New Provost Champions Equity and Social Justice

By Mary McInerney, USF News Posted Thu, 02/18/2021 - 12:45

Julia Chinyere Oparah was named the new provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of San Francisco on Feb. 18, and she brings a history of scholarship, administrative leadership, and a commitment to justice to the university.

Oparah was chosen after a national search, and she begins at USF on July 12. She comes from Mills College, where she has been provost and dean of the faculty since 2017 and a professor of ethnic studies since 1997.

Julia Chinyere Oparah“I am both deeply honored and excited to serve the USF community as its next provost,” Oparah said. “I have long admired USF’s commitment to equity and social justice, and consider USF’s distinctive Jesuit educational principles — particularly cura personalis, care of the whole person — as central to what USF does so well in educating students who will, as the university promises, ‘change the world from here.’”

Supporting Students

Oparah expanded opportunities for students during her time at Mills:

  • Developed the Mills Promise Program, which supports students’ transition to college
  • Established a guaranteed pathway for transfer students
  • Created the first fully online master’s degree, in educational leadership
  • Implemented the joint UC Berkeley-Mills engineering program

She also worked with deans and department heads to reach untapped groups of students through online programs.

Commitment to Equity

At Mills, Oparah co-led a transgender initiative, making Mills the first women’s college to adopt a trans-inclusive admissions policy. She increased the proportion of Black and Latinx students by introducing new programs in health equity, socially responsible business administration, communication, and critical education studies.

She also worked to support the Indigenous community by establishing the American Indian Initiative to support recruitment efforts and introducing the first Native American elder-in-residence to the faculty.

“Provost Oparah rose to the top of a deep and distinguished pool of candidates,” said USF’s Interim Provost Tyrone H. Cannon, who chaired the search committee and who will return to his role as USF’s library dean when Oparah joins the university.

“In both her scholarship and administrative decisions, she has exhibited a deep commitment to collaboration and partnership, gender and racial equity, global social justice, and the transformative power of education,” said Cannon.

Before Mills, Oparah worked in nonprofit administration, taught within the University of California system, and served as Canada research chair in social justice at the University of Toronto. Widely published, her work includes Global Lockdown: Race, Gender and the Prison-Industrial Complex, which explores globalization, gender, and mass incarceration; and Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth, a key text in midwifery, reproductive health, and women’s studies classrooms.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, raised in the south of England, and with roots in southeast Nigeria, she earned doctoral and master’s degrees (in sociology and race and ethnic studies, respectively) at the University of Warwick. She also holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in modern and medieval languages and literature from University of Cambridge.

“I am delighted to welcome Provost Oparah and her family to USF,” said USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. “I look forward to working with her as a partner in mission while we continue to build on the planning and implementation that has taken place across campus during this challenging year of the COVID-19 pandemic.”