Dr. Yohuru Williams, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University in Connecticut, will become the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas on July 17. Williams will succeed Dr. Terence Langan, who has led the college since 2011.
“Yohuru is a proven leader who will provide visionary direction to our College of Arts and Sciences,” said St. Thomas Executive Vice President and Provost Richard Plumb. “His forward thinking will contribute to an environment that supports the intellectual and creative spirit of St. Thomas.” Plumb added that Williams’ experience leading faculty with a strong vision for liberal arts, as well as his deep background in the Catholic intellectual tradition, make him a strong fit for the role.
A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Williams is a graduate of the Fairfield College Preparatory School, a Jesuit school on the campus of Fairfield University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in history from the University of Scranton. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in history from Howard University.
“I am very much looking forward to working with St. Thomas’ world-class faculty and the entire university community in our shared work of forging outstanding young leaders – women and men of character and conscience in the best tradition of Catholic liberal arts education,” Williams said.
Williams began teaching in 1998 at Delaware State University, where he was an associate professor of history and director of black studies. He joined the history department at Fairfield University in 2005, where he continues to teach, and went on to serve as director of black studies and associate vice president for academic affairs. In his current role as dean, he oversees 15 departments, 19 interdisciplinary programs and more than 160 faculty. His research fields include 20th century American history, African-American history, the civil rights and black power movements, and the African diaspora.
In addition to his scholarly work, Williams served as the chief historian and vice president for public outreach and education at the Jackie Robinson Foundation in New York from 2010-14. He is the recipient of the Fairfield University Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Award, given to individuals who demonstrate a commitment to the ideals and values of Dr. King, and he was named a 2009 Emerging Scholar by Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
“Yohuru is an inspiring leader with a passion for community engagement and impact,” said St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan. “I am thrilled he is joining our university community and look forward to working with him in furthering our mission to advance the common good.”
St. Thomas Art History Department chair Victoria Young and Dean of the School of Law Robert Vischer co-chaired the search committee that recommended Williams. “The College of Arts and Sciences, with its breadth of disciplines and its focus on the liberal arts and the common good, will be well served and supported by Yohuru’s approach to leadership, scholarship and mission,” Young said. “I am grateful to all the members of our community, particularly those who served on the search committee, for their commitment to this important process and to the continued success of the college.”
“Among his many gifts, what stands out about Yohuru is his ability to bring seemingly disconnected points together to form a coherent and compelling vision for the college,” Vischer said. “Questions about Catholic identity, the relevance of the liberal arts, the role of research in a college that cares deeply about the student experience, the cost-benefit analysis underlying a family’s college choice, the expectations of employers for future generations of workers, the role of fine arts in today’s world – these are not isolated issues for Yohuru. They are part of one story about what a Catholic university is, does and can become. He ‘gets it’ in a way that energizes and inspires.”
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 37 academic departments and interdisciplinary programs.