In light of Brett Steele stepping down as dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture on Jan. 31, I write to share that Lionel Popkin — professor of choreography and associate dean for academic affairs — has agreed to serve as interim dean, effective Feb. 1. He will serve in this capacity while we conduct a national search for a new dean of the school during the 2024–25 and/or 2025–26 academic year.
A choreographer and performer who has been a member of the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance faculty since 2006 and was its chair from 2015 to 2018, Professor Popkin brings a wealth of experience at both the schoolwide and campuswide levels. As associate dean for academic affairs since July 2021, he has fostered a robust faculty mentoring program, not only within the School of the Arts and Architecture, but also across the schools of music and theater, film and television; increased access to research grants for junior and mid-career faculty; and assisted in the recent restructuring of the Chancellor’s Arts Initiative grant. He has been active on finance committees to make UCLA’s reimbursement policy more friendly to artists; and has advocated for the arts with various campuswide committees, including the Senate’s Council on Academic Personnel, where he has championed greater clarity and specificity on how artists’ files are received and evaluated.
Professor Popkin also played an important role as a member of the school’s Anti-racism, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Commission, addressing issues that are critical to the school’s success, important to him personally and central to his arts practice. For example, he has built upon the school’s commitment to increasing access to a more diverse pool of students by restructuring the timeline of the student scholarship process.
His work engages people, objects and media to explore issues of hybridity, archival practices, historical inequities and the confusions surrounding the representations of the South Asian diaspora in North America. With a major project premiering at REDCAT this March, Professor Popkin’s choreography has also been presented at venues including Danspace Project, Abrons Arts Center, Dance Theater Workshop, The Getty and Getty Villa, Skirball Cultural Center, Jacob’s Pillow, Philadelphia Dance Projects, The Palace Theater in London and the Guongdong Modern Dance Festival in China.
Professor Popkin has completed numerous commissions for notable dance companies and performed as a dancer in the companies of Stephanie Skura, Terry Creach and Trisha Brown. He has received grants from the National Performance Network’s Creation Fund, the National Dance Project Touring Subsidy, the Center for Cultural Innovation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. He is currently a resident artist at the 18th Street Arts Center.
Prior to UCLA, Professor Popkin served on the faculty of Bates College, London’s Laban Centre, Sarah Lawrence College, Temple University and the University of Maryland. He earned his M.F.A. from Bennington College and B.A. with high honors from Oberlin College.
Given his talents, experience and leadership roles within the school and the broader arts community, I am confident that Professor Popkin will provide effective guidance and oversight during this time of transition and will build upon UCLA Arts’ momentum. I hope you will join me in wishing outgoing Dean Steele well in his new role at USC, and in thanking Professor Popkin for stepping into this leadership position.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost