Dean Oliver to Depart

Social sciences dean Melvin Oliver will leave UCSB to become president of Pitzer College

Melvin L. Oliver, UC Santa Barbara’s SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences and executive dean of the College of Letters and Science, has accepted an offer to become the next president of Pitzer College in Claremont. He will assume his new role on July 1.

“We will miss Dean Oliver greatly, but at the same time we are so pleased and proud for him as he takes on this exciting and important leadership position,” UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said in a letter to the campus community. “We are very appreciative of his extraordinary contributions to the Division of Social Sciences, the College of Letters and Science, and our entire academic community during the past 12 years. His vision and leadership have shaped the academic profile of social sciences at UC Santa Barbara, and he has been exemplary in advancing our commitment to diversity among students, faculty and staff.

“Please join me in extending our warmest congratulations to Dean Oliver,” Yang added. “We wish him and Suzanne Oliver all the best as they embark on this wonderful new challenge and opportunity.”

Oliver has served as dean of social sciences at UCSB since 2004; he became the inaugural SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences in 2008. Since 2012 he also has served as executive dean of the College of Letters and Science.

Among his many accomplishments, Oliver served as co-principal investigator of the McNair Program, which helps prepare qualified underrepresented and first-generation undergraduates for entrance to a Ph.D. program in all fields of study. Oliver oversaw the introduction of three new interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs during his tenure (Chicana/o Studies, Feminist Studies and Global Studies), as well as the Master of Arts program in Global Civil Society in Global Studies and the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies. He also was instrumental in raising funds to establish UCSB’s Leonard and Gretchan Broom Center for Social Demography. 

A highly respected professor of sociology, Oliver began his academic career at UCLA, where he was a professor from 1978 to 1996, serving as chair of the interdepartmental master’s program in Afro-American Studies and as founding director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Urban Poverty. From 1996 to 2004 he was vice president of the Ford Foundation, where he led its global work on poverty reduction. He has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (1982-83), the Rockefeller Foundation Research Fellowship for Minority Scholars (1984-1986) and over $5 million in research support from NSF, Ford, Rockefeller, Russell Sage, Haynes and Social Science Research Council, among others.

Oliver’s book, “Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality,” has received numerous honors, including the Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from the American Sociological Association, the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the award for outstanding book on the subject of human rights from the Gustavus Myers Center. He is an elected member of the Sociological Research Association and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

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