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Announcement Regarding Dean Rob Sabal

Dear members of the Emerson community,

I write to share the news that after 10 years of committed leadership, Rob Sabal, Dean of the School of the Arts, will be stepping down as dean on May 15 to transition to a new position as Provost at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, beginning in July. 

Upon sharing the news of his departure, Dean Sabal said, “It has been my sincere honor and great privilege to serve as dean of the School of the Arts for the past 10 years. It has been thrilling to be part of such a creative and stimulating community and I will sincerely miss working with my colleagues. I have complete confidence that the important initiatives that are underway in the School will continue under the leadership of the chairs, interim dean, assistant deans, and Academic Affairs.”

Since joining Emerson in 1998, Dean Sabal has served as director of the film program, as Chair of the Department of Visual and Media Arts, as Interim Dean of the School of the Arts, and was appointed permanent Dean in 2016.

Rob was integral in launching the BFA in Comedic Arts, the BFA in Film Art with Paris College of Art, the online MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing, the Boston/Los Angeles low residency MFA in film and television writing, and three new interdepartmental minors. Rob also played an important  role in the genesis of the Business of Creative Enterprises program. He guided the development of “Partnered Studio Courses” at Emerson, which led to the Social Impact Design minor and the Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence initiative. An outspoken advocate for the arts, Rob led in the creation of the Emerson Contemporary Gallery, developed the public art program, and commissioned several campus murals. Rob has been an effective advocate for social justice, diversity, and equity in the school. Under Rob’s leadership, the school hired 79 new full-time faculty members, 44 faculty members of color and 45 women. Rob led the adoption of the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan and helped launch the Dean’s Fellows for Racial Equity program. As dean, Rob served as a strong fundraiser for student scholarships, student academic support, faculty development, and for the school’s departments and programs including the Emerson Contemporary Gallery, the Engagement Lab, and the Emerson@Sundance program.

He is also a past president of the University Film and Video Association and was an American Council on Education Fellow in 2012-2013. He has also been awarded the Faculty Service Award from Faculty Assembly twice for his exemplary service and dedication to the College.

Before his arrival at Emerson, Dean Sabal taught film and video production at St. Edward’s University, Trinity University (San Antonio), the University of Arizona, and the University of Texas-Austin. In 2012-2013 he was an ACE Fellow in the President’s office at Suffolk University. He has produced more than 20 films and has screened his work at national and international film festivals.

I am grateful to Dean Sabal for his leadership of the School of the Arts, particularly during the challenges of the pandemic when he worked tirelessly to ensure that every full- and part-time faculty member had tailor-made “special work arrangements,” so they could stay employed and feel safe while continuing to support their students. 

I have begun work on a leadership transition plan, and will soon announce the appointment of internal interim leadership to continue the important work ahead of us. I feel very fortunate that we have such depth of faculty talent, leadership and dedication to service, and I know Rob shares my confidence in our colleagues and the Emerson leadership to continue the creative work already underway at the SOA and the College.

Please join me in thanking Rob for his many years of service to Emerson and wishing him much success and happiness in his new, exciting position.


Jan Roberts-Breslin,
Interim Provost

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