CHASS building
June 11, 2021

University of Maryland scholar is UCR’s next CHASS dean

Daryle Williams is the co-director of the online database

Author: J.D. Warren
June 11, 2021

Daryle Williams will become UC Riverside’s next dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, or CHASS. He will assume the role on Sept. 1.

Williams, a prominent historian who is documenting the experiences of enslaved people on the open-source online database he co-directs,, comes to UCR after more than a quarter-century at the flagship institution for the University System of Maryland, or UMD. At UMD, he is currently the associate dean for faculty affairs in the College of Arts & Humanities, a position he has held since 2013.

“Daryle brings great experience, expertise, and energy to his new role as CHASS Dean, thanks to his eight years as associate dean for faculty, his groundbreaking work on the historical slave trade and in the digital humanities, his successes in securing large extramural grant awards, and his passion for our mission at UCR,” said Elizabeth Watkins, UCR’s provost and executive vice chancellor.

Daryle Williams
Daryle Williams becomes the dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences on Sept. 1, 2021.

Williams, 53, has been on the faculty of the Department of History at UMD since 1994. He holds his master’s and Ph.D. in history from Stanford University, and earned a history degree and certificate in Latin American studies from Princeton University. He was born in San Francisco and raised in San Diego County.

“I’m a Californian, and I believe in the power and value of public education, and in particular in the UC system, the best public education system in the world,” Williams said. “I am drawn to UCR’s specific mission around social mobility and its focus on high-quality education and research for first-generation and other students who were not historically thought of as the beneficiaries of the system.”

“This opportunity is wonderful to come home to, and to join UC students and scholars. It’s a dream in some ways.”

Williams’ teaching and scholarship focus on modern Latin America, especially 19th and 20th century Brazilian history. In the past several years, his research has largely involved Atlantic slavery and emancipation in Brazil, with a strong focus on the methods and tools of the digital humanities. He is currently editor of the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation and has taken the lead on several collaborative initiatives about enslaved peoples’ experiences and black digital humanities, supported by more than $7 million in awards from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others.

With lead support of the Mellon Foundation, his work to build the online database has won widespread national media attention since it was launched on Dec. 1, 2020, including an interview on NPR and articles in National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, and the Washington Post. Williams said he will expand to UCR, where faculty and students will have an opportunity to be part of the historic initiative. The LinkedIn project page can be found at

Williams succeeds Milagros “Milly” Peña, who was dean of CHASS from 2015 to 2020 before being named president of Purchase College in her home state of New York. UCR anthropology professor and past department chair Juliet McMullin has served as interim dean since Peña’s departure in summer 2020.

Williams and his husband, Steven Fretwell, will move to the Riverside area this summer from Washington, D.C. “Southern California has been calling us for lots of positive reasons,” said Williams, whose mother lives in Orange County.

Williams said he looks forward to joining UCR as the campus community get reacclimated to post-pandemic life this fall.

“I’m excited about being at the university at this exceptionally strange time that brings with it a rewarding rediscovery of what it’s like to work, to teach, and to learn in-person,” he said.

CHASS is the largest college at UC Riverside, with 20 departments serving more than 10,000 students in more than 60 majors. 

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