Melvin L. Oliver is the sixth president of Pitzer College, an award-winning professor, author and a noted expert on racial and urban inequality.
Before joining Pitzer College, President Oliver served as the executive dean at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s College of Letters and Science, where he was also the SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences and a professor of sociology. During his 12-year tenure as the dean of social sciences at UCSB, he promoted faculty diversity and championed increased access for underrepresented students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Prior to UCSB, Oliver was the vice president of the Asset Building and Community Development Program at the Ford Foundation. Under Oliver’s direction, the program developed pioneering grant initiatives, including a $50 million program to secure home mortgages for 35,000 low-wealth households and change the way banks evaluate applications for home mortgages.
As professor of sociology at University of California, Los Angeles, from 1978-96, he was named California Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and received the Harriet and Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award. In 1989, he was the founding co-director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Urban Poverty, which is a leader in the development of undergraduate and graduate curriculum and world-class research on urban poverty and social welfare policy.
Oliver co-authored Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality with Thomas M. Shapiro, which won the Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from the American Sociological Association, the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the award for the outstanding book on the subject of human rights from the Gustavus Myers Center for its groundbreaking exploration of race and equality when it was first released in 1995. He is the co-editor of four books, including Prismatic Metropolis: Inequality in Los Angeles, and the author of numerous special journal issues and more than 50 scholarly publications. In acknowledgment of the quality and impact of his scholarly contributions, Oliver was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012.
Oliver earned his BA at William Penn College and his MA and PhD from Washington University in St. Louis. Washington University awarded him the Distinguished Alumni Award, Arts and Sciences in 2002 and the Sesquicentennial Celebration Distinguished Alumni Award in 2003. William Penn honored him with the Distinguished Career Award in 2012. Oliver received a 2016 ASSET Builder Champion award from the Center for Global Policy Solutions.