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Penn has selected Annenberg dean John L. Jackson Jr. as next provost

Jackson heads Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication and previously served as dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and senior advisor to the provost on diversity. He starts June 1.

John L. Jackson Jr., the University of Pennsylvania's next provost
John L. Jackson Jr., the University of Pennsylvania's next provostRead moreCourtesy of the University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday named dean John L. Jackson Jr. as its next provost, subject to a vote by the board of trustees.

Jackson, 51, who will take over as Penn’s chief academic leader June 1, currently heads Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication and previously served as dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and senior adviser to the provost on diversity at Penn.

As provost, generally regarded as the No. 2 position at Penn behind the president, Jackson will have vast responsibilities: He will oversee teaching, learning, research and student life, admissions, arts, athletics and recreation, libraries, online learning, and global initiatives.

» READ MORE: With Amy Gutmann’s departure expected soon, Penn names interim president

He will replace Wendell Pritchett, who took a leave of absence in fall 2021 for a medical reason and became interim president last winter after Amy Gutmann left for a U.S. ambassadorship to Germany. Pritchett then returned to the law faculty in July when Liz Magill became president. Beth A. Winkelstein has been serving as interim provost since July 2021; she will return to her role as deputy provost, Penn said.

“John Jackson is one of Penn’s most respected and accomplished academic leaders,” Magill said in a statement. “He is an acclaimed scholar who has had extraordinary success in recruiting outstanding faculty, in leading innovations in teaching and learning, and in building an exceptional educational experience for students. John is a superb fundraiser who has raised the profile of both schools that he has led at Penn. I know he will guide Penn to even greater heights.”

He currently is chairing an advisory committee, established by Magill, to chart Penn’s next strategic initiatives.

Jackson, who has been at Penn since 2006, becomes the second Black provost, following Pritchett, his predecessor.

» READ MORE: University of Virginia provost will replace Amy Gutmann as Penn’s next president

“I look forward to working closely with President Magill and the entire Penn community as we navigate the challenges and opportunities of today and prepare, together, for the ones that will emerge tomorrow,” he said in a statement.

Jackson got his bachelor’s degree in communication from Howard University in 1993 and a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia in 2000. He also was a junior fellow at Harvard and previously was an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University.

Penn described him as “urban researcher, media ethnographer, anthropologist of religion, and theorist of race/ethnicity,” whose work “explores how film and other non-traditional formats can be effectively used in scholarly research projects.”

He has the distinction of being Penn’s first PIK (Penn Integrates Knowledge) professor, arriving at Penn two years after Gutmann started as president and announced the new cross-disciplinary approach. PIK professors have appointments in multiple schools and are expected to collaborate across disciplines. Jackson is on the faculty at Penn’s Center for Experimental Ethnography and is also part of the departments of Africana studies and anthropology, the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Policy & Practice.

He’s also a filmmaker, most recently codirecting and coproducing Making Sweet Tea: The Lives and Loves of Southern Black Gay Men in 2021.