Sarah Bolton named next Dean of the College

On Monday, President Falk announced in a campus-wide email that Sarah Bolton, professor of physics and department chair, will replace Dean Merrill as Dean of Williams College once Merrill’s term comes to an end on July 1. Bolton’s term will last at least three years, with the possibility that the term will be lengthened. Falk selected Bolton after consultation with the Faculty Steering Committee (FSC).

July 1 will also see another administrative transition, as Carmen Whalen, professor of history and chair of the Latino/a studies program, assumes the position of associate dean of institutional diversity. She will take over from Wendy Raymond, professor of biology,

Bolton, whom Falk described in the e-mail as a “highly regarded teacher,” has held many positions on campus, including chair of both the FSC and physics department, and member of the Committee on Educational Policy, Faculty Review Panel and Council of Williams College Women.

According to Christopher Bolton, who is current chair of the FSC, associate professor of comparative literature and no relation of Sarah Bolton, the FSC solicited nominations and input from faculty, staff and students. Additionally, Christopher Bolton said that the FSC “spoke with the current Dean Karen Merrill, and … contacted staff who report directly to the Dean of the College for more detailed feedback about the kinds of qualities that the next Dean of the College should possess. [FSC] also spoke with College Council about qualities important to students.”

“Sarah Bolton was among the nominations the FSC received in the course of this process,” the FSC Chair said. “Based on the nominations and general input we received, the FSC prepared a list of several candidates for the President’s consideration.” Christopher Bolton added that Sarah Bolton, who currently serves on the FSC, stepped out of the room for the FSC’s discussion of her nomination.

Falk said that he spent much of his time on campus prior to his official arrival considering the list of candidates and his decision. “I thought that this was the single most important thing for me to be doing in the period of time before I came here,” he said. “There was an abundance of riches to choose from in terms of candidates, and after the process of talking to people and narrowing that pool down, I ultimately chose Professor [Sarah] Bolton.”

“I think she brings a strong record of accomplishment here at the College,” Falk added. “She has a very strong commitment to students both in the classroom and in her laboratory, as well as a real thoughtfulness about … [students’] academic careers and what they are faced with at college.”

Sarah Bolton expressed excitement at the prospect of being able to focus on student life issues for the next few years. “I am going to miss the classroom because teaching is my first love, so there is a little bit of mixed feelings,” she said. “It is [nevertheless] a big and exciting change.”

Bolton said that her goals are still incomplete due to the nature of the position, but that she hopes to aid the restructuring of the College’s advising system at every level and that she is interested in the assessment and implementation of the Neighborhood Review Committee and the nature of the College’s residential life in general.

“I am more immediately acquainted with students’ academic needs, but I am aware of how all the factors of student life – from academics to social life to housing – interact and connect together,” she said. “There are some aspects of student life which I do not get to focus on often as a professor, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to do so.”

To begin the transition in the Dean’s Office, Bolton and Merrill met for the first time Monday and will be meeting weekly for the rest of the semester to discuss the various responsibilities of the dean. Bolton will also be meeting with other members of the Dean’s Office, individual staff members and department heads throughout the remainder of the semester and the month of June. She will also be attending meetings that she and Merrill feel will be useful when Bolton’s term begins.

“Professor Bolton is going to bring her deep engagement with and service to the college; her passion for teaching and mentoring students; and her administrative experience in chairing the physics department,” Merrill said. “She is also a wonderful listener and a person whose observations come out of very thoughtful analysis.”

Merrill said that, beyond the transition, her main consideration in her final months as dean is to “stay focused on moving along as far as possible a couple of the initiatives I’ve cared about deeply, such as finishing up the neighborhood review process … and continuing to work with a number of colleagues on advising.” Merrill also said that she will work to support Falk’s transition into the presidency in the coming months.

According to Professor of Physics Jefferson Strait, two professors will chair the physics department in the year following Bolton’s departure. Kevin Jones, professor of physics, will serve in the capacity of department chair for the fall, and Daniel Aalberts, professor of physics, will assume the position in the spring.

“She’s a very important member of the department,” Strait added. “We’ll have to work hard to get along without her.”

Associate dean for institutional diversity

In a separate e-mail on Monday, the Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity (SPID) announced that Whalen has been appointed associate dean for institutional diversity. Raymond, the current associate dean for institutional diversity, has held the position for the three years since its inception.

“The process included soliciting nominations from the entire Williams community,” said Michael Reed, vice president for SPID, adding that he “reviewed all [the recommendations] and made a decision with input from senior staff and the [FSC].”

Christopher Bolton expressed support for the decision. “Carmen Whalen has experience dealing with diversity issues in several different capacities at the college,” he said. “She has earned the respect and trust of the campus for her work in this area.”