Amherst College Names Peter Uvin to New Provost Post
AMHERST, Mass. – Peter Uvin, the academic dean and the Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, has been selected to be Amherst College’s provost, the first in the college's history, Amherst President Biddy Martin announced today.
“Peter brings a rare combination of scholarly and administrative achievement,” said Martin, who chaired the provost search committee. “He is smart, creative, deft, and funny. He is committed to the values we hold dear at Amherst and will play a significant role in advancing them. I look forward to working with him.”
Uvin, 50, was selected from among 11 semifinalists (and from many more candidates whose credentials were reviewed) for a position that will have a number of responsibilities, including strategic planning, coordination across academic and administrative domains, leadership of the college’s efforts to fully take advantage of its diversity among students and faculty and pursuing international initiatives.
"With the appointment of its first provost, Amherst adds to its administrative capacity while reinforcing the centrality of intellectual life to the overall workings of the college,” Martin said. “The provost will coordinate cross-college functions and initiatives, lead our efforts to do continual and integrated planning, and help knit diversity into the fabric of our culture. The position and its first occupant will enhance what is already a jewel of a college."
Uvin, a native of Belgium with degrees from Ghent University in diplomatic science and political science and a Ph.D. in political science from Switzerland’s Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, said he embraces the opportunity to serve as Amherst’s first provost. Uvin will begin his position this summer and intends to visit the campus soon to introduce himself to the college community.
“I feel tremendously honored to have been chosen to hold this position at Amherst College, which I have for decades considered to be one of the global leaders in liberal arts education,” he said. “I was very impressed with the quality of Amherst’s senior leadership and the commitment of the faculty I met to the educational mission of the college. That quality and commitment is why I chose to accept this challenge.”
Uvin’s academic expertise is in matters of development, conflict and human rights in Africa, with a focus on the African Great Lakes region, which includes Rwanda and Burundi. His scholarly achievements include being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006, and his book Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda received the African Studies Association’s 1999 Herskovits Award for the most outstanding book on Africa.
"Amherst is fortunate to be able to draw on the talents of Peter Uvin as its first provost,” said Cullen Murphy '74, chair of the Amherst College Board of Trustees. “He brings to the college deep knowledge and experience—with respect not only to higher education and academic administration but also to the realities of a diverse and globalizing world. His ideas, his skills, and his capacity for listening will be extraordinary assets as Amherst moves forward."
Uvin’s professional duties as The Fletcher School’s academic dean have encompassed everything related to the academic experience, including curriculum development, international education, and the hiring and promotion of faculty. Uvin also taught and was an administrator at Brown University, where his wife, Susan Cu-Uvin, M.D., is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and medicine, as well as director of the Global Health Initiative. The couple has two children: daughter Zoe, a sophomore at Tufts, and son Ziggy, a high school sophomore.
Uvin expressed enthusiasm for helping Amherst navigate changes facing higher education and for exploring and embracing opportunities for improvement and refinement while helping the college remain true to its core values and enhancing its reputation as a leading liberal arts college.
“I have always felt the need for high-quality liberal arts education in society, and I’m a deep believer in stimulating minds in the broadest ways to be critical thinkers,” he said. “Amherst is a leader in this area, and that’s one of the reasons that I was attracted to this position. Another thing that attracted me to Amherst is its powerful focus on high-quality undergraduate education and the faculty’s commitment to this core mandate. I find that very appealing.”
Uvin’s hiring represents the culmination of a search process that began in February, when Martin announced the creation of the new provost position in a letter sent to faculty. The process included retaining the search firm of Isaacson Miller, which held a series of on-campus meetings to determine qualities and characteristics of ideal candidates.
A search committee with student, staff and faculty representation was formed in June. In addition to Martin, who chaired the committee, other members included Suzette Farnham, academic department coordinator; Kannan Jagannathan, professor of physics; Christopher Kingston, professor of economics; Maria Kirigin ’14; Megan Morey, chief advancement officer; and Sean Redding, professor of history.
The committee met through the summer and fall and conducted interviews with semifinalists in October and November, with Uvin visiting campus in mid-November. Search committee members were united in their enthusiasm for Uvin’s appointment.
"In the interview and in reading about his work, I found in Peter Uvin an ideal candidate for the position of the inaugural provost at Amherst,” Jagannathan said. “He has brought to bear his great intellectual power to some of the most pressing humanitarian crises of our time. His work and experience have led him to value and have great faith in deliberative democracy. He is also tough-minded and asks hard questions. He combines these qualities with self-effacing humor and great skill as an executive who gets people together to get things done.”
Citing Uvin’s “rare combination of a distinguished academic record, high-level administrative experience and fresh perspectives on a range of issues that will help to shape the college's development in the coming years,” Kingston added, “Peter impressed me as sincere, thoughtful, very smart, and very wise, but at the same time approachable and reasonable.”
Farnham, who works in the music department, said she appreciated Uvin’s rational, down-to-earth and questioning nature.
“I believe he will work very well with the current administration and is the right choice to have as our first provost, in that he seems eager to create the position from the ground up,” she said.
Kirigin, a junior from Bolivia majoring in English, said she looks forward to Uvin’s arrival on campus.
“How wonderful that this kind and incredibly intelligent individual can join our community,” she said. “His presence and his vision of the liberal arts is now more than ever one we desperately need--in his own words: ‘We can't form well-rounded individuals if we keep putting people in boxes.’
About The Fletcher School at Tufts University:
The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the first exclusively graduate school of international affairs in the United States, has prepared the world’s leaders to tackle complex global challenges since 1933. The school’s alumni represent the highest levels of leadership in the world, including hundreds of sitting ambassadors, respected voices from distinguished media outlets and institutions, heads of global nonprofit organizations and executive leadership of some of the world’s largest for-profit companies. The Fletcher School offers a collaborative, flexible and interdisciplinary approach to the study of international affairs, featuring a distinguished faculty and diverse student body representing more than half the world¹s countries.
The Fletcher School awards professional degrees, including a two-year master of arts in law and diplomacy (MALD); a one-year master of arts for mid-career professionals; a one-year, mid-career combined Internet-mediated/residential global master of arts (GMAP); a Ph.D. program; a master of arts in International Business (MIB); and a master of laws in international law (LL.M.), as well as joint degrees, summer school and certificate programs.
About Amherst College:
Founded in 1821, Amherst is a highly selective, coeducational liberal arts college with 1,800 students from most of the 50 states and more than 30 other countries. Considered one of the nation’s best educational institutions, Amherst awards the B.A. degree in 37 fields of study.