Stovall arrived at Fordham on July 1 from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), where he was dean of the humanities division and distinguished professor of history. Before arriving at UCSC in 2015, he served as dean of the undergraduate division of letters and science at the University of California, Berkeley.
During the town hall, which was introduced by F. Jay Breyer, Ph.D., GSAS ’81, chair of the Dean’s Leadership Committee, and moderated by committee member Immac “Casey” Thampoe, Ph.D., J.D., FCRH ’80, GSAS ’82, LAW ’94, Stovall said he was attracted to the strong sense of community at Fordham, the University’s location in New York City, and the idea of cura personalis, or “care of the whole person,” which is central to Fordham’s academic mission.
As dean of GSAS, Stovall is the chief academic officer of a school that offers degrees in more than 20 different fields of study. He said his priorities include plans to promote student-faculty collaboration, work closely with alumni to strengthen career and mentorship networks, focus on support systems for students through counseling and advising, emphasize job placement both within and outside of academia, and make sure faculty and students know that the administration “has their back.”
To learn what that kind of support means for graduates, in mid-July, Stovall wrote to GSAS alumni and asked them to complete a brief survey to let him know “what you need and want from your alma mater.” Based on the responses to that survey, Stovall related, many GSAS graduates are eager to reengage or stay involved with the school, and they are particularly interested in institutional anti-racism efforts. Along those lines, Stovall said GSAS and Fordham as a whole need to look beyond the gates of the University to a deeper engagement with the community, and as he stated in the letter to alumni, “examine the dead weight of racism in our lives and the best ways to free ourselves from it.”
Although Stovall will not be teaching any courses this academic year, he said he hopes to teach a graduate seminar in the near future. He earned his Ph.D. in modern European/French history from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and has authored 10 books and numerous articles in the field of modern French history, specializing in transnational history, labor, colonialism, and race. His latest book, White Freedom: The Racial History of an Idea, will be released by Princeton University Press in 2021.
Asked about the common research ground between him and Fordham College at Lincoln Center Dean Laura Auricchio, who holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in art history and archaeology with a specialty in 18th-century France, Stovall joked that it was no coincidence.
“No one makes a better dean than a French historian.”