Badia Ahad will serve as the next dean of Oxford College, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Ravi Bellamkonda announced in a May 23 email to the Oxford community. Ahad, who is currently the vice provost for faculty affairs and a professor of English at Loyola University Chicago, will assume the role on Aug. 1.
In her new role, Ahad will act as Oxford’s chief academic and administrative officer. Bellamkonda wrote in a May 23 press release that Ahad was selected from a strong pool of candidates, noting that she has the “confidence, gravitas and sensibilities to explore true innovation” in areas such as faculty development, faculty-student interaction and the overall undergraduate experience.
“We’re ambitious for Oxford College and the student-centered education it provides,” Bellamkonda wrote. “Dr. Ahad is a leader who will bring the Oxford community together to collaboratively advance our vision for this jewel of a school.”
Mary Lee Hardin Willard Dean of Candler School of Theology Jan Love and Oxford Associate Dean for Faculty Development Molly McGehee chaired the Search Advisory Committee.
Love said that the committee narrowed a competitive group of applicants down to five finalists, all of whom she said could have successfully led Oxford as dean. However, Love said that Ahad stood out as a “strong defender of the liberal arts.”
“Every time we encountered her, she was just at the top of her game,” Love said. “At the top of her game is pretty high up there, and she was always energetic, always thoughtful, always kind of creative and inventive and eager to listen to the questions carefully and respond to the questions.”
Receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and both her master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame (Ind.), Ahad will be tasked with strengthening Oxford’s connection to Emory University’s Atlanta campus. While at Loyola, Ahad worked with the university’s 13 deans to establish fellowships promoting cross-school research and teaching, according to the press release.
Ahad — who told the Wheel she believes Oxford’s “amazing students, dedicated faculty and staff, passionate alumni and a gorgeous campus” likely drew a competitive applicant pool — wrote that her most important role as dean will be making sure Oxford community members have the resources they need to succeed.
“I want students at Oxford to have an academic experience that not only cultivates intellectual rigor and curiosity, but also helps them find their own sense of purpose and how that purpose is going to serve others,” Ahad wrote.
Ahad will replace interim Oxford Dean Kenneth Carter (87Ox, 89C). Carter, who is also the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology at Oxford, assumed the role on Aug. 1, 2022. This followed former Oxford Dean Douglas Hicks’ departure from the University to become the 19th president of Davidson College (N.C.).
Carter wrote in an email to the Wheel that he “could not be more pleased” about the University’s decision to select Ahad as the new Oxford dean.
“Her strong leadership skills, commitment to faculty, staff and student flourishing, and her belief in the value of Oxford’s singular liberal arts education make her an ideal choice to lead Oxford in its next chapter,” Carter wrote. “I look forward to passing the baton to her on Aug. 1 as I return to the faculty.”
Ahad wrote in an email to the Wheel that her main goal is to build on the “tremendous legacy” left by the deans who preceded her.
“Oxford College has everything it needs to be a model for the future of liberal arts education, and I can’t wait to work with the campus community to actualize that vision,” Ahad wrote.
The University’s decision to name Ahad as Oxford’s dean comes alongside changes to the Emory College of Arts and Sciences deanship. On April 25, Bellamkonda announced that Barbara Krauthamer, who is currently the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Humanities and Fine Arts dean, will assume the role of Emory College dean on July 1.
Krauthamer will replace Carla Freeman, who has served as interim Emory College dean since Aug. 1, 2022. Former Emory College Dean Michael Elliott previously held the position, but resigned to become the 20th president of Amherst College (Mass.).
As a result, two of the University’s four undergraduate schools, Emory and Oxford, will begin the 2023-24 academic year under the leadership of a new dean.
In an email to the Wheel, Ahad wrote that she has not yet met Kramather but said she is looking forward to meeting the new dean as they enter their respective roles at the same time.
“I have every hope that we will work closely and collaboratively to foster new opportunities for Oxford students and ensure that they have a seamless transition to Emory College,” Ahad wrote.
Additionally, both the Emory School of Medicine and Emory School of Law are searching for permanent deans. The medical school has been under the leadership of Interim School of Medicine Dean Carlos del Rio (86MR, 88FM) since March 1, when former Dean Vikas Sukhatme stepped down to be a full-time faculty member. School of Law Dean Mary Anne Bobinski will complete her term and step down in summer 2024 to rejoin the faculty.
