Parent Magazine

Virginia Sapiro Will Step Down as Dean of Arts & Sciences

By Art Jahnke. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Virginia Sapiro, dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences since July 2007, will step down as dean at the end of this academic year. In her more than seven years at the helm of the University’s largest college, Sapiro led it to new heights. She oversaw the hiring of more than 150 faculty members, including 53 new positions, bringing the total number of full-time instructional faculty to 692, and ushered the college through a period that saw its reputation improve markedly. During her tenure, the number of freshman applications increased 38 percent, from 20,210 in 2007 to 27,950 in 2014, and philanthropic gifts more than doubled, bringing the total raised by CAS in the Campaign for BU to $84 million.

“Gina brought tremendous stability and planning and organization to the College of Arts & Sciences,” says President Robert A. Brown. “We have also seen, under her leadership, enormous growth in philanthropic support.”

Sapiro says she is very grateful for the opportunity to have been able to serve Boston University as dean of Arts & Sciences. “My desire to participate in the leadership of this great University was born of my passion for higher education and the difference it makes in the lives of its students and scholars and the impact a great university has on the world around us,” she says. “After careful consideration, I have concluded that it is now time to step back from this weighty responsibility and return to my first professional love—being a scholar and educator. From time to time, I have heard the siren call of partly finished research projects as well as some exciting new ideas. At this stage of my life, one can no longer simply say, ‘at some point in the future’ with any easiness.”

University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Jean Morrison says that Sapiro’s management of the college has been skillful and astute. “Gina has accomplished a tremendous amount in terms of the processes and procedures that facilitate effective management of the College of Arts & Sciences. She has also facilitated the hiring of many new high-quality faculty members.”

Sapiro, a women’s studies scholar and the first female dean in the college’s 141-year history, led discussions that culminated in the creation of the new Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies and initiated new area studies programs, including the BU Center for the Study of Asia, the BU Center for the Study of Europe, and the Middle East and North Africa Studies Program. Under her tutelage, CAS welcomed its first Feld Professorship, one of three professorships endowed with $10 million from the Feld Family Foundation, headed by trustee Kenneth Feld (SMG’70) and his wife, Bonnie Feld (CAS’73), and established the Maria Stata Professorship in Classical Greek Studies, made possible by a gift from Maria Stata (CAS’62), and the Slater Family Professorship in Behavioral Economics.

Working with faculty, staff, and students from CAS, Sapiro developed a task force to investigate the needs of freshman students, which led to the CAS First Year Experience, hired the college’s first associate dean for student academic life, and inaugurated a voluntary one-credit course to help freshmen transition to life at BU and in the city of Boston.

“Bob Brown hired me to be a transformative leader,” says Sapiro. “I have endeavored to do that. No one with any vision can ever complete everything one sets out to do. No matter how long I stayed, no matter how much I did, the work would never be done. I wish my successor as great a run as I had.”

Sapiro came to BU from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was vice provost for teaching and learning and served as interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. She earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Clark University and a doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan. A member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences since 2002, Sapiro is the author of The Political Integration of Women: Roles, Socialization, and Politics (1983), A Vindication of Political Virtue: The Political Theory of Mary Wollstonecraft (1992), and Women in American Society: An Introduction to Women’s Studies (2002).

The search for the next dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is expected to be conducted over the course of the 2014-2015 academic year, with a new dean identified by the end of the spring semester. Sapiro will remain in place until the new dean takes up the post.

A version of this article was originally published in BU Today.

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