Martha Umphrey

(AMHERST, Mass., April 23, 2024) – Amherst College announced today that Martha M. Umphrey, currently the Bertrand H. Snell 1894 Professor in American Government in the Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, will serve as its new Provost and Dean of the Faculty, effective July 1. She succeeds Catherine A. Epstein, who served as dean of the faculty since 2014 and provost since 2019.

In the position, Umphrey will work to promote and maintain Amherst’s commitment to excellence in teaching and research and oversee all academic departments and programs, the hiring and retention of faculty, and broad curricular and pedagogical initiatives. Among the many administrative departments that will report to her are the library, museums, and academic support centers, as well as athletics and the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning.

Umphrey received her B.A., J.D. and Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan. An active law and humanities scholar, her research and teaching have addressed the interaction of law and culture, historically and theoretically, with particular emphases on the cultural life of trials; cultural representations of law in film and literature; American constitutional and criminal law in historical context; privacy and speech; law, visuality, and performance; and law, love, and mourning. Umphrey is co-editor of the longstanding Amherst Series in Law and Jurisprudence and was the founding director of Amherst’s Center for Humanistic Inquiry. She also is past president of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities.

“I’m thrilled that Martha Umphrey has accepted my invitation to serve as Amherst’s chief academic officer,” said Michael A. Elliott, president of Amherst College. “Her passion for our liberal arts mission, her deep conviction in the capacity of the Amherst faculty, and her administrative experience and acumen all make her an excellent fit for this role.”

“I am truly honored to become Amherst’s next Provost and Dean of the Faculty,” said Umphrey, “and I eagerly look forward to working with President Elliott and our outstanding faculty and staff to sustain Amherst’s commitment to excellence and inclusivity, and to meet the challenges and promises of this moment in higher education.”

Epstein led a generational transformation in the faculty of Amherst College, resulting in the hiring of 44 percent of the current tenure-line faculty and growing the percentage of faculty of color from approximately 18 percent to 32 percent. She oversaw a broad range of offices that advance the academic mission of the College and enhance students' academic experience by expanding their opportunity to conduct research under the supervision of their professors, championing pedagogical experimentation, expanding the curriculum, and launching courses with an extended travel component and other cohort learning experiences. She created the Meiklejohn Fellows Program, which supports first-generation students; led efforts to address issues of accessibility and disparate academic outcomes at Amherst; and established the Center for Strategic Learning, which helps students strengthen their meta-cognitive skills. Epstein also led the creation of the Center for Humanistic Inquiry and created partnerships between Amherst College and select liberal arts institutions abroad. Her disciplinary focus is modern German and Central European history. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from Harvard. After a one-year sabbatical, Epstein will return to the faculty and resume full-time teaching in the College’s history department.