A 2010 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as the “genius grant,” Padden has been on the UCSD department of communication faculty since 1983, when she earned her PhD from the university’s department of linguistics. An affiliate member of the Center for Research in Language, the Human Development Program and the department of education studies, Padden served as associate dean and faculty equity advisor in the Division of Social Sciences from 2008 to 2013. She currently serves as UCSD's interim vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion.
Padden’s main areas of research include language emergence, sign language structure and cultural life in deaf communities. She plays a central role in promoting research on sign languages around the world and in shaping policy and practices that promote the full participation of deaf people in society.
“I can think of no better collaborator than Carol Padden to help advance UC San Diego’s vision of being a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented public university,” said UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. “Carol’s distinguished record of achievement – beginning as a student at our campus and continuing to this day as a researcher and as an administrative leader – will serve our university and also our region and nation, advancing the important work of the social sciences.”
Padden, a Washington, D.C. native and a deaf child of deaf parents, earned a bachelor of science degree from Georgetown University in 1978, at which time she became a graduate student at UCSD. As the fourth Division of Social Sciences dean, she will lead an academic division with more than 9,000 undergraduates, 600 graduate students and faculty spanning ten academic departments and 16 interdisciplinary programs and research centers. The division is UCSD's largest in terms of instructors and student enrollment.
Padden replaces Jeff Elman, who has held the position since 2008.
“I’ve been associated with the division of social sciences at UC San Diego for a long time,” said Padden, “first as a graduate student starting in the late 1970s and then as a faculty member to the present time. I’ve seen many changes over the years, and tremendous growth. I’m honored and pleased to be asked to be a part of its future. The division is made up of exciting, highly original and innovative departments, each by itself. Collectively, they comprise among the best of social science departments in the country. My role is to create opportunities for even more growth and accomplishment in each department and the division as unit.”
Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She has also received research support from the U.S. Department of Education and the Spencer Foundation.
She has published two textbooks on American Sign Language and two ground-breaking books about the history of the deaf community in the U.S.