The Future of Arts and Letters: Newly Appointed Dean Sarah Mustillo Shares Insights

Author: O'Neil, Alison

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After ten years of leadership, Dean John McGreevy of the College of Arts and Letters plans to step down this summer. Starting July 1, sociologist Sarah Mustillo will take his place. A 1996 Notre Dame graduate (sociology and gender studies, magna cum laude), Mustillo earned her M.A. and Ph.D at Duke before teaching at Duke and Purdue. Mustillo joined the Notre Dame faculty in 2014 and has taken on a wide variety of administrative roles since then. She has served on the Faculty Appeals Committee and the Colloquium Planning Committee on Catholic Intellectual Tradition, among other diverse positions. Mustillo’s Notre Dame courses include graduate-level statistics, Social Statistics and Social Aspects of Mental Illness.


Mustillo’s research has explored a wide range of psychological, sociological and statistical topics. Her work has dealt with a plethora of sensitive subjects – racial discrimination, PTSD, obesity, addiction and depression, for example – and often focuses on the relationship between childhood experiences and health.  Many of her papers also examine statistical methodology, an important subfield of sociological research.


Mustillo feels that her background in sociology and statistics has prepared her for the rigorous research and analysis demanded of a successful dean. “As a quantitative social scientist, I use data in my research studies to draw conclusions about research questions,” she said. “In this process of working to assess where we are as a college, I am digesting quite a bit of data about the college – our enrollment data, our job placement data, data about our graduate programs, faculty research grant and fellowship data and so forth.”


Mustillo hopes to enhance the college’s reputation as a leader in research as well as in education, as well as to bolster students’ impact on world affairs. “We can only accomplish this if we maintain and enhance our reputation as a top undergraduate institution and place our graduates in positions where they can contribute in meaningful ways to the public good,” she said. Success on that front will require enhancing our undergraduate experience, improvements to our graduate programs and the provision of the most supportive environment possible for faculty to do their research and creative work.”


Mustillo’s plans for the college might not take effect until July, but she has already begun to consider her impact. “To be our best, the college must be diverse, broadly collaborative within and beyond the college and internationally engaged. These are some of my top priorities.”