The University of Virginia announced today that Christa D. Acampora has been appointed the dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, effective Sept. 1.
Acampora, born in Roanoke and raised in Dublin, Virginia, is currently deputy provost and professor of philosophy at Emory University in Atlanta. Prior to Emory, she was a member of the faculty at Hunter College and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and served as Hunter’s associate provost for faculty affairs and research.
“Christa will be a tremendous asset to the University,” Provost Ian Baucom said. “She has a profound grasp of the opportunities facing the College, along with the breadth of experience the role demands. From strategic planning to faculty recruitment, from research development to strengthening the undergraduate experience, she is prepared to work with colleagues across Arts & Sciences and the University to develop and implement transformative programming. I anticipate great things for the school with her at the helm.”
As deputy provost, Acampora manages a wide slate of strategic and budgetary priorities related to the academic mission at Emory, overseeing academic program development, faculty recruitment and retention, and initiatives in support of undergraduate flourishing – including student innovation and career advising. Most recently, she managed the process of ensuring Emory’s academic continuity after the move online during the pandemic.
“I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to lead Arts & Sciences at a time when UVA is charting an ambitious path forward,” Acampora said. “The vision outlined in the 2030 Plan and other key documents such as the ‘Audacious Future’ report aligns with my aspirations for the school. I see transformative potential for Arts & Sciences in terms of faculty recruitment and advancement, student support and engagement, and innovative scholarship. I look forward to working with faculty, staff and students as well as leaders across UVA to build upon the College’s well-earned reputation for excellence.”
Acampora inaugurated a new approach to thinking about the faculty as a whole body for Emory by shaping a team including the university’s first Office of Faculty Affairs, spearheading the development of a comprehensive faculty data system, and creating structures supporting faculty advancement. Within four years, Emory’s faculty nearly doubled the number of distinguished awards and academic prizes they received. Acampora also has deep experience leading a campus-wide initiative to enhance faculty satisfaction – focusing on climate and culture, policies and benefits, tenure and promotion standards, and pay equity.
Most recently, Acampora coordinated multi-school hiring to create clusters and teams in key research and teaching areas relating to artificial intelligence and machine learning.
At CUNY, she was responsible for faculty and research success through all stages of the professional lifecycle, collaborating closely with the dean for diversity and the dean of the faculty. Her innovations and partnerships led to a 10% increase in research funding awards in less than two years. She also chaired a two-year Mellon Foundation project on faculty development and curricular innovation related to general education.
Her approach to undergraduate education is equally transformative. At Emory, Acampora launched the Hatchery, an innovation center supporting student entrepreneurs that supported 24 student-led projects and offered 550 hours of coaching in its first year, despite the pandemic. She co-led the search for the director of a new undergraduate center focused on career exploration and professional development, and spearheaded efforts to prepare lower-resourced students to be competitive for advanced research opportunities.
At CUNY she developed an undergraduate public humanities research program as well as an exchange program with Stanford University. She also oversaw the creation of a successful $5 million institutional grant to implement 360-degree advising, paid student internships, and a program for academic support for computer science students to strengthen and diversify New York City’s tech talent pipeline.
Graduate students have also benefited greatly from Acampora’s leadership. Charged with organizing the search for the dean of the James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies, Acampora supported the advancement of Emory’s focus on graduate students as students-first, with needs for both specialized education in a discipline and a glide path to an expansive set of professional skills – which dovetails with UVA’s growing slate of graduate student programming, such as PhD Plus. UVA’s innovative approach to creating research clusters and cohorts, including the Bridge to the Doctorate, is part of what attracted Acampora to the position, she said.
Acampora’s strengths extend to the research enterprise, both as a primary investigator on sizeable and high-profile grants, and as an administrator who supports faculty research and bolsters institutional research successes. Acampora successfully co-led the Research and Innovation Committee of Emory’s master planning process and orchestrated the institution’s “Return to Campus for Research” efforts in the wake of the pandemic. At Hunter, she was responsible for research development and administration, which brought extensive experience with both federal agencies and foundations.
“I encourage colleagues to think of best practices to cultivate research in a broad sense, because research, inquiry and discovery take many forms,” Acampora explained. “From the laboratory sciences to artistic and creative expression, all research and scholarship can benefit from strong infrastructure and institutional capacity-building.”
“From the search committee’s first introduction to Dr. Acampora, we knew that she would be a strong and relentless advocate for the College,” said Sarah Kucenas, search committee co-chair and professor of biology, cell biology and neuroscience. “Her experience and dedication to enhancing both undergraduate and graduate education is something that resonates with our community and will allow us to continue the important work we have already begun reimagining the new College Curriculum – as well charting the next chapter for the Graduate School. Christa is also a vigorous and persuasive advocate for public higher education and the liberal arts and sciences and deeply believes in the recruitment, development and retention of outstanding faculty and staff. We are very lucky to have such an accomplished and passionate champion joining us in the College.”
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Acampora is an acclaimed philosopher and expert in modern European philosophy, moral psychology and aesthetics. Most of her publications focus on philosophical questions and themes arising in Nietzsche’s philosophy, which she puts in dialogue with contemporary views. Her current research focuses on morality and moral injury – specifically among veterans, but also among other populations such as refugees, health care workers and those experiencing the impact of institutionalized racism.
“Christa has a philosopher’s sense for analyzing complexities, combined with a scholar’s love of academia,” said Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory University. “She has a deep understanding of the important issues influencing higher education and is gifted at executing complex initiatives, and I’m grateful for her service to Emory and thrilled for her as she takes on this outstanding leadership opportunity at the University of Virginia.”
Acampora received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy cum laude from Hollins University in Roanoke, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from Emory University. Acampora succeeds Baucom, who became provost at UVA earlier this year after serving eight years as College dean. She will be joined on Grounds by her husband, Jesús García-Cascón.
“I’m grateful to the search committee for their outstanding service in finding Christa Acampora,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “This committee, led by Provost Baucom and Professor Kucenas, was committed to finding a leader who would understand the unique assets and particular needs of the College and Graduate School. Christa will bring many strengths to the role, both as a brilliant scholar and a strong leader, and it is a pleasure to welcome her to the UVA community.”
Professor David Hill of the College’s Department of Psychology has served as interim dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences since March 1, when he succeeded Baucom. “The University is profoundly grateful to Dr. Hill for delaying his retirement to provide distinguished leadership to Arts & Sciences since last winter,” Baucom said. “His thoughtful work and commitment will ensure that Dr. Acampora will begin from a strong foundation.”
Associate Dean for the Sciences and Commonwealth Professor of Biology Laura Galloway will serve as interim dean from Aug. 8 through Acampora’s arrival on Grounds on Sept. 1. “The University thanks Dr. Galloway for stepping in at this moment of transition to lead the school as we prepare to launch the fall semester and welcome Dr. Acampora,” Baucom said.