Rice sociologist Rachel Tolbert Kimbro named dean of School of Social Sciences

Rachel Kimbro

HOUSTON – (March 24, 2021) – Rachel Tolbert Kimbro, an award-winning educator and prolific researcher in the field of children's health, has been named the newest dean of Rice University's School of Social Sciences effective July 1.

"It's an honor to be chosen to lead Rice's School of Social Sciences, a place that was instrumental in my own development as a scholar," Kimbro said. "It has been exciting to watch the school’s progress over my years at Rice, and I look forward to leading our stellar faculty, students and staff in pursuit of the many opportunities on the horizon."

“I am thrilled that Rachel Kimbro will be the next dean of our outstanding School of Social Sciences," said Rice President David Leebron. "Rachel has worked directly with me in several capacities: as deputy speaker of the Faculty Senate, co-chair of the provost search committee, and for the last two years as faculty adviser to the president. She is a person of vision, judgment, compassion and intellect. I know the school under her leadership will achieve great progress.”

Kimbro has deep roots at Rice, earning a bachelor's degree in sociology and policy studies in 2001. Following completion of an M.A. (2003) and Ph.D. (2005) in sociology at Princeton University and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she returned to Rice as a junior faculty member in 2007. She was promoted to the role of associate professor in 2012 and full professor in 2016.

Her research agenda focuses on the health and wellbeing of children, specifically how neighborhood and family environments influence healthy development. Kimbro's work is at the intersection of sociology, public health and public policy, and she has published extensively in these areas. Her new book, "In Too Deep: Class and Mothering in a Flooded Community," will be published by the University of California Press in fall 2021. Over the years, Kimbro has received more than $2 million in external grant funding to support her research. She said community engagement is particularly important to her as a means of communicating and implementing academic work to make a positive impact in the real world.

Within her discipline, Kimbro has given a number of invited talks and presentations. She is a past editorial board member of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior and the American Sociological Review and previously served as associate editor for Population Research and Policy Review. She is a member of the American Sociological Association (Family, Population, Children & Youth and Medical Sociology sections), the Population Association of America, the Southern Sociological Society and the Southern Demographic Association, and has previously held leadership roles in those organizations.

Kimbro has also been recognized for her exceptional teaching, previously winning three university-wide teaching awards and one within the School of Social Sciences. In addition, she received the Duncan Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement in 2017.

In the Department of Sociology, she served as an undergraduate adviser from 2011-2013, director of graduate studies from 2013-2015, associate chair from 2018-2020 and interim chair for the 2020-2021 academic year. She also was a key part of the department's launch of a Ph.D. program in 2011, and has served on Social Sciences' faculty advisory committee.

At the university level, Kimbro has served as a faculty adviser to the president since 2019, as deputy speaker of the Faculty Senate from 2014 to 2016, as the co-chair for the provost search, and as co-chair of the Data Science Search and Programming Committee. She is also the founding director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research's Urban Health Program.

"Rachel is an accomplished scholar and award-winning teacher who brings a wealth of experience and deep understanding of Rice to the position," said Rice University Provost Reginald DesRoches. "She has the right mix of expertise and consultative leadership style to take the school to new heights of excellence and impact. I look forward to working with Rachel."

Susan McIntosh, who has served as interim dean since 2019, will return to the anthropology faculty.

For information on Rice's School of Social Sciences, visit https://socialsciences.rice.edu.


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Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,978 undergraduates and 3,192 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 1 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

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