Search committee named for next dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs C. Cybele Raver has appointed a committee to conduct a national search for the next dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. The committee includes faculty members, deans, an alumnus and a current student. Lorenzo F. Candelaria, the Mark Wait Dean and professor of musicology at the Blair School of Music, will chair the committee.

“This committee is charged with finding a leader who has the vision, dedication and passion to build on the extraordinary work of Dean Emilie Townes,” Raver said. “Along with her leadership in the school’s re-envisioning of theological education, Emilie has recruited outstanding faculty, fostered diversity and inclusion, and created vibrant space for teaching and learning. I am grateful for her multiple achievements that will help her successor set a bold path forward.”

“Emilie Townes has set the bar high as we search for a dean who will be deeply invested in the Divinity School’s historic mission to prepare the next generation of minsters, religious scholars and change leaders,” Candelaria said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on this task that is vital to the Divinity School’s bright future.”

Townes, Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society, has led the Divinity School since 2013. She will step down as dean effective June 30, 2023.

Members of the search committee are:

Lorenzo (Frank) Candelaria (chair), the Mark Wait Dean and professor of musicology, Blair School of Music

Chris Guthrie, dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law, Law School

Choon-Leong Seow, Vanderbilt, Buffington, Cupples Professor of Divinity and Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible, Divinity School

Joerg Rieger, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Cal Turner Chancellor’s Professor of Wesleyan Studies and founding director of the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice, Divinity School

Phillis Isabella Sheppard, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Religion, Psychology and Culture and director of the James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements, Divinity School

Lisa Thompson, associate professor and Cornelius Vanderbilt Chancellor Faculty Fellow of Black Homiletics and Liturgics, Divinity School

Dennis C. Dickerson, James M. Lawson, Jr. Professor of History, College of Arts and Science

Allison Schachter, professor of Jewish studies and department chair, College of Arts and Science

Ristina Gooden, MDiv’22, first-year doctoral student

Stephen Handy, MDiv’00, senior pastor, McKendree United Methodist Church

Tracey E. George, vice provost for faculty affairs, ex officio

Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, associate provost for academic advancement, ex officio.

The committee will work with Issacson, Miller, an executive search firm with extensive experience across higher education, nonprofits and foundations, to identify the best candidates. Issacson, Miller assisted with the Blair dean’s search, which Dean Townes chaired, in 2019.