Hilton Kelly named dean of Elon College, the College of Arts & Sciences

Currently dean of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville's College of Liberal Arts & Education, Kelly will join Elon on June 1, 2024.

Elon University has selected Hilton Kelly as the next dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. Kelly is currently dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and will join the Elon community on June 1, 2024.

Portrait of Hilton Kelly
Hilton Kelly, selected as the next dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, will join Elon on June 1, 2024.

His selection followed a national search among highly qualified candidates at institutions across the country. To Elon, Kelly brings shared values of student-focused teaching, mentoring and scholarship and a strong record of collaboration with campus and community partners to enhance student success.

“Dr. Kelly is passionate about the ways in which experiential learning in the liberal arts and sciences transforms students’ lives,” said Elon Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rebecca Kohn. “His leadership will inspire innovative, interdisciplinary collaboration in the College and across Elon and provide vision that promotes intellectual growth with a focus on deeply engaged student experiences.”

At the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Kelly oversees seven departments with nearly two dozen degree programs and has led strategic planning, fundraising and inclusive excellence initiatives. Prior to becoming dean at UW-Platteville, Kelly was a full professor at Davidson College and held several leadership roles — including director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.

Kelly is an interdisciplinary scholar with specialization in the sociology of education. He looks forward to working with colleagues across Elon to explore avenues and programs that prepare students for bold lives of leadership and service.

“I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to lead Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences,” Kelly said. “I have enjoyed getting to know Elon’s students, faculty, staff and administration through the search process. From the very first moment I read the Boldly Elon strategic plan — a strategic vision for inclusive excellence, experiential learning, global learning and student success — I yearned to be a part of this great university. My whole career in higher education has prepared me for this moment and I look forward to the journey ahead.”

Kelly earned a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2007. He completed his bachelor’s degree in history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His leadership of Elon’s largest academic division will begin as Gabie Smith, who has served as the College’s dean for nearly a decade, concludes her service at the end of the 2023-24 academic year to return to the classroom as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology.

In leadership roles, Kelly has an established history of advancing initiatives that benefit students, building community through open dialogue and championing the successes of faculty, staff and students. He became an assistant professor at Davidson in 2007, where he co-founded the Africana Studies Department, and was promoted to full professorship in Africana studies, educational studies and sociology. He also served as chair of the Educational Studies Department and was an American Council of Education higher education leadership fellow.