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John L. Jackson Jr., the Walter H. Annenberg dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and the next provost of the University of Pennsylvania (Photo from Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania).

Penn President Liz Magill announced that Annenberg School for Communication Dean John L. Jackson Jr. will be the University's next provost starting June 1.

Jackson, who is also a Richard Perry University professor, will succeed former Provost Wendell Pritchett, who took a leave of absence in May 2021. Since then, Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein has served in the position. Winkelstein will return to the position of deputy provost. 

“I could not be more honored and genuinely humbled to be asked to serve in this important post,” Jackson wrote in the announcement, which was posted today. “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.”

The Provost's Office oversees aspects of student life across the University, such as teaching, research, admissions, recreation, libraries, online learning, and global initiatives, according to its website

Jackson wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian that he sees the provost's role as having a principal charge: ensuring that the University succeeds in "cutting-edge research" and teaching "as effectively, efficiently, and successfully as possible."

In a Daily Pennsylvanian interview with Magill on Jan. 9, she expressed her thoughts on the importance of the position, calling it "incredibly complicated." Magill, a former provost herself, has previously described the provost as the "chief academic officer" of the University.

“[There are] 32 direct reports to the provost. So in that job, there's a particular making sure [that] the incredibly important business of the University moves forward, and that the provost is a great partner to all the many leaders they work with, as well as someone who can help me articulate a vision and execute on that vision,” Magill told the DP. 

Credit: Jesse Zhang Annenberg School for Communication Dean John L. Jackson Jr. spoke at Penn’s 266th Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022 on May 16, 2022.

The announcement of Jackson as provost follows a search that began in September and which was led by J. Larry Jameson, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine and Executive Vice President for the Health System.

"... I thought that I could potentially be of service to Penn in a different way, and I eventually thought that I’d throw my hat in the ring," Jackson wrote about learning about the search from the provost's consistent meetings with Penn's 12 deans. 

Jackson, who will be Penn's 31st provost, currently serves as the chair of the Red and Blue Advisory Committee, which Magill tasked last fall with finding a strategic vision for Penn's future. Jackson was previously dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and special adviser to the provost on diversity at Penn.  He will be the second Black provost of Penn after Pritchett.

“John Jackson is one of Penn’s most respected and accomplished academic leaders,” Magill wrote in the announcement. “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."

The University will begin searching for Jackson's replacement as Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication immediately, according to the announcement. Jackson wrote that he would miss the "genuine community" at Annenberg that the school had worked to sustain during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I feel like I owe this city and this university so much," Jackson wrote to the DP. "I look forward to contributing to our collective and interconnected efforts in this new role."