Academics, Campus News

Carolina welcomes 7 new deans

These scholars and leaders, all standouts in their fields, bring a world of knowledge and experience to campus, offering a fresh start to a new academic year.

Seven headshots of new deans in a grid.
From left: James White, Beth Mayer-Davis (top), Valerie Howard (bottom), Stan Ahalt, Nancy Messonnier (top), Raul Reis (bottom), Janet Guthmiller. (Graphic by UNC Creative)

As the 2022 fall semester begins, Carolina welcomes an unprecedented seven new deans. These academic leaders, all standouts in their fields, bring a world of knowledge and experience to campus. Here’s a snapshot of the group.

Stanley C. Ahalt

Title: Inaugural dean of the School of Data Science and Society.

Additional roles: Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ computer science department and associate director of informatics and data science in the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute.

Starting date: July 1.

Degrees: Doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from Clemson University, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Previous position: Director of Renaissance Computing Institute, a collaboration among Carolina, North Carolina State University and Duke University.

Select career achievements: Through $34.5 million in funding in the last five years, Ahalt has positioned RENCI and Carolina as a national leader in the coordination of large, collaborative and complex federal data science grants. In his early years as director of RENCI, Ahalt was instrumental in launching two major data science initiatives: The National Consortium for Data Science, a public-private partnership to address big data challenges and opportunities in research and business, and iRODS, an effort to develop a branch of the popular integrated Rule-Oriented Data System as enterprise-quality software, complete with rigorous testing and a robust, feature-rich code base.

Janet Guthmiller

Title: Dean of the Adams School of Dentistry.

Additional role: Claude A. Adams Distinguished Professor.

Starting date: Oct. 15.

Degrees: Periodontal certificate and doctorate in cellular and structural biology from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, doctor of dental surgery from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, bachelor’s degree from Northwestern College, associate degree in dental hygiene from the University of South Dakota.

Current position: Dean of the College of Dentistry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Select career achievements: In her current position at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Guthmiller leads dental programs that serve over 300 students on five campuses across 500 miles. Under her leadership, the College of Dentistry launched two new educational programs to meet the needs of today’s students and built and renovated numerous facilities to foster cutting-edge teaching and learning and delivery of patient care. A strong advocate for public service, Guthmiller serves as the principal investigator on a $4 million contract from the State of Nebraska to increase oral health services to underserved citizens of Nebraska and encourage graduates to practice in underserved rural areas.

She returns to the Adams School, where she served as associate dean of academic affairs and professor of periodontology, overseeing all dental educational programs, faculty development and student admissions and affairs from 2007-2014.

Predecessor: Scott De Rossi.

Valerie Howard

Title: Dean of the School of Nursing.

Starting date: Aug. 1.

Degrees: Doctorate in higher education administration and a master of science in nursing education from the University of Pittsburgh, bachelor of science in nursing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Previous position: Vice dean for academic affairs and a clinical professor in the School of Nursing at Duke University.

Select career achievements: At Duke, Howard was responsible for the development, implementation and evaluation of four academic degree programs and 20 specialties and certificate programs, many of which are ranked first or second in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. She oversaw admissions, course quality, program accreditation and support services that served the school’s 1,150 students. In addition, she implemented numerous initiatives focused on academic excellence, including supporting innovation and faculty development in teaching, adopting new standards for online education and launching a student success center.

Howard leads the North Carolina Future of Nursing Action Coalition, a volunteer organization focused on improving health equity across the state in response to the National Academy of Medicine’s Future of Nursing Recommendations.

Predecessor: Nilda “Nena” Peragallo Montano.

Beth Mayer-Davis

Title: Dean of The Graduate School.

Additional role: Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and Medicine.

Starting date: Sept. 1.

Degrees: Doctorate in epidemiology from the University of California, Berkeley; master of science in public health from the University of Colorado School of Medicine; bachelor of science in dietetics from the University of Tennessee.

Current position: Chair of the department of nutrition and director of the UNC Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Select career achievements: Mayer-Davis has prioritized faculty success and helped create an environment for faculty to thrive. At Gillings, she implemented a mentoring program, established a committee to nominate faculty for academic awards and aligned her colleagues’ professional development interests to their committee service in the department. An accomplished scholar, she was principal investigator for the Carolina clinical site of the landmark SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study and served for more than 15 years as co-chairperson for this large multi-center study. Mayer-Davis is also co-principal investigator for the Carolina clinical site of the Nutrition for Precision Health study.

Predecessor: Suzanne Barbour.

Nancy Messonnier

Title: Dean of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Additional role: Bryson Distinguished Professor in Public Health.

Starting date: Sept. 1.

Degrees: Doctor of medicine from the University of Chicago School of Medicine and internal medicine residency training at the University of Pennsylvania, bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Current position: Executive director for Pandemic Prevention and Health Systems at the Skoll Foundation.

Select career achievements: Messonnier spent the bulk of her career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where her many accomplishments include leadership roles in developing and implementing a low-cost vaccine to prevent epidemic meningitis in Africa; in responding to the 2001 anthrax attacks; and in promoting vaccine confidence and addressing disparities in immunization coverage. Messonnier led the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases and its response to an unknown respiratory disease in China in late 2019 and then to the COVID-19 pandemic. She served as the CDC’s chief architect of the COVID-19 vaccine implementation program and helped develop, evaluate and distribute COVID-19 vaccines across the United States.

Predecessor: Barbara Rimer.

Raul Reis

Title: Dean of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

Starting date: July 1.

Degrees: Doctorate in communication and society from the University of Oregon, master of science in journalism and mass communication from Kansas State University, bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Universidade Federal do Pará in Brazil.

Previous position: Dean and professor of the School of Communication at Emerson College.

Select career achievements: At Emerson, a college dedicated to communications and the arts, Reis oversaw the design and implementation of 10 of the school’s 18 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, several of them ranked nationally among the best degree programs in their fields. Under his leadership, School of Communication enrollment grew significantly. In 2021, nearly half the 5,100-student body was enrolled in the school, up from 27% five years before. In turn, Reis hired 38 full-time faculty over five years, recruiting diverse expertise in new and innovative fields.

Predecessor: Susan King.

James W.C. White

Title: Craver Family Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Starting date: July 1.

Degrees: Master’s and doctorate in geological sciences from Columbia University, bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Florida State University.

Previous job: Acting dean and professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Select career achievements: At CU-Boulder, White reimagined the college’s work to recruit in-state students from underrepresented groups. He oversaw an administrative reorganization with the goal of better serving nearly 17,000 undergraduate students. He created and launched a partnership between the university and leading Native American degree-granting institutions in Colorado to enhance undergraduate experiences and establish a supportive community. Under White’s leadership, the college more than doubled the total financial gifts received, further enabling it to meet present and anticipated student and faculty needs. In four and a half years as acting dean, White bolstered the college’s representation of a diverse faculty. During his tenure, 50% of senior academic leaders in the college identified as women and more than half the faculty identify as being from underrepresented groups, including 20% Black and 20% Latino. Heeding recommendations from faculty, White created the first-ever associate dean for inclusive practice at the college.

White was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2014.

Predecessor: Terry Rhodes.