A Quartet of African Americans Who Have Been Appointed to Dean Positions

Phylicia Rashad was appointed dean of the recently reestablished College of Fine Arts at Howard University in Washington, D.C., effective July 1, 2021. An accomplished actor and stage director, Rashad is perhaps best known for her role as Claire Huxtable on the long-running television hit “The Cosby Show.” Rashad has served as a guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member, conducting master’s-level classes at many colleges, universities, and arts organizations, including Howard University, New York University, Vassar College, Carnegie Mellon, and Wayne State University.

“It is a privilege to serve in this capacity and to work with the Howard University administration, faculty, and students in reestablishing the College of Fine Arts,” said Rashad.

Rashad is a graduate of Howard University. She holds honorary doctorates from honorary doctorates, including Howard University, Spelman College, the University of South Carolina at Columbia, Tuskegee University, Brown University, Bennett College, St. Augustine College, Providence College, Barber-Scotia College, Clark Atlanta University, Morris Brown College, Carnegie Mellon University and Fordham University.

For the first time in 149 years, Cornell University’s faculty has elected a woman, a person of color, and a professor from the College of Human Ecology as dean of faculty. Eve De Rosa, an associate professor of human development, will begin a three-year term on July 1.

The dean of faculty represents the interests of the faculty to Cornell’s trustees, administration, students, employees, and alumni. The dean also ensures the faculty is fully informed about campus issues and the concerns of each university constituency. “I see it as a collaborative position, a position for advocacy and persuasion, and as overseeing the well-being of our faculty,” said Dr. De Rosa.

Dr. De Rosa, who joined the faculty at Cornell in 2013, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She then worked as a research assistant at Harvard University’s School of Medicine, where she further developed an interest in research. Dr. De Rosa trained in animal neuroscience and earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard in 2000.

Battinto Batts Jr. was appointed dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He will begin his new job on July 1.

“A commitment to diversity, inclusion. and empowerment is inherent for me,” Batts said. “I want to help make the Cronkite school the model for higher education in terms of diversity and a source of expertise in terms of news coverage and communications research on topics that are relevant for communities of color.”

Dr. Batts previously worked as a newspaper crime reporter, lecturer, philanthropist, strategic communications professional, higher-education administrator, and nonprofit executive. Most recently, he has served as director of journalism strategies for the Scripps Howard Foundation.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Batts earned a master’s degree in media management at Norfolk State University in Virginia and a Ph.D. in higher education management from Hampton University in Virginia.

Linda Thomas was appointed dean of the Graduate School at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, effective June 1. She has been serving as dean of the School of Integrated Sciences at the university since 2018. Dr. Thomas earlier taught at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, where she served as interim chair of civil, environmental, and ocean engineering, and head of the construction engineering program.

“I think graduate education is the future and I see a lot of potential at JMU because we are a teaching university,” Thomas said. “Faculty cannot succeed here unless they are great teachers. I think we can add the JMU brand to graduate education and also expand our international student base.”

Dr. Thomas holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida. She holds a law degree from the University of Miami and a Ph.D. in engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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