“The promise of education is not just the creation of knowledge, but the model of how to share it for our mutual liberation and the collective good.”—Sarah Willie-LeBreton
The President and Her Team
Composed of leaders across campus, the president’s team works to support and advise her on particular areas of expertise, such as enrollment, equity and inclusion, and alum relations.
Sarah Willie-LeBreton is the 12th president of Smith College. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Haverford College in 1986, and an M.A. (1988) and Ph.D. (1995) from Northwestern University, all in sociology. After having taught at Colby College (1991–1995) and Bard College (1995–1997) in tenure-track appointments, she was tenured at Swarthmore, where she served as coordinator of the Black Studies Program and chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology for a total of 17 years. She was appointed as provost and dean of the faculty at Swarthmore in 2018 and served in that role until 2023.
An accomplished administrator, scholar, and sociologist who studies social inequality and race and ethnicity, Willie-LeBreton is known for her commitment to the liberal arts, strengthening community, and energizing the work of equity and inclusion. She is the author of several dozen articles, essays, reviews, and op-ed columns. Her first book, Acting Black: College, Identity and the Performance of Race, examines how the experiences of Black college alumni of a predominantly white institution (PWI) were distinct from those who attended a comparative HBCU from the waning days of the Civil Rights Movement through the county’s political turn to the right under the Reagan presidency. Her second book, Transforming the Academy: Faculty Perspectives on Diversity and Pedagogy, is a collection of essays to which she has contributed and which she edited. It focuses on the challenges faced by faculty who were previously underrepresented on campuses, including people of color, queer people, neurodivergent people, and people who immigrated to the United States. It explores their experiences as they become participants in dominant spaces within the American Academy.
Willie-LeBreton considers herself an applied sociologist, and she has worked with a broad range of groups and organizations to understand social dynamics and develop strategies to move toward organizational self-awareness, transformation, compassion, and inclusivity. She is a member of and has been active in the Eastern Sociological Society, Sociologists for Women in Society, the Association of Black Sociologists, and the American Sociological Association (ASA). For several years, she reviewed sociology and affiliated departments as a member of the ASA’s Departmental Resources Group. Her board service has included the Executive Office and Budget of the ASA, Pendle Hill Quaker Center, Haverford College, Benchmark School, the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, and she sits on the advisory board of IIG (Integrated Impact Group) which offers consulting for the educational sector.
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion
Floyd Cheung guides the development and administration of all equity- and inclusion-related initiatives and programs at Smith. Among his responsibilities are multicultural affairs, religious and spiritual life, equal opportunity and Title IX compliance, and the recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty, staff and student body. A professor of English language and literature and American studies, Cheung was the founding chair of the Five College Asian/Pacific/American Studies Certificate Program. He most recently served as faculty director of the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning.
Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration
David DeSwert is responsible for all matters related to the financial operation of the college, including budget, financial planning and accounting. In addition, he has responsibility for facilities, space planning, construction and capital projects; human resources; dining and catering services; campus safety; executive education programs; and environmental sustainability.
Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer
Samantha Earp is responsible for leading the college’s core information technology, operations and services and oversees the Information Technology Services group. She is responsible for the effectiveness and efficiency of services, the delivery of critical initiatives, and the development and implementation of a vision for IT that aligns resources and priorities with the college’s current and emerging goals. Earp came to Smith in September 2016 from Harvard University, where she was executive director of HarvardX, a university-wide strategic initiative that creates open online learning experiences for residential and online learners.
Chief Investment Officer
Lisa Howie oversees the investment of Smith’s endowment, with the goals of providing significant support to the college’s annual operating budget and supporting Smith’s future activities. Howie came to Smith in 2021 from Yale University, where she served as a director of investments. She holds a B.S. and an M.B.A. from Yale University.
Interim Dean of the College and Vice President for Campus Life
Alexandra Keller was appointed interim dean of the college and vice president for campus life in July 2022. Her areas of responsibility include the class deans office; the Ada Comstock Scholars Program; the dean of students office, which includes student affairs, student engagement and residential life; athletics; disability services; health and counseling services; the Lazarus Center for Career Development; and the Jandon Center for Community Engagement.
Denise Wingate Materre ’74
Vice President for Alumnae Relations
Denise Wingate Materre is responsible for engaging alumnae through compelling programs that reinforce Smith’s standing as a thought leader on global women’s issues. She works with administrative and academic offices across the college, as well as with the Alumnae Association of Smith College board of directors, to align alumnae programming with the college’s strategic objectives and to enhance alumnae professional and volunteer networks. A member of the Smith class of ’74, Materre serves as an ex officio member of the AASC board.
