graduate programs that enable students to thrive and launch them into field-leading careers. This an exciting moment for graduate education at Brown.”