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Supporting Excellence W&L’s new provost, Lena Hill, aims to support the university’s initiatives in interdisciplinary work, diversity, equity and inclusion, and more.

LenaHill12-scaled Supporting ExcellenceProvost Lena Hill

On July 1, Dean of the College Lena Hill will expand her purview to include the entire university when she steps into the role of university provost.

Since becoming the College’s dean in 2018, Hill has worked with its faculty to deliver and improve the unparalleled academic experience students and the community expect of W&L. She has seen significant success, adding interdisciplinary programs in data science and law, justice and society as well as supporting classes, symposia and extracurricular academic activities through her office.

During her tenure, W&L has placed an increasing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion to fulfill its latest Strategic Plan. Hill, who was associate vice president and interim chief diversity officer at the University of Iowa before joining W&L, has made significant contributions, revamping administrative processes and helping the College hire new professors that make the diversity of its faculty more reflective of its student body.

Hill also created a mentoring program and a group for professionals of color, and she hosts events for new faculty from all backgrounds at her home to foster connection and belonging. “Recruitment doesn’t matter if you don’t work to make sure that the faculty who join us — that goes beyond diverse faculty, all faculty who join us — feel like they’re well supported and can be successful here,” she said. “I’m very interested in the experience my faculty are having.”

Hill is particularly proud of the progress on diversity, equity and inclusion W&L has made over a relatively short period of time. “In higher ed, things don’t happen quickly. You have to have trust to move forward and to make progress, especially around this issue.”

Hill was appointed after a national search and succeeds Elizabeth Oliver, who has served as interim provost since July 2020 and will return to her role as associate dean of the Williams School at the end of the academic year.

“I am delighted that Lena Hill has agreed to serve as our next provost,” President Dudley said of her appointment. “In her tenure as dean, Lena has demonstrated impressive administrative and leadership skills, as well as her deep appreciation of the liberal arts. As an accomplished scholar and dedicated teacher, she is deeply invested in our faculty and students. I am looking forward to partnering with her as we work to bring W&L’s ambitious strategic plan to fruition.”

Hill, in turn, is grateful for the opportunity. “My tenure as dean of the College has allowed me to form wonderful relationships with the W&L community, and I am eager to continue the collaborative work of advancing our exceptional academic program. We are in the midst of a challenging year, but the difficulties we are confronting remind me of our core strengths and resilience. I look forward to the work ahead.”


  • B.A. from Howard University with additional study at Williams College and Richmond College in Florence, Italy. Ph.D. in English from Yale University.
  • Postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University, teaching experience at Yale and University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
  • Associate professor of English and African-American Studies at the University of Iowa (2006–2018).
  • Author of the book “Visualizing Blackness and the Creation of the African American Literary Tradition” (Cambridge, 2014), co-editor of “Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa during the Long Civil Rights Era” (University of Iowa Press, 2016), co-author of “Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: A Reference Guide” (Greenwood, 2008).