Ahad plans to begin her tenure as dean by getting to know the Oxford community both on and off campus, noting that understanding people and context is a hallmark of good leadership.
“When I think about the goals I’ve met at my current institution, none of it could have happened if I didn’t have good relationships with folks across the board. I want to know what people are concerned about, what they care about and what they’re excited about,” Ahad wrote.
She added that Emory’s holistic approach to learning attracted her to Oxford.
“You normally don’t see that across the entirety of the institution,” Ahad wrote. “I appreciated the way in which there seemed to be care for the whole person reflected not just in the academic experience, but in the curriculum, career services and community engagement projects.”
During her time at Loyola, Ahad directed the university’s core curriculum and launched an initiative to provide students with interdisciplinary learning opportunities about complex social justice issues. She also launched the Schreiber Venture Fund program to support faculty and students focused on researching and teaching about issues in fields such as education, immigration, health, hunger and food access, housing and religion, according to the press release.
Ahad, who has also served as the director of academic training for the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, has focused her research on cultural studies and positive psychology. She is a scholar of African American literature and culture, according to the press release, and has authored several books on the subject, including “Afro-Nostalgia: Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture” and “Freud Upside Down: African American Literature and Psychoanalytic Culture.”
“My research intersects the disciplines of African American studies and positive psychology, so concepts like thriving and flourishing are important to me as a teacher, scholar and an administrator,” Ahad wrote. “I’m excited to work together to collectively advance an intellectually rigorous environment that cultivates well-being, resilience and thriving.”
Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Pearle Dowe, who is also the Asa Griggs Candler professor of political science and African American Studies at Oxford, told the Wheel that Ahad has a strong reputation as an engaging and empathetic leader.
“For African American Scholars who transition to leadership positions, our research does tend to shape our leadership approach,” Dowe said. “There is oftentimes a strong sense and sensitivity to the fact that all students, faculty and staff come from different backgrounds and have different and unique perspectives that should be respected.”
Loyola’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer Margaret Faut Callahan wrote in the May 23 press release that Ahad has been a valued member of the Loyola community since she joined the faculty in 2005.
“The important initiatives she has fostered will continue to make Loyola a destination for top faculty and students,” Callahan wrote. “Our community has benefited from her innovative scholarship and service, and we wish her continued success in the next chapter of her career.”
University President Gregory Fenves noted in the May 23 press release that he believes the Oxford community will immediately connect with Ahad.
“Badia Ahad understands that Oxford College is unique in American higher education — a place like no other,” Fenves wrote. “She has bold ideas and is going to bring tremendous enthusiasm and energy with her to Oxford.”
McGehee added that she is honored Ahan will be joining the Emory community.
“Dr. Ahad is well prepared to meet the challenges that higher education faces in this era and to continue to build Oxford’s reputation as a model for liberal arts learning,” McGehee wrote in the May 23 press release. “Dr. Ahad brings with her impressive experience and accomplishments as an administrator, teacher and scholar and a deep commitment to placing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at the center of all that we do.”
Andrew Yang (23Ox) was also part of the Search Advisory Committee due to his role as Oxford Student Government Association president during the 2022-23 academic year. Yang said that students wanted a dean who would be accessible and emphasize Oxford’s unique position within the University — traits he said Ahad exemplifies.
“I thought that she could be a great role model for our students,” Yang said. “She’s someone who would talk to the students, who will listen to the students. But above everything else, I think she had the characteristics and qualities that students would look up to.”
Update (5/24/23 at 4:25 p.m.): This article was updated to include quotes from incoming Oxford College Dean Badia Ahad and outgoing Oxford College Dean Kenneth Carter (87Ox, 89C).
Update (5/30/23 at 12:48 p.m.): This article was updated to include quotes from Mary Lee Hardin Willard Dean of Candler School of Theology Jan Love, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Pearle Dowe and Andrew Yang (23Ox).
News Editor | Madi Olivier (she/her, 25C) is from Highland Village, Texas, and is planning on majoring in psychology and minoring in rhetoric, writing and information design on the pre-law track. Outside of the Wheel, she can be found listening to Hozier and Rainbow Kitten Surprise, binge-watching Criminal Minds or trying to pet the Emory cats.