New provost previously focused on history, diversity initiatives

Ben Vinson III has been named the next Case Western Reserve University provost and Executive Vice President, a role currently held by William A. “Bud” Baeslack III. Vinson’s transition into office will occur on July 2, following the culmination of his tenure at George Washington University (GWU) as Dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Vinson has worked as a professor at Barnard College, Penn State University and Johns Hopkins University. As a Professor of History at Johns Hopkins, Vinson founded the Center for Africana Studies and also served as Vice Dean.

Vinson began the role as Dean of GWU Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in 2013. He implemented diversity efforts, interdisciplinary initiatives and expanded research commissions over his five years in the position.

Combined with an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth University and doctorate from Columbia University, Vinson has put a total of 30 years into the world of academia as a student, professor and administrator.

According to the GWU website, “Dean Vinson’s scholarship focuses on colonial Mexico, especially the African presence in Mexico.”

This influence has had an impact throughout Vinson’s career, as he has expanded interdisciplinary and ethnic studies in the capacity of each of his positions.

Currently, CWRU students wishing to pursue Africana studies can do so through a concentration in the ethnic studies minor.  According to the CWRU Ethnic Studies website, students can “construct a concentration” with “help of several Africanist scholars across the College of Arts and Sciences and the university.”

Vinson has published multiple books, his most recent in 2017, with “Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico,” as well as “Flight: The Story of Virgil Richardson, A Tuskegee Airman in Mexico” in 2013 and “Bearing Arms for His Majesty: The Free-Colored Militia in Colonial Mexico” in 2002.

Vinson told The Daily he is taking on his new role at CWRU with an attitude of openness and growth.

“My immediate top priority is to listen,” Vinson said. “Every campus is unique in multiple ways, and I know that my first, most important task is to learn much more about this institution and its people.”

Baeslack will be returning to his previous role as an engineering faculty member once Vinson’s tenure begins.