Professor Rebecca Biron has been appointed dean of the College, Dartmouth’s senior officer responsible for undergraduate academic life, Provost Carolyn Dever announced today. Biron’s role will include leadership of the College’s new residential house communities and the professors directing the communities.
Biron is a professor of Spanish and comparative literature whose research and teaching focus on Latin American literary and cultural studies, literary theory, gender studies, and Mexican cultural criticism. As dean, she will provide direction on student inclusivity and diversity issues and strategic planning for admissions and financial aid. She assumes the deanship for a four-year term beginning July 1.
“I’m delighted to take on this official role in the effort to better integrate Dartmouth’s educational mission with student life,” says Biron. “At its best, the intellectual community provided by a residential liberal arts college challenges students to grapple with new ideas and perspectives in order to grow as whole people. I’m excited to find new ways to collaborate with students, faculty, and staff as colleagues in learning both in and beyond the classroom.”
The Dean of the College Division has been reorganized to focus the dean’s role on the integration of academics into the full range of student experiences, curricular and co-curricular, as Dartmouth seeks to enhance academic engagement on campus.
Biron will continue teaching at least one class a year while serving as dean. In the fall she’ll teach a comparative literature course and direct an honors thesis in Spanish. “It’s important that the new dean be an active scholar and teacher,” she says. “The whole idea of the reorganization of the Dean of the College Division is to infuse student life with the same intellectual purpose that defines Dartmouth’s primary mission to produce and disseminate knowledge.”
The reorganization includes the establishment of the position of vice provost for student affairs, a role with leadership and oversight of nonacademic student affairs programs and support services. Inge-Lise Ameer, currently serving as interim dean of the College, will begin work as vice provost on July 1. Both the dean and the vice provost will report to Dever.
“Rebecca is a strategic and creative leader with a strong record of teaching and scholarship. She understands how to manage organizational change and will be an effective partner in helping to advance faculty engagement in the lives of our students,” says Dever. “Dartmouth students will be very well served as we move into this new structure.”
Biron, a member of the Dartmouth faculty since 2006, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and her doctorate from the University of Iowa. She has taught at Iowa, Emory University, and the University of Miami, where she was the associate master of Pearson Residential College and lived in a residence hall housing 700 students as well as three faculty families who provided programming, leadership training, and advising to the students.
“In my experience as resident faculty in the past, I saw how these communities can be rich resources of peer education for students. They allow students and faculty to learn more from each other,” Biron says. "Dartmouth students bring to campus a wide variety of amazing experiences and insights. House communities provide a marvelous opportunity to draw from those strengths to develop new intellectual, communication, and leadership skills in a diverse and supportive social context.”
Biron will lead the new house professors and a network of students, faculty, and staff in creating a strong academic and residential program in the new house communities—a cornerstone of the Moving Dartmouth Forward plan announced in January by President Phil Hanlon ’77. The community system is designed to transform the undergraduate residential experience, bringing more continuity to students’ on-campus living options and greater opportunity for faculty-student interaction beyond the classroom. Six house professors were named in May; they and Biron will spend the next year planning the new system.
The search for the new dean was internal and chaired by Denise Anthony, vice provost for academic initiatives; its other members were Ameer, Professor Solomon Diamond, Associate Professor Jim Feyrer, Professor Irene Kacandes, and student Ashneil Jain ’15.
“Rebecca Biron is a terrific choice for dean of the College because she has concrete ideas about bridging academic work in the classroom and the intellectual and social life of students outside the classroom,” says Anthony.