Victoria Plaut is Berkeley’s new vice provost for the faculty

Victoria Plaut, a Berkeley Law professor who is well-known for her work and research in the psychological science of diversity, will serve campus as the new vice provost for the faculty beginning Aug. 15, 2022.

In the role, Plaut will be responsible for building, supporting and maintaining the faculty at Berkeley in close collaboration with deans, department chairs and Academic Senate colleagues.

“I’m very honored to be the next vice provost for the faculty,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for us to really make Berkeley a reflection of the values it claims to have by fostering fair, equitable and effective environments for our extraordinary faculty to thrive and continue the campus’s excellence as the leading public university.”

Plaut said she aims to prioritize, among other things, recruiting and retaining excellent faculty; supporting faculty research and teaching, as well as faculty welfare; ensuring faculty processes are fair, streamlined and equitable; implementing diversity, equity and inclusion into faculty practices from the ground up; and making sure that affordability is not a barrier to maintaining faculty.

A social and cultural psychologist, Plaut, whose mother is from Colombia, said she grew up in a diverse family and often never fully felt she was part of just one culture. From a young age, she said, she had an interest in understanding the experiences of marginalized communities, and as a student, she sought to build a body of research that would help create more equitable and inclusive environments.

Plaut earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University, a master’s degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a doctoral degree in social psychology from Stanford University, becoming an expert in psychological and organizational processes. She has since developed practices for fostering equitable and inclusive work and learning environments.

Plaut is also the Claire Sanders Clements Dean’s Professor of Law at Berkeley Law and the chair of the Academic Senate’s Budget and Interdepartmental Relations Committee. She previously served as the law school’s associate dean for equity and inclusion.

“By virtue of her skills, experience and research interests, Vicky is uniquely positioned to advance the excellence, diversity and welfare of Berkeley’s world-class faculty,” Chancellor Carol Christ said. “I look forward to working with her to ensure we have fair and equitable processes for faculty recruitment and advancement, consistent with our values, standards and public ethos.”

Prior to joining the Berkeley Law faculty in 2010, Plaut taught at the University of Georgia and at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. She has authored numerous publications, nationally and internationally, and her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Spencer Foundation.

As a member of Berkeley’s budget committee for three years, she served as chair this past year and guided the evaluation of hundreds of faculty appointments, merit increases and promotions. She also pushed for more equitable salaries for faculty and oversaw recommendations for the allocation of new faculty positions campus-wide.

“We, as a campus, are extraordinarily fortunate that professor Plaut has agreed to take on this position,” said Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Benjamin Hermalin. “Her deep commitment to faculty excellence and welfare, as well as her many talents, will help preserve and enhance the strength of the Berkeley faculty in the years to come.”

Janet Broughton, former vice provost for the faculty, has agreed to serve in an interim role until Plaut begins her appointment in August.

As a Latinx faculty member, Plaut said her lived experiences will also inform her leadership on campus. She said a conversation with one of her teenage daughters about Latinx representation encouraged her to apply to be the next vice provost for the faculty.

“She said to me, ‘Mommy, didn’t you once say that your Latinx students often feel marginalized and invisible until they take your class and find out that you’re Latina?’ And I said, ‘Yes, that’s right,’” Plaut recalled. “Then she responded and said, ‘Then, isn’t that reason to apply?’”

As vice provost for the faculty, Plaut said she will contribute to helping faculty provide more inclusive educational experiences for students and encourage a positive climate for student, staff and faculty to grow.

“It makes a difference to know who our leaders are, what life experiences they’ve had, what perspectives they’ve had and how they see the world,” said Plaut. “And I’d like to contribute that perspective and leadership to help maintain Berkeley’s excellence and faculty.”