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Neuroscientist, UC Davis Psychology Chair Named Dean of BSOS

Susan Rivera Known for Research on Fragile X Syndrome, Autism and Down Syndrome

By Maryland Today Staff

Susan Rivera portrait

Susan Rivera, the incoming dean of the UMD College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, is chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Davis with appointments in its Center for Neuroscience and Center for Mind and Brain; she is also a member of the MIND Institute.

The University of Maryland has named Susan Rivera dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSOS), effective Aug. 1. As dean, Rivera will promote a culture of impactful research and scholarship, encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and partnerships, and advocate persuasively for BSOS’s programs both within and beyond the campus community. Rivera will work with faculty, staff and students to articulate a vision for the contributions BSOS will make to the fulfillment of the university’s mission and new strategic plan.

“Dr. Rivera’s commitment to academic excellence and creating a diverse and inclusive culture, and her focus on collaborative cross-disciplinary work, will be a tremendous asset to the University of Maryland and the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences,” said Senior Vice President and Provost Jennifer King Rice. “I have the utmost confidence in her leadership and exemplary scholarship.”

Rivera joins Maryland from the University of California, Davis, where she serves as chair and professor in the Department of Psychology. As chair, she has focused on building and sustaining an inclusive and supportive departmental climate and successfully retained and hired new faculty under a framework of inclusive excellence. Under her leadership, the department’s U.S. News & World Report’s rankings rose from No. 26 to No. 12 overall, and to No. 6 among public institutions.

“I am confident that my 20-plus years of experience at a leading public research institution have equipped me with an enhanced understanding of the mission and purpose of a public research university,” said Rivera. “As a first-generation Latinx scholar, I am especially mindful of the important role played by higher education in supporting the success of the next generation of leaders. As dean of a large and thriving college, I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to positively impact a broad range of students, staff and faculty.”

In addition to her academic appointment in the Department of Psychology, Rivera is an affiliate faculty with the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, which seeks to understand the function of the human brain in health and in illness. She also is a faculty member in the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain and a member of the MIND Institute. Rivera’s research is focused on neurocognitive development in typically and atypically developing individuals, specifically those with fragile X syndrome, autism and Down syndrome.

Rivera serves as a member of a number of professional organizations, including the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, the Cognitive Development Society, the Society for Research in Child Development, the Jean Piaget Society and the Society for Neuroscience. She is the recipient of UC Davis’ Dean's Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity and, in 2021, was appointed to a three-year term on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. She also serves as editor-in-chief for the journal Human Development.

She holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in psychology from Indiana University.

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