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Pardis Mahdavi named social sciences dean for The College


Marshall Terrill

Pardis Mahdavi has made the "D" list.

She’s making the transition from director to dean, and she is ready for her new role as a featured player at Arizona State University.

Mahdavi, the director of ASU’s School of Social Transformation, was recently named the new dean of social sciences for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

And she’s delighted with her new designation.

“I was pleasantly surprised and quite honored,” said Mahdavi, who was hired from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver in July 2019. “I’m excited to continue in this important leadership role at ASU because I think I bring a strong vision for the social sciences. I’m thrilled because I feel that I’m in an environment where I can really thrive and work collaboratively.”

ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle said Mahdavi will make for a dynamic dean and has shown her interdisciplinary collaboration skills.

“Pardis brought to ASU a strong record of leadership and as the director of the School of Social Transformation, she has increased the visibility of the school through building bridges with partners like The Guardian and Ms. Magazine, and she has been partnering with faculty in other ASU schools to implement a project on belonging and inclusion,” Searle said. “Pardis also started SST’s first advisory board and with it a commitment to philanthropic investment in the school.”

In her new role, Mahdavi will oversee 13 wide-ranging academic units and degree programs, which serve thousands of students.

Mahdavi believes the university can be transformative when it comes to the social good of society.

“ASU is already making a profound impact in the social sciences and can be a model for other programs around the country,” said Mahdavi, who has focused her academic career on diversity, inclusion, human trafficking, migration, sexuality, human rights, feminism and public health. “We are doing such important and innovative work here in the social sciences at ASU — we need to tell this story to elevate our visibility and continue leveling up.”

Mahdavi's approach to higher education has been informed by her personal journey as an Iranian-American woman growing up in the U.S., as well as her training as an anthropologist where she learned to be reflexive about complex power dynamics. 

She has published five single-authored books and one edited volume in addition to numerous journal and news articles. She has been a fellow at the Social Sciences Research Council, the American Council of Learned Societies, Google Ideas (Jigsaw) and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Mahdavi has also consulted for a wide array of organizations including the U.S. government, Google and the United Nations. In 2012, she won the Wig Award for teaching at Pomona College. 

But she feels like she won the lottery when she landed in Tempe.

“I have never felt like I have fit in as well at any other academic institution as I have with ASU,” said Mahdavi. “This university fits my style of leadership. It fits so many of my core values like intentionality and interdisciplinarity. All of these things you can see manifest so powerfully at ASU.

“I’m eager to build upon the great work that’s already been done.”