William & Mary has named Suzanne Raitt, a widely respected leader, administrator and professor, as the next dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences after a national search. 

Raitt, who holds a chancellor professorship of English at William & Mary, is an award-winning scholar, faculty leader, teacher and administrator. A member of the university community for over 20 years, she has served as acting dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences since Jan. 1. 

“The William & Mary community knows Dr. Raitt well as a gifted colleague. She exemplifies our core value of curiosity, leading with wisdom and great judgment,” said President Katherine A. Rowe. “Under Vision 2026, W&M is reimagining the liberal arts for the 21st century to ensure the lifelong success of our graduates. Dr. Raitt is exactly who we need to lead W&M Arts & Sciences at this important moment.” Pending formal approval at the W&M Board of Visitors April meeting, Raitt will begin the permanent post on April 25.

The dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences leads the largest of William & Mary’s academic units, overseeing approximately 650 faculty in 11 graduate programs and dozens of undergraduate majors and minors. In addition, Arts & Sciences houses research centers and administrative offices that support the university’s teaching and research missions.

An experienced leader and scholar

Previously, Raitt served as vice dean of Arts, Humanities & Interdisciplinary Studies. She has also held numerous leadership roles within Arts & Sciences and university-wide, including as chair of the Council of Chairs and Program Directors, faculty representative to the W&M Board of Visitors, and secretary, vice-president and president of the William & Mary Faculty Assembly.  

Raitt has been a professor in the English department since 2000, and chancellor Professor of English since 2015. Among her many administrative appointments, she has served as chair of the English Department, and director of the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies program.

Raitt will draw upon her more than two decades of experience at the university and a deep understanding of the history, culture and vision of William & Mary to lead Arts & Sciences into the future, said Provost Peggy Agouris.

“Dr. Raitt impresses and inspires at every turn,” Agouris said. “She brought characteristic thoughtfulness and intent to the interim role, partnering closely with A&S staff and faculty members as well as my office, and made significant strides for W&M in a few short months. In the search process she reinforced the respect she earned across William & Mary over many years. It is our great fortune to name her dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences. 

“I also extend gratitude to the entire search committee and its chair, Dean of the W&M Law School A. Benjamin Spencer, as well as the many faculty and staff members who took time to review the strong candidate pool and offer feedback. A tremendous amount of work goes into national searches; W&M appreciates the time of everyone involved.” 

Opportunities for the future

Among the challenges and opportunities for the next dean will be guiding Arts & Sciences through considerations of how best to organize the unit for more visibility and autonomy. As dean, Raitt will play a critical role in this process, in consultation with William & Mary leadership as well as A&S faculty and administrators. 

“The search committee was impressed by Dr. Raitt’s deep commitment to the faculty at William & Mary, and to excellence in teaching, research and student wellbeing,” Spencer said. “I have no doubt that the strong relationships built over her many years of leadership at William & Mary, paired with her diplomacy, interdisciplinarity, and vision will further strengthen and unify Arts & Sciences.”

Raitt said she embraces collaboration as a key leadership trait and has welcomed numerous opportunities to work with fellow members of the William & Mary community to effect meaningful change. She reiterated the importance of a collective and collaborative process in determining the structure, strategic direction and future of Arts & Sciences at William & Mary.  

“It is an important time for William & Mary,” said Raitt, “and we are positioned to build on the many strengths of our Arts & Sciences community. As we work toward the university’s Vision 2026 goals of expanding our reach, educating for impact, and evolving to excel, we are poised to enhance and enrich the liberal arts and sciences at William & Mary. It is my great honor and privilege now to serve the university to which I owe so much. I look forward to leading the A&S community as we navigate an exciting new chapter.” 

Leadership and academic background

While chairing the E-Learning (remote learning) Committee in 2015-2016, Raitt drafted the strategic plan for remote learning at William & Mary that provided the conceptual foundation for the 2019 opening of the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation. Additionally, she served on the university-wide Strategic Planning Steering Committee and as co-chair of the Flourishing and Engagement Subcommittee in 2019-2020. She currently co-chairs the Computing, Data Science & Applied Science Initiative Steering Committee.  

As president of Faculty Assembly, Raitt led a successful campaign to amend the Faculty Assembly constitution and bylaws to allow for representation of continuing nontenure-eligible faculty on Faculty Assembly, which had previously been restricted to tenured faculty. 

While serving as vice dean for Arts, Humanities & Interdisciplinary Studies, Raitt revised and re-launched a group mentoring program for all new faculty hires in 2022. She also co-chaired a successful search for an assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion in Arts & Sciences. As chair of the English department, Raitt hired more than a dozen full-time faculty to lead the implementation of a new curriculum for the English major.

Though her service, accomplishments and relationships at William & Mary are well established, Raitt said she is most inspired by what lies ahead for Arts & Sciences and the university.

“I believe wholeheartedly in the future of Arts & Sciences at William & Mary, and that’s because of the remarkable faculty, leaders, and students in our midst,” she said. “Arts & Sciences is at the heart of William & Mary, and I take seriously my charge to think boldly about our future while preserving the elements that are core to our identity. For many years, I have worked with my colleagues at William & Mary to enhance our teaching, research and student success. I look forward to continuing that work during this time of transformation and opportunity within Arts & Sciences.”  

Much of Raitt’s teaching and research focuses on early twentieth-century British women’s fiction and biography. She earned a Ph.D. in English from Jesus College, University of Cambridge; an M.A. in English from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Jesus College, University of Cambridge. 

Raitt has published three books, two edited volumes, four critical editions and more than 30 essays and articles in academic journals. Most recently, she has been working on a book on twins in literature and culture. She is the recipient of numerous awards for faculty excellence, successful integration of research and undergraduate teaching and efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.    Raitt and her husband Peter Lurie are the proud parents of two teenage children, Jonathan and Ellen.