Valerie Smith, Swarthmore College’s 15th and first African-American president. (Courtesy Photo/

Valerie Smith, Princeton’s dean of the college and a professor of literature, English and African-American studies, was named Swarthmore College’s 15th and first African-American president Feb. 21.

“Valerie Smith is a respected scholar and a wise, effective leader with impressive accomplishments that closely align with Swarthmore’s values: access and affordability, dynamic undergraduate learning opportunities, and educating students to be leaders who value the common good,” said Giles Kemp, chairman of the Swarthmore Board of Managers, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.  “Her colleagues consistently praise her judgment, integrity, and commitment to making a liberal arts education accessible to all students.”

Smith obtained her bachelor’s degree from Bates College and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia.

Smith started her career at Princeton as an English professor, but left in 1989 to join the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles. After being there for about a decade, she returned to Princeton in 2001 and was named the chair of the African American studies program a year after her return.  Smith went on to become the dean in 2011.

Outside of her career at Princeton, Smith also is the author or editor of several books.  Those books include Not Just Race, Not Just Gender: Black Feminist Readings and Self-Discovery and Authority in Afro-American Narrative.

Smith will begin her new position at Swarthmore College on July 1.