The College of Arts and Sciences begins the Fall 2022 semester with several new academic
leaders who will sharpen the college’s focus on strategic initiatives in academics,
research, and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Dean Joel H. Samuels said the new leadership team situates the University of South
Carolina’s largest academic unit to improve the student experience and to achieve
broader engagement throughout South Carolina.
“Our purpose as a college is to impact our students and our state through the highest
quality instruction, research, and service to our communities. This academic leadership
team shares my commitment to that vision,” Samuels said. “They bring diverse perspectives
and a collaborative approach that will drive our strategic growth and also enhance
our day-to-day operations.”
While each member of the academic leadership team brings a unique background, they
have many attributes in common. They have histories as teachers, researchers and leaders,
and each has a reputation for building high-performing programs and supporting the
growth of people on their teams.
The new academic leadership team includes the following:
Senior Associate Dean for College Initiatives and Interdisciplinary Programs
Dr. Benitez-Nelson is a Carolina Distinguished Professor in the School of the Earth,
Ocean and Environment. Most recently, she served as associate dean for instruction,
community engagement and research.
As the senior associate dean for college initiatives and interdisciplinary programs,
Benitez-Nelson coordinates strategic initiatives — such as Theme Semester, the McCausland
Foundation Programs and the Humanities Collaborative — while providing oversight to
the college’s interdisciplinary academic programs.
Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Dr. Culbreath leads the college’s efforts to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion
practices. She directs strategic planning and communication on programs designed to
improve the campus climate and increase access to educational opportunities. She provides
oversight to the Collaborative on Race and the college’s Diversity and Inclusion Academy
while also providing guidance on DEI to faculty and staff throughout the college.
Culbreath brings to the role more than a decade of experience in the development of
equity-focused policies and programs in higher education. In her previous role with
the University of Minnesota, she provided DEI consultations to graduate programs and
trained a council of more than 70 campus partners. She also co-chaired UMN’s Presidential
Task Force for Policing and Campus Safety as an advisor to the university president
focused on restoring trust and eliminating racism in campus policing.
Associate Dean for Natural Sciences
Dr. Roberts is the academic liaison for several academic units. In this role, she
provides strategic oversight of faculty recruitment, retention and advancement. The
- Biological Sciences
- Chemistry and Biochemistry
- School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment
- English Language and Literature
- Physics & Astronomy
Roberts is a Carolina Distinguished Professor of Psychology and recent chair of the
Department of Psychology. Throughout her career, Roberts has conducted groundbreaking
research in child and adult cogitative and behavioral functioning, with a focus on
neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, fragile X syndrome and ADHD. Roberts
(with Jeff Twiss, below) launched the Carolina Autism and Neurodevelopment Center, and her work has brought greater
understanding of autism spectrum disorder, within the scientific community and for
the affected individuals and families her work serves.
Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies
Dr. Twiss leads the growth of the college’s research impact and the strengthening
of graduate programs. He provides oversight for the college’s grants administration,
research centers and facilities, and graduate program directors.
For more than a decade, Twiss has exemplified teaching, mentorship and leadership excellence as a professor of biological sciences and SmartState Endowed Chair in Childhood
Neurotherapeutics. In collaboration with Jane Roberts, he launched the Carolina Autism
and Neurodevelopment Center, which has furthered his work to transform how the world
understands the field of neuroscience. This year he was recognized as South Carolina’s
SEC Faculty Achievement Award winner. Twiss served as interim associate dean for research and graduate studies since January
2021 before being selected for the permanent position.
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies
Dr. Friend returns as associate dean for undergraduate studies. In this role, Friend
oversees the college's Office of Undergraduate Studies at Flinn Hall, which coordinates
advising and other student services and represents the college at student recruitment
events. She serves on a wide range of committees and works closely with the Division
of Student Affairs and Academic Support and the University Advising Center.
Friend manages college-level curriculum development and review, including academic
program and course proposals, course enrollment management and online course and program
development. Friend also serves as the liaison for degree program assessment and experiential
She began serving in this role in July, 2021.
Associate Dean for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Dr. Levine, professor of English language and literature, returns as associate dean
for arts, humanities and social sciences. In this role, Levine is the liaison for
several academic departments and programs, including:
- Criminology and Criminal Justice
- Languages, Literatures & Cultures
- Political Science
- Religious Studies
- Theatre and Dance
- School of Visual Art and Design
Levine also coordinates the Bilinski Dissertation Fellowship Program within the college.
She began serving in this role in July, 2021.