College Names Philip Jefferson Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty
Philip Jefferson, a Swarthmore College economist, has been named as Davidson College’s new vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. He brings to the role deep experience as a scholar, elected official, college trustee, and a Federal Reserve System economist.
Jefferson, who holds an endowed professorship at Swarthmore, will hold the Paul B. Freeland endowed professorship in economics at Davidson. He starts on August 1.
He will serve as Davidson’s chief academic officer and brings what he calls a “360-degree” perspective to the job. He reported to the provost at Swarthmore when he chaired the economics department. He worked alongside the provost as a member of Swarthmore’s committee determining tenure and promotion. At his alma mater, Vassar College, Jefferson serves on the board of trustees and works closely with the dean of the faculty on academic affairs.
“Philip’s career as a renowned scholar, institutional leader, and public figure spans an exceptional range of experience,” said Davidson College President Carol E. Quillen. “He is especially well-equipped to serve as a key partner with faculty, fellow college leaders, trustees, students, and the community in defining the strategic vision for the college.”
Jefferson has taught at Columbia University and the University of Virginia, in addition to Swarthmore, and worked as a visiting research economist at the University of California, Berkeley. He served as an economist for the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, in Washington, and for the Federal Reserve Bank, in New York.
A graduate of Vassar, Jefferson has served as a trustee since 2002. Tony Friscia, who chairs Vassar’s board of trustees, said Jefferson’s insights from multiple perspectives, inside and outside higher education, will help him navigate a role in which he serves as the most visible link between the faculty and Davidson’s leadership.
“He’s a very good problem solver,” Friscia said. “He will be able to bridge those relationships very well.”
Jefferson also was elected to the Borough Council in the town of Swarthmore, where he served from 2008 to 2012.
“I was immediately drawn to Davidson by the college’s focus on preparing students to have a global impact, its intention to create an inclusive community, and its belief that moral courage is a source of strength,” Jefferson said, “a constellation of things that Davidson puts forward that I think is very important and that aligns with my personal values.”
He is eager to work with the faculty on a curriculum that strengthens the deep skills that Davidson cultivates.
Jefferson was pleasantly surprised that one of his interviews for the job was with students from the Student Initiative for Academic Diversity (SIAD). He affectionately described an “engaging, rigorous, and fair interrogation” and complimented the students’ impressive preparation and thoughtful questions.
“It says a lot about the college,” he said, “that that interview was an integral part of my day.”
A self-described lifelong learner, Jefferson said he has sat in on classes in Spanish, music and art history, along with a summer stint in a biology lab, while at Swarthmore. He likes to fill in knowledge gaps and “still get[s] a charge out of learning new things.”