Kimberly Jacob Arriola appointed dean of Emory’s Laney Graduate School

By Susan M. Carini 04G | June 9, 2021

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Kimberly Jacob Arriola, executive associate dean for academic affairs in the Rollins School of Public Health and Charles Howard Candler Professor, has been appointed dean of Laney Graduate School, effective Sept. 1, 2021.

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Kimberly Jacob Arriola, executive associate dean for academic affairs in the Rollins School of Public Health and Charles Howard Candler Professor of Behavioral, Social and Health Education Sciences, has been appointed dean of the Laney Graduate School and will assume her duties Sept. 1. She also will join the Office of the Provost leadership team as vice provost for graduate affairs.

“Throughout her esteemed career at Emory, Dr. Kimberly Jacob Arriola has displayed her brilliance as a researcher and teacher and, in recent years, as a highly effective academic leader,” says President Gregory L. Fenves.

“She will bring a wealth of experience as well as a deep commitment to graduate education in her new role as dean, and her interdisciplinary approach will position Laney Graduate School to attract talented, diverse graduate students and elevate our graduate programs in important ways. I am grateful for the exceptional service that Dean Tedesco provided to Laney during the past 15 years, and I know that Dr. Arriola will build on her outstanding legacy of achievement,” he continues.

Laney Graduate School enjoys a proud tradition of scholarship known throughout the world, offering the PhD and master’s degrees in more than 40 programs across the humanities, social sciences, biomedical and natural sciences, public health, nursing and business.

Of Laney’s nearly 1,900 students, more than 1,600 are enrolled in PhD programs, and international students constitute nearly 28 percent of the enrollment. Graduate students contribute to nearly every area of research at Emory, working with faculty and researchers to advance their disciplines and solve the complex problems of our time. 

Arriola will succeed Dean Lisa A. Tedesco, who steps down at the end of August for a sabbatical prior to pursuing special projects. 

“Dr. Arriola is the dynamic, collaborative, can-do leader we are looking for at Laney Graduate School. Graduate education and research are intimately tied to one another, and both are mission-critical to Emory. Dr. Arriola is an outstanding scholar who cares deeply about graduate and professional students and their success as well as their well-being. I am delighted that we have someone of her caliber to lead Laney Graduate School. I have had the pleasure of working with Dean Tedesco in the past, and we will miss her and are grateful for her service. I am confident that she has left us a great foundation for Dr. Arriola to build on. I am also grateful for the work of our search committee and their service,” says Provost-elect Ravi V. Bellamkonda.

Building from strength

During Tedesco’s 15 years of leadership, which included the school’s renaming for Emory President Emeritus James T. Laney in 2009, the school undertook structural changes informed by best practices and a focus on strong metrics for planning and evaluation, developed innovative programs and educational infrastructure, promoted faculty governance and highlighted the importance of student mentoring.

In 2018, Emory made a significant new investment in graduate education by increasing the base stipend for PhD students, representing a commitment of more than $40 million over five years. 

“Laney Graduate School has a strategic focus on interdisciplinary study, professional development, career planning, and diversity and inclusion,” says Jan Love, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. 

“Kimberly Jacob Arriola will build on those strengths. All aspects of her remarkable career to date indicate that she possesses the ability to move Laney forward as the school focuses on student recruitment, structural support to ensure student professional development and success, resource development and fundraising, as well as continued exploration of postgraduate pathways for students,” Love adds.

Arriola will work with a team that collaborates closely with graduate program directors and administrators across disciplines, departments and schools. The dean is advised by a faculty governance system composed of the Directors of Graduate Study, an elected Executive Council, and an Appointments Committee. Arriola was previously elected to serve on the Executive Council for three years, and she has extensive experience advising and mentoring graduate and professional students.

“Graduate and professional education offers an unmatched opportunity to build bridges both within and between the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. I am elated by this opportunity to build on the strong foundation that has already been established under Dean Tedesco’s leadership, chart a shared vision that addresses contemporary issues in the field and elevate graduate and professional education at Emory and beyond,” says Arriola.

Admired teacher, researcher and administrator

A summa cum laude graduate of Spelman College who earned her PhD in social psychology from Northeastern University, Arriola came to the Rollins School of Public Health as a student in 1998. In 2001, she earned her master of public health (MPH) in epidemiology.

While still in her MPH program, Arriola was invited to join the Department of Behavioral, Social and Health Education Sciences at Rollins as a senior faculty associate. In 2010, by then an associate professor, Arriola began a six-year term as director of graduate studies for Behavioral, Social and Health Education Sciences. 

In 2015, she was promoted to full professor and, a year later, Rollins Dean James Curran announced Arriola’s appointment as associate dean for academic affairs. In 2018, she was named Charles Howard Candler Professor and executive associate dean for academic affairs.

As Arriola rose through the ranks at Rollins, she has refined competencies that will serve her well as dean, including budget planning, fundraising, supporting the research enterprise, ensuring student success within and outside the classroom, overseeing reaccreditation, and supporting faculty professional development and governance processes.

Arriola led the 2017 Rollins strategic planning process, oversaw all of the school’s doctoral programs and supported the creation of a new doctoral program — Global Health and Development. She also has developed strong collaborative relationships across the university, including chairing the Faculty Advisory Committee for the One Emory strategic framework.

At the same time, Arriola maintains a program of federally funded research that focuses on the social and behavioral factors impacting the health of marginalized populations and communities of color. She has led the development, implementation and evaluation of culturally sensitive interventions to improve public commitment to organ and tissue donation among African Americans, as well as interventions that improve access to transplantation among African American end-stage renal disease patients. 

Additionally, Arriola has spearheaded the implementation and evaluation of environmental and policy-change interventions that improve access to cancer screening and treatment services among the underserved and underinsured. 

Demonstrating a commitment to service, Arriola was faculty counselor to Emory’s Board of Trustees for three years, chairs the Healthcare and Health Disparities Study Section of the National Institutes of Health, and was recently appointed associate editor of the American Journal of Transplantation, the leading journal in her field.

Arriola received an Emory Williams Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2014 and in 2016 was honored with the Thomas F. Sellers Jr. Award, presented to a Rollins faculty member “who exemplifies the ideals of public health and serves as a role model and mentor to colleagues.” A 2010 alumna of the Woodruff Leadership Academy, Arriola also is a 2012 graduate of the American Psychological Association Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology and a 2016 graduate of the Society of Behavioral Medicine Leadership Institute.

“With an enduring commitment to the mission and values of the university and a desire to drive further growth for Laney Graduate School, I look forward to establishing a strategic focus that will best serve the school, Emory and field of graduate and professional education, where our leadership has long been expected and welcome,” says Arriola. 

“Her evolution as a leader is inspiring, and I look forward to working with her as a fellow dean,” notes Love, who will transition back to her role as dean of Candler School of Theology on July 1 with the arrival of Ravi Bellamkonda as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Emory was assisted in the search for the dean of Laney Graduate School by Heidrick & Struggles International.