Ben Vinson III To Be Next Dean of Columbian College

Ben Vinson III
April 01, 2013

Ben Vinson III, a renowned scholar and vice dean for Centers, Interdisciplinary Programs, and Graduate Education at Johns Hopkins University, has been named the new dean of Columbian College, effective August 1. A member of Hopkin’s faculty since 2006, Vinson is the Herbert Baxter Adams Professor of Latin American History and the former director of the Center for Africana Studies.

“I am delighted that Ben Vinson has agreed to lead our oldest and largest school,” said GW 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 the new dean, Vinson will provide 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 GW's 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 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.”  

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.  

Prior to his time at Johns Hopkins, 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. Vinson earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a doctorate from Columbia University.

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

Gail Weiss, professor of philosophy and chair of the search committee for the dean position, said 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 Weiss. “We are very excited to welcome him to GW as our next Columbian College dean.”

Vinson will succeed Peg Barratt, who will step down as dean effective June 30 after six years at the helm.