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Announcing Smith’s Next Provost

Presidential Letters 23–24

Published April 15, 2024

Dear Friends,

It is my great pleasure to announce that after a national search, Daphne Lamothe, professor of Africana studies, has been appointed as Smith’s next provost and dean of the faculty. At this particular moment in Smith’s history—and with the challenges facing higher education—Daphne’s intellectual acumen, curiosity, collaborative approach, reputation for fairness, and her integrity will serve this community well. A member of the Smith faculty since 2004, Daphne will begin her new role on July 1, 2024.

Daphne stood out in an expansive field of remarkably talented candidates. Her career to this point aligns beautifully with the goals and charge of the provost and dean of the faculty’s position and with Smith’s mission and aspirations. Daphne shares our core belief in the transformative power of a liberal arts education, in the importance and centrality of the role of faculty, in the synergies of curricular and co-curricular endeavors, and in the academic richness of our rigorous undergraduate and graduate programs.

Daphne received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Yale University and a doctorate in English from the University of California, Berkeley. She has said that her teaching and research are inspired by a lifelong passion for literature and the arts, and by her Haitian immigrant upbringing among the diversity of Queens in New York City, “the world’s borough.” At Smith, her courses move from the Harlem Renaissance to the “Post-Soul” aesthetic and explore migration narratives from across the Black Atlantic world. The author of dozens of articles and reviews, she has published two books—Inventing the New Negro: Narrative, Culture, and Ethnography (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) and Black Time and the Aesthetic Possibility of Objects (University of North Carolina Press, 2023)—and is currently at work on a critical memoir that interrogates form and identity.

In her 20 years at Smith, Daphne has contributed to both the academic and administrative success of the college. In addition to her work as a faculty member in Africana studies—a department she has chaired twice—she teaches in the department of the Study of Women and Gender and has taught American studies. She was the co-chair of the Admission Policy Study Group and has served on the Committee on Academic Priorities and the Committee on Faculty Compensation and Development. In 2023, she received the Honored Professor Award for her achievements in teaching and scholarship and her contributions to the academic community.

As the chief academic officer of the college, Daphne will play a pivotal role in achieving Smith’s institutional goals through stewardship of the college’s academic mission. And as a champion of the faculty, she will facilitate their engagement in helping to envision the future of the college. Academic and co-curricular units within the provost’s portfolio include all academic departments as well as the libraries; the museum of art; the botanic garden; the Campus School; Institutional Research; the Conway Center; the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute; the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability; the Jacobson Center; the Spinelli Center; the Sherrerd Center; the Registrar’s Office; and the Office for the Arts. 

I am grateful to the members of the search committee—Darcy Buerkle, Floyd Cheung, Nathan Derr, Jonathan Gosnell, Leslie King, Borjana Mikic, Erin Pineda, and Cate Rowen—who offered their time and expertise with seriousness of purpose in support of filling this crucial role at the college. We were terrifically well served by the search firm Opus Partners, and I remain indebted to my chief of staff, Joanna Olin, who ably supported the search.

Daphne succeeds Michael Thurston; during his tenure, Michael saw the college through the pandemic and helped to maintain stability through a presidential leadership transition. He will return to the faculty after a sabbatical at the University of Oxford. Please join me in thanking him as he concludes his extraordinary service in this position, and in congratulating Daphne on her new role.


Sarah Willie-LeBreton