Vice President for Enrollment
Joanna May is responsible for all aspects of undergraduate student recruitment, selection, enrollment and financial aid for the college. She oversees the admission and Student Financial Services offices, and provides institutional leadership in developing and implementing student recruitment and financial aid strategies. Her responsibilities include articulating annual and long-term admission goals, developing strategies to meet financial aid and revenue goals, ensuring compliance in the areas of billing and financial aid for the college and School for Social Work, and supporting the college’s priorities of excellence and diversity in its student body. May came to Smith in 2021 from Columbia University, where she served as Associate Dean and Director of Undergraduate Admissions. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree from New York University.
Chief of Staff and Senior Adviser to the President
As chief of staff, Joanna Olin serves as a strategic adviser to President McCartney and works to advance her institutional goals by managing office staff and protocols, supporting presidential committees and meetings, overseeing presidential correspondence and events and coordinating special projects. She is responsible for ensuring that the president is scheduled, briefed and staffed effectively, in order to use her time and attention in the most strategic ways. In addition, Olin works with other cabinet members to advance key college initiatives. Olin came to Smith in 2018 from a similar role at Hampshire College. She holds a B.A. from St. Michael’s College and a J.D. from Western New England University School of Law.
Secretary of the Board of Trustees and Secretary of the College
Elena Palladino supports the operations of Smith’s board and serves as an adviser to the president and board chair on matters of institutional governance. She acts as liaison between the board and the college. As an officer of the college, she maintains all official board documents and records. Elena is a graduate of Simmons College and holds an M.A. in literary and cultural studies from Carnegie Mellon University and an Ed.M. in higher education from Harvard University.
Beth Balmuth Raffeld
Senior Vice President for Alumnae Relations and Development
Beth Balmuth Raffeld came to Smith in 2013 having previously served MIT as the executive director of the Office of Philanthropic Partnerships. Beth manages all Smith development programs—major and principal gifts, The Smith Fund, international development, corporate and foundation relations and planned giving. She serves as an adviser to the president and the Board of Trustees on issues related to development. Beth began her development career in the early 1980s serving Smith College as a major gift officer during President Mary Maples Dunn’s tenure.
Provost and Dean of the Faculty
Michael Thurston serves as Smith’s chief academic officer and is responsible for the curriculum and for support for faculty teaching and research. He chairs the Committee on Academic Priorities and oversees the long-term composition of the faculty. A member of the Smith faculty since 2000, Thurston is the college’s Helen Means Professor of English Language and Literature and an authority on American literature and American studies, with a primary research interest in modern and contemporary poetry. The recipient of Smith’s Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching in 2010, Thurston has contributed substantially to faculty governance at Smith. He has served as chair of Faculty Council, served on the Committee on Tenure and Promotion, directed the American Studies Program and chaired the English department.
Vice President for College Relations and Communications
Julia Yager serves as the chief communications officer of the college. She oversees the Office of College Relations, which is responsible for campus communications, media relations, alumnae and development communications, publications, digital communications and social media, community relations and government relations. In her cabinet role, she provides strategic thought leadership to the college and leads its communications strategies to inform and inspire people about the impact Smith students, alumnae and faculty are having around the world.
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Offering Some Words of Welcome
There’s a lot that makes Smith, Smith. Students, faculty, staff, and alums share words of welcome to President Willie-LeBreton and fill her in on the best spots and events on campus.
“Smithies are inspirational!” said Heather Rothenberg ’99. “On campus, you’ll be around some of the smartest, most passionate people you’ll ever meet.”
Smith Community Embraces Sarah Willie-LeBreton
Students, faculty, and staff embraced—literally—Sarah Willie-LeBreton as newly appointed 12th president of Smith College, showering her with warm words of welcome, lots of congratulatory hugs, and high praise for the skills and experiences—both personal and professional—she brings to her role. In her first address to the campus in John M. Greene Hall, Willie-LeBreton, who grew up in a family of educators, honored what she called the “transformational power of education” and the role Smithies have long played in pushing our world forward. “One can simply not repeat enough, students who study at Smith change the world,” she said. “I am honored to play a role in continuing this work.”
- Smith College Selects Sarah Willie-LeBreton To Be Its New President | Forbes
- Smith College Names Sarah Willie-LeBreton Its New President | MassLive
- Smith College Taps Scholar of Social Inequality as 12th President | The Boston Globe
- Sarah Willie-LeBreton Announced as Smith’s 12th President | The Sophian
- New President Seizes the Moment, Finds Her ‘Best Life’ at Smith College | University Business
- Smith College Selects Sarah Willie-LeBreton, Swarthmore Provost and Scholar of Social Inequality and African-American Culture, as Its 12th President | Smith College
- Smith College Names Its Next President | Daily Hampshire Gazette
- Smith College Names New President | WWLP
- Smith College Names Sarah Willie-LeBreton As Its 12th President | New England Public Media
- Dr. Sarah Willie-LeBreton Appointed President of Smith College | Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
- Sarah Willie-LeBreton Will Be the Next President of Smith College in Massachusetts | The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education