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Emory College Dean Michael A. Elliott named president of Amherst College
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Elaine Justice
Michael A. Elliott

Beginning Aug. 1, Emory College Dean Michael A. Elliott will serve as the next president of Amherst College, his undergraduate alma mater and one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges.

— Emory Photo Video

Michael A. Elliott, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences since 2017, will be the next president of Amherst College, a private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Elliott joined the Emory University faculty in 1998, after earning his PhD from Columbia University and his BA from Amherst College. He will begin serving as Amherst’s 20th president on Aug. 1.

As dean of Emory College, Elliott has led Emory’s core undergraduate division of more than 5,600 students and 570 faculty members. During his nearly 25 years at Emory and six years leading the College, Elliott has amplified the liberal arts and sciences while advancing Emory College’s excellence in research, teaching and experiential learning.

“Michael Elliott has been an outstanding leader at Emory because of his profound commitment to our students and faculty, and to the important role the arts and sciences have today,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “Even as the leader of Emory College, he showed the traits of all great professors — curiosity, inspiration and ambition. I know he will elevate Amherst College and make significant contributions to his alma mater.”  

From developing Emory College’s strategic plan, “Leading the Liberal Arts and Sciences,” in 2017, to co-leading the launch of the university’s new Student Flourishing initiative this year, Elliott has made major strides in faculty diversity and eminence, undergraduate liberal arts education, philanthropic support and recruitment of top students.

“I have truly enjoyed working with Michael as a colleague, campus leader and collaborator, especially on our university-wide initiatives to invest in faculty eminence and student flourishing. Michael has given so much of himself to Emory College and Emory as a whole to help us become more excellent, more inclusive and more successful,” says Emory Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda. “Although we are all sorry to say farewell, I’m thrilled for him to be offered this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead his alma mater. The fact that members of our leadership team are sought after to take the helm at other great institutions is not only a tribute to the individual, but a clear sign that others recognize Emory’s strong vision and leadership in academia.” 

Advancing faculty eminence

Throughout his tenure as dean, Elliott has enhanced the research profile of the faculty, and, with his leadership team, has been instrumental in diversifying the Emory College faculty.  

Almost half of all new faculty members since 2017 identify as belonging to historically underrepresented groups, women in STEM disciplines, or both. As a result, Emory College has nearly doubled the percentage of faculty members belonging to a historically underrepresented group, defined by the university as African American, Hispanic/Latinx or Native/Indigenous.

He has also identified research strengths across the natural and social sciences and the humanities to build communities of scholars who can address the most pressing questions of our time, such as the recruitment of more than 30 new faculty members advancing scholarship on race, ethnicity and inequality.

Elliott also has enhanced the research profile of quantitative science disciplines, most notably with the expansion of quantitative theory and methods into a department, as well as growth in math, computer science, economics and other areas.

Under Elliott’s leadership, the arts at Emory have been enlivened as well with the creation of an associate deanship for the arts, an increased commitment to arts disciplines and innovative programs such as the Arts and Social Justice Fellows.

Translating the value of the liberal arts for students

Elliott has enthusiastically worked to amplify the value of the liberal arts and sciences for students. He helped to double the College's funding for undergraduate research and led the creation of the Emory Edge program and fund, which integrates personal and professional development into the curriculum and offers students financial support for experiential opportunities.

In partnership with Oxford College Dean Doug Hicks, Elliott established the Mellon Humanities Pathways program, which leverages faculty strengths and alumni connections to highlight the value of humanistic inquiry to many careers.

Elliott’s vision of holistic student support will become manifest with the launch of the Pathways Center this fall as part of Emory’s Student Flourishing initiative. Led by Branden Grimmett, incoming associate dean and vice provost for career and professional development, the Pathways Center will integrate undergraduate career exploration with the academic experience while establishing stronger alumni and mentor connections and increasing student participation in internships, entrepreneurial projects, research, education abroad and service learning.

Legacy of growth, strength for the College

Emory College grew significantly during Elliott’s deanship. Since 2017, admissions applications have grown by 40%, resulting in Emory’s most diverse and academically distinctive undergraduate classes.

Elliott has significantly expanded donor support for the College and alumni involvement in the life of the university. Emory College has raised nearly $225 million toward its $350 million goal for 2O36, the largest fundraising campaign in Emory College and university history. Campaign funds raised for Emory College will increase student access through scholarships, support faculty growth and retention, shape an enhanced student experience, and grow innovative scholarly programs.

Elliott also completed the Scholarship Endowment Initiative, raising more than $80 million for endowed scholarships in Emory College and more than doubling the number of new or augmented scholarship endowments.

“Emory has been my home for more than two decades, and I’ve learned more on this campus than I could ever put into words,” Elliott says. “From my first moment here, I have been inspired by the commitment of Emory’s faculty and staff to the mission of the liberal arts, and serving as dean has been more rewarding than I could have possibly imagined. I feel immensely grateful to everyone — faculty, staff, students, alumni — who has supported me during my career here, and I am truly honored to be returning to Amherst College as its 20th president.”

Elliott has maintained an active scholarly presence while holding multiple leadership roles. The recipient of prestigious research fellowships, he has authored two books on American literary and intellectual history and serves on the editorial board of The Norton Anthology of American Literature. In 2018, Elliott oversaw the launch of Digital Publishing in the Humanities, an effort to position Emory as a national leader in the future of academic publishing.

Prior to his deanship, Elliott served as senior associate dean for faculty from 2009–2014, as executive associate dean from 2014–2015, and as interim dean from 2016–2017. In 2008, Elliott was awarded with the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence and innovation in undergraduate teaching.

Elliott will continue to serve as Emory College dean through July. Bellamkonda will name an interim dean in the coming weeks, after which a national search for the next dean will commence.

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