John L. Jackson Jr. named Penn’s next provost

The Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Richard Perry University Professor will begin his appointment on June 1, 2023.

John L. Jackson Jr.
John L. Jackson Jr. (Image: Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania)

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill today announced that John L. Jackson Jr. has been selected to serve as the Provost at Penn, effective June 1, 2023, following ratification by Penn’s Board of Trustees. Jackson is currently the Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Richard Perry University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He was previously dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and senior advisor to the provost on Diversity at Penn.

“John Jackson is one of Penn’s most respected and accomplished academic leaders,” said Magill. “He is an acclaimed scholar who has had extraordinary success in recruiting outstanding faculty, in leading innovations in teaching and learning, and in building an exceptional educational experience for students. John is a superb fundraiser who has raised the profile of both Schools that he has led at Penn. I know he will guide Penn to even greater heights.”

Jackson becomes the 31st Provost in Penn history and was selected following an international search. His predecessor as Provost, Wendell Pritchett, returned to the faculty in 2021 and later served as Interim President prior to the arrival of President Magill. Beth A. Winkelstein has served as Interim Provost since July 2021 and will return to her role as Deputy Provost. “Dr. Winkelstein has been an exceptional Interim Provost. She has established herself as a trusted partner and problem-solver to her colleagues. Her steady leadership and unwavering commitment to Penn, especially during COVID and the presidential transition, have been invaluable,” said Magill. “All of us at Penn are deeply grateful for the leadership she provided.”

Jackson earned his BA in communication (radio/TV/film) from Howard University, completed his Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University, and served as a junior fellow in Harvard University’s Society of Fellows before becoming assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University. He joined the faculty at Penn in 2006.

An urban researcher, media ethnographer, anthropologist of religion, and theorist of race/ethnicity, Jackson’s work also explores how film and other nontraditional formats can be effectively used in scholarly research projects. Jackson is one of the founding members of CAMRA, a Penn initiative that creates visual and performative research projects and produces rigorous criteria for assessing them.

Jackson was Penn’s first PIK Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor, one of the University’s most distinguished honors. PIK Professors hold appointments in two or more Schools, using their positions to build bridges between disciplines through collaboration. He is currently a faculty member at Penn’s new Center for Experimental Ethnography, and he has affiliations with Penn’s Departments of Africana Studies and Anthropology, as well as with the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Policy & Practice.

“I could not be more honored and genuinely humbled to be asked to serve in this important post,” Jackson said. “I look forward to working closely with President Magill and the entire Penn community as we navigate the challenges and opportunities of today and prepare, together, for the ones that will emerge tomorrow.”

As Provost, Jackson will oversee teaching, learning, research, and student life across the University, as well as such core areas as admissions, arts, athletics and recreation, libraries, online learning, and global initiatives.

“The Provost’s responsibilities are far-reaching and have a profound impact on the success of the University,” said Magill.

Magill noted that Jackson is also currently chairing the Red and Blue Advisory Committee, which is leading a University-wide effort to inform the strategic next steps for Penn. The recommendations from the committee will go to Magill and will underpin the framework for Penn’s future. “John is a true University citizen who has brought bold, collaborative, and creative leadership to this effort. He is well poised to lead as we begin shaping the future academic priorities of our University,” said Magill.

In making the announcement of Jackson’s appointment, Magill thanked J. Larry Jameson, Penn Medicine EVP and dean of the Perelman School of Medicine, who chaired the Consultative Committee for the Provost search, as well as all the members of the committee: “Dean Jameson and the consultative committee did stellar work. Their efforts helped ensure that we had a talented and diverse pool of candidates to consider,” said Magill.

A filmmaker and urban anthropologist, Jackson is the author of “Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America” (University of Chicago Press, 2001); “Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity” (University of Chicago Press, 2005); “Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness” (Basic Civitas, 2008); “Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem” (Harvard University Press, 2013); “Impolite Conversations: On Race, Politics, Sex, Money, and Religion” (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2014), co-written with Cora Daniels; and “Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment” (NYU Press, 2016), co-written with Carolyn Rouse and Marla Frederick. He is also editor of “Social Policy and Social Justice” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

His most recent films include “Bad Friday: Rastafari after Coral Gardens” (Third World Newsreel, 2012), co-directed with Deborah A. Thomas, and “Making Sweet Tea: The Lives and Loves of Southern Black Gay Men” (Random Media, 2021), co-directed with Nora Gross and co-executive produced with E. Patrick Johnson.

The search for Jackson’s replacement as Dean of the Annenberg School will begin immediately, and details will be provided to the University community in the near future.