The university announced that Joel H. Samuels had been hired as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences on Feb. 4. Samuels officially stepped into the position on Feb. 16.
Samuels had been serving as interim dean of the college – the university’s largest – since January 2021. He became an assistant professor at USC’s School of Law in 2004 and has been a full-time professor since 2012, according to his university website profile.
Samuels said a major goal of his is to make students in the College of Arts and Science college identify with the college as much as students do in other schools, such as the College of Education or the Darla Moore School of Business. He said most graduates from arts and sciences instead identify with their respective majors.
“As graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences, they really benefited not only from their departments but from a broader array of courses and a broader education across a wide spectrum of fields and topics that will really prepare those graduates — in ways that other colleges do as well — to be creative thinkers, to be lifelong learners, to be adaptable to change,” Samuels said.
Samuels said that he is thinking about branding more than 40 buildings that house the College of Arts and Sciences across campus so students are more aware of the college when they enter or exit buildings that contain arts and sciences programs.
Student Body Vice President Emily Dengler, who served on the search committee to fill the dean position, said Samuels’ service as interim dean meant he would have a smooth transition in a time of great change in the university’s leadership.
“Every single person during the [interviewing] process that I talked to about him only had positive things to say, which I think is really unique,” Dengler said. “I feel like that spoke really highly of his character.”
Dengler said Samuels reached out to her for the contact information of all the students who participated in a student panel interviewing him for the dean position. She said she thought this showed Samuels’ desire to work with and listen to students' concerns.
Samuels said that he hopes to have open office hours to help hear more of students' voices when it is safer to do so in regards to COVID-19.
“I don't know that students want to meet the dean. I don't know how important that is to them, but I'm really excited for those opportunities in different ways,” Samuels said.
Interim University President Harris Pastides said Samuels' time as interim dean had proven his leadership skills.
“As a scholar, teacher, and administrator, he has earned the respect of his colleagues and will continue to provide thoughtful and strategic guidance to this college,” Pastides said in a university statement.
Samuels said diversity, equity and inclusion are “at the top of my mind at all times.” He said he has previously worked on programs “bridging the divide” between law enforcement and communities affected by law enforcement violence, including in Charleston and Ferguson, Missouri.
“At the same time, I think we've been very successful in pioneering a new program to diversify our faculty. We started that this fall and we're already seeing some early success as we look to be very intentional about creating greater diversity in our faculty ranks so that our faculty reflects our student body,” Samuels said.
Samuels is filling the dean position as the university goes through many administration changes, with a new incoming president and positions like provost being served by interims.
“I hope that I can offer — as someone who's been at the university for 18 years and has strong relationships across the university — I hope I can be someone who provides stability, both to university’s largest college, but also stability and support for university leadership as they come in and make important decisions,” Samuels said.