Two New Tenured Professors Join Politics and African and African American Studies Departments
The University of the South has welcomed two new professors as tenured members of the faculty. Clarissa Peterson joins the faculty as a professor of politics and African and African American studies. Peterson has also been appointed special assistant to the vice provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Emmitt Y. Riley III joins the faculty as an associate professor of politics and African and African American studies; he will also serve as the director of the African and African American Studies Program.
“Having Professor Peterson and Professor Riley join the Sewanee faculty as senior, already-tenured professors is a major win,” says Sibby Anderson-Thompkins, vice provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion. “It is critical to have senior faculty of color who can support diverse junior faculty as they navigate the promotion and tenure process and who also may have more time to dedicate to the mentorship and support of students.”
Peterson’s additional role in the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will include a focus on supporting faculty diversity initiatives. She will direct the Equity Advisors Program, facilitate a faculty of color affinity group, and help to charter a campus chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) over the next year.
Under Riley’s direction, both new professors will look to revitalize the African and African American Studies Program. Riley has already taken steps to convene a steering committee, which will review the program’s curriculum and courses as well as identify future opportunities for partnership with other departments and determine how the program might offer students a major in addition to its current minor. “There is a lot already at Sewanee to build on and that complements and reinforces the program,” says Riley, citing Sewanee’s Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center among others. “I’m excited about the opportunity.”
In the view of Betsy Sandlin, interim dean of the College, it’s a sign of the University’s commitment to embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion across all parts of the institution, including the curriculum. “It is vital to our students’ success and ability to be citizens of the world that they have exposure to as many voices and ideas as possible,” says Sandlin. “I’m excited to see how we grow this program and infuse it into the broader curriculum.”
Prior to coming to Sewanee, Peterson served as both an endowed professor of political science and as director of the Africana Studies Program at Depauw University. An award-winning teacher and scholar, Peterson has also served as chair of the American Political Science Association Committee on the Status of Blacks in the Profession and program chair for the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Peterson’s research has been published in journals including the National Review of Black Politics, Journal of Black Studies, and The Journal of Race and Policy.
Riley comes to Sewanee after having served as an associate professor of political science and director of the Africana Studies Program at Depauw University, where he also won the Larz A. Whitcomb Endowed Faculty Fellowship. Currently, Riley continues to serve as the president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Riley's research has garnered significant attention at regional, national, and international levels, with his works published in outlets including Journal of Black Studies, The Journal of Race and Policy, and National Review of Black Politics. Outside academia, Riley has shared his insights as a political analyst for The Hill and nationwide radio broadcasts, and his expertise has been cited by numerous news sources and media platforms.
Recently, Peterson and Riley co-authored the book Racial Attitudes in America Today: One Nation, Still Divided, published in 2022 by Routledge.
Thrilled to note the arrival of such esteemed scholars to the University community, Sandlin is also grateful for the acumen they bring to the classroom. “We have two researchers who have earned major recognition for their work joining Sewanee’s faculty,” says Sandlin, “but I must also say—they are just wonderful professors.”
Concurs Anderson-Thompkins, “Over the past two years, Sewanee has made incredible strides in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. I believe Professors Peterson and Riley will contribute greatly to these efforts by helping Sewanee innovate our curriculum and make our campus more welcoming for diverse students and faculty.”