Rackham Graduate School welcomes Emily Swafford as assistant dean. In this role, she will assist in leading and coordinating the development of Rackham academic policy, creating new graduate programs, allocating fellowships and financial aid, and pursuing special projects to advance graduate education at the University of Michigan. Her appointment coincides with the phased retirement of long-serving Rackham assistant dean John Godfrey.
Swafford worked for the American Historical Association (AHA) for over eight years, over four of which she served as director of academic and professional affairs. During that time, she worked on numerous initiatives aimed at making history careers more accessible to a wider range of students.
“As we continue to pursue a student-centered vision of graduate education that encompasses all the paths available to a graduate degree holder, Dr. Swafford brings the skills and expertise that will help us build more holistic, inclusive graduate training programs.”
—Dean Mike Solomon
Swafford directed the Career Diversity for Historians program, an initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to rethink graduate education in history. Partnering with multiple universities around the country, this initiative supports programs to help history graduate students discover and pursue career options beyond tenure-track faculty positions. She also worked on History Gateways, an equity and access initiative that seeks to make introductory courses gateways to professional and civic success for first-generation, Black, Latinx, Native American, and Pell-eligible students. Additionally, she served as staff liaison for the AHA Teaching Division, which tracks trends in K-12, undergraduate, and graduate history education.
“As we continue to pursue a student-centered vision of graduate education that encompasses all the paths available to a graduate degree holder, Dr. Swafford brings the skills and expertise that will help us build more holistic, inclusive graduate training programs,” Rackham Dean Mike Solomon says. “Her record of building connections between students, faculty, alumni, and other stakeholders to advance common goals makes her an asset to the entire Rackham community.”
Swafford is a scholar of 20th century U.S. history, with a focus on military, foreign relations, and women’s and gender history. Among her published work is a history of U.S. military families stationed in West Germany following the Second World War, the international activities of the Girl Scouts of the USA during the Cold War, and numerous articles on the challenges and opportunities facing Ph.D. students today.
“I believe in the mission of public education and that the production of knowledge enriches the world we live in,” she says. “As assistant dean, I want to advance and sustain Michigan’s reputation as a leader in graduate education by nourishing conversations within and across programs about the purpose of graduate education.”
Bringing a holistic approach to graduate education is a priority of Swafford in her new position.
“I see Rackham’s role as supporting graduate students throughout their time at U-M and nourishing the idea of the ‘whole student,’” she says. “We can do that by listening to current students’ needs and concerns, as well as working to bring students with diverse experiences and perspectives to pursue graduate study at U-M.”
Swafford earned her undergraduate degree in history and American studies at the University of Virginia in 2004 and her master’s and Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago in 2007 and 2014, respectively. She then took a postdoctoral fellowship at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., before joining the AHA.