Ben Vinson III Named Columbian College Dean

Johns Hopkins vice dean and renowned Africana studies scholar to lead GW’s largest school.

April 8, 2013

Ben Vinson III

Ben Vinson III will assume the helm of GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences starting Aug. 1, the university announced Monday.

An expert on Latin American history, Dr. Vinson currently serves as vice dean for centers, interdepartmental programs and graduate program at the Johns Hopkins University’s Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. A member of JHU’s faculty since 2006, Dr. Vinson is also the Herbert Baxter Adams Professor of Latin American History and formerly directed the university’s Center for Africana Studies.

“I am delighted that Ben Vinson has agreed to lead our oldest and largest school,” said George Washington President Steven Knapp. “He brings to this key position a strong commitment to scholarly excellence, a deep interest in student success, and a spirit of collaborative engagement -- exactly the qualities the school needs as it approaches the beginning of its third century.”

As dean of Columbian College, Dr. Vinson will be responsible for providing leadership vision and guidance to more than 40 academic departments and programs, 27 centers and institutes and over 1,000 faculty members. Columbian College has the largest student body of George Washington’s 10 undergraduate and graduate schools with more than 5,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students enrolled.

“I am deeply honored and extremely excited to join the GW community at this important juncture in the school’s history,” said Dr. Vinson. “Columbian College's reputation as a world-class training ground for global leaders in the arts and sciences is a marvelous attractor for me, and I look forward to helping cultivate the school's reputation in the years to come.”  

Dr. Vinson’s scholarship focuses on colonial Mexico, especially the African presence in Mexico. He has authored and co-authored several books and numerous articles on the military participation of blacks in the militias, labor, free black populations in Mexico, slavery in Latin America more broadly, African American experiences in Mexico and Afro-Mexican experiences in the United States. He is currently researching the colonial Latin American caste system.  

Before coming to Johns Hopkins, Dr. Vinson was an associate professor at Penn State University and an assistant professor at Barnard College. He has been awarded fellowships from the Fulbright Commission, National Humanities Center, Social Science Research Council, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Ford, Rockefeller and Mellon foundations. Dr. Vinson earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a doctorate from Columbia University.

In the vice dean role at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Vinson was an active member of the teaching faculty while leading initiatives and programs that linked departments and engaged the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences with other parts of the university. He also oversaw the school’s centers and programs, played a key role in the school’s strategic planning process and helped chart the course of future of academic disciplines. In addition, he oversaw all graduate programs in the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

“Ben Vinson has the extraordinary qualities of vision and leadership that will be needed to lead the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences,” said GW Provost Steven Lerman. “He has a great understanding of teaching and research that will continue the college's traditions of excellence in both these areas. He also has deep experience in encouraging cross-disciplinary programs of the type that will be one of the cornerstones of the university's strategic plan.”           

Dr. Vinson will succeed current dean Peg Barratt, who led Columbian College for five years before announcing last spring her decision to return to full-time faculty status. Dr. Barratt will spend the upcoming academic year pursuing research in early childhood development in Japan, thanks to a Fulbright scholarship.

Gail Weiss, professor of philosophy and chair of the search committee for the dean position, said Dr. Vinson emerged as a front runner very early on in the search. “During our interviews with him both off and on campus, the entire search committee was impressed with his outstanding scholarship and strong administrative background as well as his clear passion for and commitment to academic excellence,” said Dr. Weiss. “We are very excited to welcome him to GW as our next Columbian College dean.”