Sara Guyer

Sara Guyer is the Irving and Jean Stone Dean of the Division of Arts & Humanities within the College of Letters and Science at UC Berkeley. Guyer’s faculty appointment is in the Department of English. 

As the Dean of one of the largest and most diverse divisions in the University, Guyer leads initiatives and priorities that center the roughly 25,000 students who enroll in arts and humanities courses every semester, 250 senate faculty, and 137 staff. She prioritizes fundraising efforts to grow the division’s $100 million dollar budget in order to support student access, inclusive excellence, sustainability, and visibility for the arts and humanities at Berkeley and in the world. 

Guyer has been a leader in reframing the national narrative around the value of a degree in the arts and humanities, both in her role as an educator and as Director of the World Humanities Report. Under her leadership, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of students opting for majors in the arts and humanities with Art Practice, Film and Media, and Music among the fastest-growing majors on campus.

When Guyer arrived at Berkeley in 2021, her initial priorities included addressing student access as enrollments increased significantly, improving student advising and communications, a strategic focus on languages and writing, and several redesigned majors and minors. Three years on, the Division has succeeded in meeting milestones that are informing the division’s next strategic plan. 

Upon the start of her tenure, one of Dean Guyer’s first priorities was to initiate the Task Force on Languages, Language-Based Disciplines and Global Citizenship, which remains one of her signature priorities. The Task Force produced its first comprehensive report on language instruction. This report is helping to guide campus leadership to explore sustainable models for language instruction at Berkeley and serves as a leading foundation for other universities that prioritize language learning. To celebrate the first report, Dean Guyer launched a yearlong communications campaign to bring visibility to world languages and their importance on campus. 

Another signature priority remains the recruitment and retention of faculty working in diverse fields and advocating for FTE positions. Since 2022, the division has successfully welcomed 23 new faculty to campus. Among them are 10 new arts faculty, which makes up the largest arts hire in recent history at Berkeley. These efforts have resulted in the launch of the division’s new multiyear program Advancing Faculty Diversity in the Arts and Humanities, which received a launch grant from the University of California, Office of the President. The program aims to pair new faculty with necessary resources, mentorship, and support as they start their careers and similarly provides departments with new tools to recruit faculty into FTE positions. With active programs that ensure diversity at every level of academia, ranging from the long-standing Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program to the new Advancing Faculty Diversity in the Arts and Humanities initiative supported by the UC Office of the President, Dean Guyer has centered inclusive excellence at all levels of the division and its academic mission.

An essential part of the faculty recruitment program helps to situate faculty and their research in academic exchange that enables interdisciplinarity. The research centers in the arts and humanities at Berkeley — such as the Townsend Center for the Humanities, Arts Research Center, and the Center for Interdisciplinary Critical Inquiry — ensure that faculty and students are able to launch new ideas and work across disciplines at Berkeley, but also outside of the university. In 2021, Guyer announced new leadership with the appointment of Stephen Best (Townsend), Beth Piatote (ARC), and Debarati Sanyal (CICI), with a focus on public humanities, indigenous scholarship, and critical theory, respectively. 

Guyer’s vision and strategic plan includes a transformative shift towards a more globally inclusive division, addressing gaps in African Humanities and rejuvenating key areas including ancient and medieval studies, indigenous knowledge, and poetry, poetics, and the arts. Through collaboration across departments and prioritizing thematic clusters, such as "Global Indigenous Arts and Knowledges," "Africa: Literature, Philosophy, and the Arts," and "Medieval Worlds," Dean Guyer is focused on growing the division. She emphasizes the importance of preserving and promoting the study of earlier periods while safeguarding at-risk fields of study such as Ethnomusicology and Eastern European literatures. Her vision extends to fostering creativity and innovation in the arts and serving as a resource for justice, democracy, and change through expanded research in areas such as environmental humanities, disability studies, and queer studies.

Prior to assuming her role at Berkeley in September 2021, Guyer served as the Dorothy Puestow Draheim Professor of English and Jewish Studies and as Director of the Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Her leadership extended beyond the university as she assumed the presidency of the International Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), a testament to her commitment to fostering collaborative endeavors across borders. Guyer was able to bring the CHCI role to Berkeley for the first time, resulting in the only international humanities consortium in the world to be headquartered at Berkeley. She has since been succeeded in her role by UC Berkeley Professor Stephen Best. 

Recently, her work as the Director for the World Humanities Report, commissioned by organizations such as the United Nations, resulted in coordinating the most comprehensive and globally recognized report on world humanities since the late 1940s. 

Guyer’s scholarship encompasses the fields of Romanticism, Jewish Studies, Literary and Cultural Theory, and also the Humanities itself. She has written two books, Romanticism after Auschwitz and Reading with John Clare: Biopoetics, Sovereignty, Romanticism, and is co editor of the book series Lit-Z alongside Brian McGrath. Guyer earned her master’s and doctoral degree in rhetoric at UC Berkeley, as well as a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Warwick and a bachelor’s degree in English and American literature and European cultural studies from Brandeis University.