Ian B. Baucom

Ian Baucom is the Buckner W. Clay Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia, appointed in 2014.

Under his leadership, Arts & Sciences launched its new College Curriculum to better prepare undergraduate students for 21st-century lives through a variety of means—especially as a result of a reimagined first-year student experience. The new curriculum begins its implementation phase over the course of the 2020-21 academic year, building on the success of a three-year pilot program that attracted more than 1,900 students.

In addition, Baucom is working to advance the research mission and to further strengthen graduate programs based on an examination of the Graduate School’s current state and future ambitions. Under his guidance, significant investments have been made in the Graduate School to help draw the most talented graduate students and researchers to UVA.

At the same time, he has partnered with colleagues across the University to form the Democracy Initiative, to enhance UVA’s brain science and environmental initiatives through faculty cluster hires and other programs, and to help launch global programs like UVA London First. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baucom collaborated with University leaders to create UVA Launchpad, an online eight-week summer program designed to prepare students for the world of work by combining liberal arts coursework, technical “bootcamp” style training, and career-focused projects with real-world companies.

Over the past six years, in the midst of a generational turnover of esteemed faculty, Baucom has worked with UVA colleagues to attract more than 150 renowned faculty members to the College and has encouraged a culture of innovation. He continues to emphasize the importance of recruiting at the highest level of excellence and enhancing the faculty’s diversity.

Baucom came to UVA after serving 17 years in Duke University’s Department of English as a professor and as the director of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. He is the author of Out of Place: Englishness, Empire and the Locations of Identity, and Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. He is the co-editor of Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain. His latest book, History 4° Celsius, released August 2020, places Black studies into conversation with climate change. Baucom, in partnership with colleagues from around the world, is also writing a new book that will explore the idea of the urgent and how universities can help tackle the many challenges and rapid transformations facing societies around the world today.

Baucom earned his undergraduate degree in political science from Wake Forest University and holds a master’s degree in African studies and a doctorate in English, both from Yale University.

Melody C. Barnes

A presidential advisor and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council during President Barack Obama’s administration, Melody C. Barnes serves as co-director for policy and public affairs for the Democracy Initiative.

Barnes brings more than 25 years of experience working at the highest levels of government crafting public policy on a wide range of domestic issues. In addition to her leadership role with UVA’s Democracy Initiative, Barnes also holds appointments as a professor of practice at the Miller Center of Public Affairs and as a distinguished fellow at the School of Law. 

Barnes was also executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and chief counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her experience includes an appointment as director of legislative affairs for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and assistant counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. Barnes began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling. 

Barnes serves on several corporate, philanthropic, and nonprofit boards, including the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, where she is vice-chair. 

She earned her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she graduated with honors in history, and her law degree from the University of Michigan.

Laurent Dubois

A specialist on the history and culture of the Atlantic world who studies the Caribbean (particularly Haiti), North America, and France, Laurent Dubois will join the University of Virginia in January 2021, pending final Board of Visitors approval, and will also serve as the Democracy Initiative’s new co-director for academic affairs. In this role, Dubois will spearhead the Democracy Initiative’s research and pedagogical missions and will serve as the director and lead research convener of the John L. Nau III History and Principles of Democracy Lab—the permanent core lab of the Initiative which will operate as the connecting hub for the entire project.

Before coming to UVA, Dubois spent a decade at Duke University, where he founded the Forum for Scholars & Publics and taught as a professor of romance studies and history. Dubois also served as co-director of Duke’s Franklin Humanities Center Haiti Laboratory for three years.

He is the author of seven books, including A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 (2004), which won the Frederick Douglass Prize and three other book prizes. His 2012 book, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His work on the politics of soccer includes Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France (University of California Press, 2010) and The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer (2018). His book on the cultural history of music, The Banjo: America's African Instrument (Harvard University Press, 2016), was supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Humanities Fellowship, and a Mellon New Directions Fellowship.

Most recently, Dubois co-authored Freedom Roots: Histories from the Caribbean (University of North Carolina Press, 2019) with Richard Turits. His writings on music, history and sports have appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate, and Sports Illustrated.

Dubois holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and history from the University of Michigan (1998) and completed his B.A. in anthropology and English at Princeton University.