Photograph of Erum Abbasi Syed, Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies

Erum Abbasi Syed named Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at the University of California, Davis, has appointed Erum Abbasi Syed as the division’s new assistant dean. She began her new role on Monday, June 15.

As assistant dean, Abbasi Syed will manage the operation of Graduate Studies and serve as the chief of staff to Vice Provost and Dean Jean-Pierre Delplanque. Graduate Studies’ 50-member team serves over 6,000 graduate students, 1,000 postdoctoral scholars, and the faculty and staff in nearly 100 distinct academic graduate programs.

“We are delighted that Erum has agreed to serve as Assistant Dean," said Duncan Temple Lang, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, who chaired the recruitment committee for the assistant dean position. "She is an accomplished leader, and her vision and dedication to our shared mission of research, teaching, and public service will serve to enrich the experience of our graduate education community."

Abbasi Syed joined the UC Davis staff in 2013, serving as a chief administrative officer in the College of Letters and Science, leading the operations and administration of the Departments of Anthropology and Sociology, in addition to the Middle East/South Asia Studies and Languages program. She has participated in several campus-wide committees and initiatives, such as the Staff Diversity Administrative Advisory Committee (SDAAC) and the 2014 Working Group on Diversity & Inclusivity. She has received several awards and recognitions for her work in the College of Letters and Science, including the 2019 Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award and the 2017 Worklife Champion Award.

“Erum is fiercely intelligent, remarkably efficient, and deeply humane. She embodies UC Davis's core values,” said Ari Kelman, Interim Dean of the College of Letters and Science. “We'll miss working with her on a daily basis, but we know she's going to do great things in Graduate Studies.”

Before joining UC Davis, Abbasi Syed served as Assistant Director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. She has also served in financial and management positions at Merrill Lynch, the Bureau of Engineering in Los Angeles, and the UCLA School of Law. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver, as well as an MBA from California State University, Sacramento. 

Abbasi Syed is active in the Greater Sacramento community, serving as troop leader and treasurer of her local Girl Scout troop, as well as serving as a member of the board of trustees of her mosque, SALAM Islamic Center. She is also an active member of the Sisterhood of Salam Shalom and the Muslim Davis Engagement and Inclusion Network (Muslim DEIN). 

Abbasi Syed succeeds John King, who served as interim assistant dean after Kellie Sims Butler stepped down in summer 2019. “We are very grateful for John’s work during this transition period,” says Jean-Pierre Delplanque, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. “He led the Graduate Studies staff through a particularly challenging period and his compassionate leadership enabled us to continue to provide service to our students, postdocs, and programs through the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic.” King will continue in his role as the director of analysis and policy, a role he has held since January 2015.

As the campus transitions back to on-campus operations and services, Abbasi Syed will lead the division in its move to the soon-to-open Graduate Center at Walker Hall. She looks forward to forging meaningful relationships with the schools and colleges, leading to innovative and holistic approaches to graduate student support. 

“I’m incredibly excited about joining the amazing team in Graduate Studies,” said Abbasi Syed. “During my time at UC Davis, I’ve had the chance to work alongside many different offices and people across the entire organization, and it’s clear that cross-campus collaboration will be critical as we address new challenges and opportunities in graduate education. I’m looking forward to leading Graduate Studies into a new era forged by teamwork and innovation.”

About Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.

UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.

For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.

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