John L. Jackson Jr., a dean at the University of Pennsylvania, was named as its next provost on Wednesday, making him the second Black person to hold the title.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jackson, 51, will take over as Penn’s top academic executive on June 1 if the board of trustees approves his appointment. The current dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, he previously oversaw its School of Social Policy & Practice and was a senior consultant to the provost on diversity.
“John Jackson is one of Penn’s most respected and accomplished academic leaders,” Penn President Liz Magill shared in a statement, according to The Inquirer. “He is an acclaimed scholar who has had extraordinary success in recruiting outstanding faculty, in leading innovations in teaching and learning, and in building an exceptional educational experience for students.”
In his role as provost — generally regarded as the second-in-command after the president — Jackson, who received a bachelor’s degree in communication at Howard University in 1993, will be responsible for managing areas including research and student life, teaching and learning, global initiatives, online learning, the arts, athletics and recreation.
He will succeed Wendell Pritchett, Penn’s first Black provost. Pritchett took a medical leave of absence in the fall of 2021 and was named interim president in the winter. He returned to the law faculty when Magill became president in July.
Since July 2021, Beth A. Winkelstein has served as interim provost. She will now resume her duties as deputy provost.
Penn described Jackson, who has been at the institution since 2006, as a media ethnographer, urban researcher, anthropologist of religion, and a race and ethnicity theorist whose work examines how using film and other unconventional formats could be helpful in academic research initiatives.
He presently serves as the chair of a group Magill established to advise on future strategic initiatives for Penn.
“John is a superb fundraiser who has raised the profile of both schools that he has led at Penn,” Magill added, The Inquirer reported. “I know he will guide Penn to even greater heights.”
The first Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professor, Jackson joined the university two years after former president Amy Gutmann introduced the new cross-disciplinary approach. Professors in the PIK program hold affiliations at numerous institutions, collaborating across disciplines.
He is also a filmmaker, most recently working as co-producer and co-director of “Making Sweet Tea: The Lives and Loves of Southern Black Gay Men” in 2021.
“I look forward to working closely with President Magill and the entire Penn community,” Jackson said in a statement, The Inquirer reported, “as we navigate the challenges and opportunities of today and prepare, together, for the ones that will emerge tomorrow.”
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