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Linda Burton named new dean of Berkeley’s social welfare school

She comes from Duke University, where she's the James B. Duke Professor of Sociology

a woman stands looking at the camera

Linda Burton, currently a professor of Sociology at Duke University, will be the next dean of the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare.

Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos issued the following message to the campus community:

Dear campus community,

We are delighted to announce that Linda Burton, current James B. Duke Professor of Sociology at Duke University and former dean of social sciences at Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, has accepted our offer to become the next dean of the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare. She will begin her term here on September 1, 2019.

A Duke faculty member since 2006, Professor Burton has served the university in a variety of leadership roles over the course of her years there. Most recently, as director of Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy from 2017 to 2018, she oversaw a major research hub that evaluated strategies for improving the lives of families and brought those ideas to life through relationships with policymakers and public agencies. In this capacity, she also launched a research and policy initiative that focused on reframing the narratives around and assessing the effects of policy-induced trauma on families and children in America’s South.

From 2014 to 2017, Professor Burton served as dean of social sciences at Duke’s college of arts and sciences. Working alongside the dean of the college, the dean of natural sciences, and the dean of humanities, she was responsible for the college’s 12 social science departments and programs. Her efforts included building interdisciplinary ties within the social sciences and across other divisions and colleges, instilling a stronger culture of mentorship and leadership, fortifying inclusive local community ties, championing the importance of socially-relevant research in a fast-paced and changing world, and enhancing and promoting the college’s diversity. As dean, she also served as interim co-director of the International Comparative Studies program, chaired an important university-wide committee examining bias and hate issues on campus, and helped Duke negotiate a historic union contract with its adjunct professors.

Amidst her administrative service, Professor Burton has maintained a prolific research record. She is a renowned ethnographer who specializes in longitudinal studies of the family dynamics that exist among America’s poorest urban, small-town, and rural multi-generation families. Her work is incredibly wide-ranging: She has examined the intimate relationships that low-income mothers enter into, complex family structures across space and time, the careers and pathways open to African-American men and boys, accelerated life course transitions faced by poverty-stricken children and adults, and much more. Oftentimes, her research projects are vast in their scale; one of them saw her direct a team of 215 ethnographers and analysts as part of a three-city study of poverty, family processes, and child development. She is currently serving as president of the Sociological Research Association, the international honor society for distinguished sociologists.

Raised in Compton, California, Professor Burton holds a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology, all from the University of Southern California. Prior to her appointment at Duke, she was a faculty member at Penn State University for more than two decades, and directed its Center for Human Development and Family Research in Diverse Contexts from 1998 to 2006. You can learn more about Professor Burton in this story on the School of Social Welfare website.

Berkeley’s search committee for the School of Social Welfare dean position was immensely impressed with Professor Burton’s wealth of administrative experience, inclusive and collaborative leadership style, expertise in mentoring, and commitment to social justice in both her university service and academic work. We have no doubt that she will lift Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare – already one of the nation’s best – to exciting new heights, ensuring that it contributes as much as it can towards building a more caring, equitable, and just society.

In closing, we would like to express our deep gratitude to the search committee and especially to outgoing dean Jeff Edleson, who has ably served at the helm of the School of Social Welfare since 2012 and will continue on in his role through the end of August.

We hope you will join us in thanking Jeff for his years of service, and in welcoming Professor Burton to Berkeley.


Carol Christ

A. Paul Alivisatos
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost