Professor of Religious Studies Thomas Lewis ’90 was appointed as interim dean of the Graduate School, according to an April 5 Today@Brown announcement from Provost Richard Locke P’18. Lewis will begin as interim dean July 1, taking the place of current Dean of the Graduate School Andrew Campbell for the 2022-23 academic year.
Campbell will step down after six years in this role and return to a faculty position in the medical sciences on June 30, The Herald previously reported.
In addition to his role as a professor in the Department of Religious Studies, Lewis currently serves as co-deputy dean and associate dean of academic affairs at the Graduate School. In his roles, he works to “ensure excellence and manage enrollments” of the school’s 51 doctoral programs, Locke wrote.
As interim dean, Lewis will be responsible for “advancing the excellence of our graduate programs, increasing support for our graduate students and strengthening the broader structure for graduate education across the University,” Locke wrote. Additionally, Lewis will oversee the implementation of future recommendations from the Task Force on Doctoral Education, a group tasked with improving the Graduate School’s educational offerings which he chairs.
“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to continue working with the graduate programs and graduate students across the University as well as a really great team of people within the Graduate School,” Lewis told The Herald.
After completing his undergraduate degree at the University in 1990, Lewis received his PhD in Religious Studies at Stanford University, according to the announcement. Lewis then taught at Harvard and the University of Iowa before returning to the University as an assistant professor in 2007.
Lewis said he greatly admires the intellectual curiosity of the student body, which he said plays a “key role in driving the life” of the University community. “I remember as an undergrad … I always had a sense that people were doing things because they were animated by the intellectual questions and the ideas that they were pursuing in those classes, and I haven't found that level of intellectual curiosity anywhere else,” he said.
Lewis said that he looks forward to working with graduate students from different academic areas and “seeing different strategies that make sense in light of different disciplines,” including in advising.
“One of the real priorities for me that has spanned a number of different projects has been strengthening and supporting outstanding academic advising for our graduate students,” Lewis said. “They play vital roles in the intellectual lives and the research projects of faculty members … and doing that well requires great advising,” he added.
“It's a really exciting time to build on the work of both increasing the excellence of the programs and making sure that we're making Brown a fantastic place to be for a wide range of students from diverse backgrounds,” Lewis said.
“Given the direct experience they bring in managing existing opportunities and challenges, internal academic leaders are typically best positioned to help bridge the gap between permanent leaders,” wrote University Spokesperson Brian Clark in an email to The Herald, referring to why Lewis was chosen for the interim role.
Locke plans to assemble a full search committee for the next permanent dean in the fall, Clark wrote, with the goal of a permanent dean filling the role before the start of the 2023-24 academic year.