Lionel Popkin, a professor of choreography and associate dean for academic affairs at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, has been appointed the school’s interim dean. He begins his term Feb. 1.

A strong advocate for the arts across campus, Popkin joined the faculty of UCLA Arts in 2006 and served as chair of the school’s department of world arts and cultures/dance from 2015 to 2018. As associate dean since 2021, he has fostered a robust faculty mentoring program, 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 also played an important role as a member of UCLA Arts’ anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion commission, helping to build on the school’s commitment to broadening access to a more diverse pool of students.

Popkin, who has performed as a dancer and completed commissions for a variety of notable dance companies, has been the recipient of grants from the Mellon Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and other organizations and is currently a resident artist at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica. His choreography has been presented at venues across the U.S., in the U.K. and China.

Popkin’s work often explores issues of hybridity, archival practices, historical inequities and confusion surrounding the representations of the South Asian diaspora in North America.

In a message announcing the appointment, UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt thanked Popkin for stepping into leadership position.

“Given his talents, experience and leadership roles within the school and the broader arts community,” Hunt said, “I am confident that Professor Popkin will provide effective guidance and oversight during this time of transition and will build upon UCLA Arts’ momentum.”

Popkin takes over from Brett Steele, who will step down as UCLA Arts dean on Jan. 31. A national search for a permanent dean will take place during the 2024–25 and/or 2025–26 academic year, according to Hunt.