Heather Paxson named associate dean for faculty of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

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MIT professor Heather Paxson has been named associate dean for faculty of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), effective July 1.

Agustin Rayo, the Kenan Sahin Dean of SHASS, describes Paxson as a leader of exceptional vision.

“As section head, she has positioned Anthropology as a key player in the issues of our day and has implemented an exemplary model of mentorship for junior faculty. She is an essential advisor to the school, and I cannot think of a better person to reimagine SHASS's efforts to create an inspiring and equitable working environment for our faculty and staff,” says Rayo.

Paxson is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Anthropology. She will be stepping down from her role as head of the Anthropology Section to take on this new position.

"As an anthropologist, I’m excited to begin this role by working with Institutional Research to better understand the range of challenges and needs our faculty have across disciplines, career stages, and social experiences,” says Paxson.

Paxson's primary responsibility in her new role will be to promote the well-being and advancement of SHASS faculty and other employees across the full range of experiences and challenges. That work will include efforts to promote an equitable working environment by reviewing, regularizing, and better communicating the school’s policies and practices.

"Clearer expectations for promotion, at all ranks, must be accompanied by clearer expectations for mentoring and other resources to support colleagues in meeting those standards,” says Paxson.

She also hopes to foster and reward an orientation to service and expand the pool of leadership in the school.

At MIT, Paxson teaches courses on food, family, craft, and the meaning of life. In 2014, she was named a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow, and in 2008, she received the James A. and Ruth Levitan Research Prize in the Humanities.

Paxson received a PhD in anthropology from Stanford University and a BA from Haverford College. She is the author of two books, "The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America" and "Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece," and editor of the volume "Eating Beside Ourselves: Thresholds of Foods and Bodies."

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