You are here: American University Provost Communications May 27, 2021

American University Office of the Provost

MemorandumMay 27, 2021

AU Community
Peter Starr, Acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Executive Director, Antiracist Research and Policy Center

I am pleased to announce that, following a thorough national search, Sara Clarke Kaplan has been named the next executive director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center (ARPC). As the nation continues the critical reckoning with structural racism, the work of the ARPC and our commitment to inclusive excellence are more important than ever. Professor Kaplan will play a key role as we advance needed scholarship on these issues, promote interdisciplinary work, engage our students, convene impactful discussions, and build on our equity and inclusion efforts across campus.

A recognized interdisciplinary scholar, experienced administrator, and deeply collaborative leader, Professor Kaplan will hold a joint faculty appointment in the Department of Literature and the new Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies. She will join American University on August 1, 2021.

The ARPC plays a vital role in faculty research on race and power and our ongoing work to eradicate racial and social injustice. From our joint fellowship with the White House Historical Association on the history of slavery in Washington, to collaborating in a public campaign with Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate, to our recent speaker series on global struggles for freedom, we are building a unique hub for interdisciplinary, intersectional, and transnational scholarship and advocacy capable of addressing today’s ongoing, urgent issues of social, racial, and gender justice.

Professor Kaplan currently serves as an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies and the Critical Gender Studies Program (CGS) at the University of California, San Diego, where she has made many contributions since her arrival in 2008. She co-founded and served as associate director of the Black Studies Project (BSP) at UCSD, which she helped to grow from a small speaker series to a $2.5 million cross-departmental, multi-divisional research center. As director of CGS from 2017–2020, she oversaw the redesign of the undergraduate curriculum and the introduction of a popular new graduate specialization, strengthening the program’s intersectional and transnational approach to race, gender, and sexuality at all levels.

Professor Kaplan’s scholarship and teaching are focused on African American and African Diaspora literatures and cultures and Black/women of color feminisms. Among other publications, she has authored a monograph, The Black Reproductive: Unfree Labor and Insurgent Motherhood, forthcoming in June 2021. Her second book, entitled Sites of Slavery: Black Feminist Geographies of Chatteldom, is currently in progress. She is also a committed participant in public campaigns around mass incarceration, police violence, welfare rights, and reproductive justice.

To her work for the ARPC, Professor Kaplan brings an exceptional ability to build and maintain strong relationships with faculty, staff, students, campus leadership, national organizations, regional and local advocates, and donors committed to advancing antiracist research and praxis. Although she has lived in California for most of her academic career, Professor Kaplan has deep roots in the Washington, DC area. She will be accompanied in this move by her partner, Kirstie Dorr, who will also be joining us as an associate professor of literature and critical race, gender, and culture studies.

Many thanks to the ARPC’s interim leadership, Malini Ranganathan and Christine Platt, for their outstanding work this year. Among many other accomplishments, they have assembled an extensive network of 48 faculty affiliates from across AU’s schools and colleges and hosted an impressive array of high-impact virtual events. 

I am also extraordinarily grateful to the members of the search committee, ably led by Leena Jayaswal, for their dedication and hard work. Many members of the AU community, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustees, lent a hand to this search process and bring us to this very happy result.

As we continue our inclusive excellence journey, the ARPC will be at the center of our scholarship and community building. And I am thrilled that Professor Kaplan will be a leading voice in furthering this vital work.

Please join me in welcoming Sara and Kirstie to American University!