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Meet Dickinson’s New Provost and Dean, Renée Ann Cramer

Provost and Dean Renée Ann Cramer joined Dickinson on July 1. Photo by Dan Loh.

Provost and Dean Renée Ann Cramer joined Dickinson on July 1. Photo by Dan Loh.

College welcomes new member of leadership team

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

July 1 marked the first official day of Renée Ann Cramer’s service as Dickinson’s new provost and dean. As such, she works closely with the college’s faculty and staff to champion and advance the mission of the college’s life-changing liberal-arts education.

And Cramer is more than fully invested in that mission. She also exemplifies it—as the only one of her siblings to attend college, and as one of only two members of her South Dakota high-school class to attend college out of state.

“I believe wholeheartedly in a liberal-arts education for the benefit of a larger good,” Cramer says, “and I believe that Dickinson’s collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to education prepares students to contribute in meaningful ways to an interconnected, changing and complex world.”

The provost and dean holds a doctorate and a master’s degree in political science from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in politics from Bard College. After teaching public law at California State University, she served as faculty and as deputy provost for academic affairs at Drake University in Iowa. There, she co-founded the university’s Center for Public Democracy. She also led accreditation initiatives that sparked changes in university priorities and culture around diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and also to increases in student retention and student success. Cramer was additionally faculty senate president, co-leader of the Strategic Diversity Action Team and chair of the law, politics & society department.

Cramer has authored numerous scholarly articles in publications including PLos One: Medicine, International Review of Qualitative Research, Law and Social Inquiry and Law & Policy. Her most recent book, Birthing a Movement (Stanford Press, 2021), is based on 14 years of funded ethnographic research into the politics of midwifery care. She enjoys reading, cooking, live music, yoga and the great outdoors.

Cramer succeeds Neil Weissman, who had served Dickinson since 1998 as dean of the college and since 2002 as provost. The longest-serving provost in the college’s history, Weissman also was the college’s interim president for a year. Those are big shoes to fill, but Cramer is more than up to the challenge, noted President John E. Jones ‘77, P’11, speaking during an Alumni Weekend reception last month.

“We did a very comprehensive, nationwide search for our new provost and dean that attracted more than 70 qualified candidates. And as soon as I met Renée, I had a feeling she was the right fit,” said Jones. “Renée is an experienced and collaborative leader and a creative and visionary thinker, and she is very passionate about higher education and the value of a liberal-arts education in particular. She is already a valued member of my leadership team, and I’m thrilled to welcome her to Dickinson.”

Cramer says her enthusiasm for the work afoot continues to grow as she digs in.

“The longer I am here, and the more conversations I have, the more excited I am by the ways that Dickinson faculty and students engage in truly interdisciplinary learning, and the more excited I am by the terrific work being done by faculty and our Academic Affairs staff,” Cramer says. “And I love the joy that students across all of our disciplines encounter when they get the chance to learn deeply and engage intellectually--getting to witness that here and to help create the conditions under which our faculty and staff can flourish is a tremendous responsibility and the most delightful and exciting part of my role.”

As summer unwinds and her first academic year at Dickinson draws nearer, Cramer enjoys getting to know her colleagues and the place they call home.

“I am so grateful to feel absolutely and warmly welcomed and supported in my hope that I will be a very good provost and dean for the college,” Cramer says. “I love the town of Carlisle—its walkability, its proximity to terrific hiking and kayaking. Every day, I try to spend time just walking this beautiful campus, discovering new little things to appreciate and enjoy.”

Published July 31, 2023