Sean T. Buffington

The University of the Arts

The institution's third president since it attained university status in 1987, Buffington, 42, began his tenure at the University of the Arts on August 15, 2007. Since that time, he has led the development of a new academic plan that envisions the curricular and organizational transformation of the University, including the reorganization of the Colleges of Art and Design and Media and Communication into a new College of Art, Media & Design (CAMD), the unification of Film programs into a single School of Film, the development of a new core curriculum for art, media and design, and much more.

Buffington has also launched a thoroughgoing effort to rethink and reinvent the institution’s approach to recruitment, initiated the creation of a unified office for Student Financial Services, and consolidated the departments of Enrollment and Student Services into a single department dedicated to recruitment and retention.

Before coming to the University of the Arts, Buffington served as associate provost for Arts and Culture at Harvard University. He oversaw planning for the cultural elements of Harvard’s new campus in Allston, Mass., as well as Harvard's Tony Award-winning American Repertory Theatre, the Harvard University Art Museums, and Villa I Tatti, Harvard’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. Prior to that, he was deputy chief-of-staff to the president and provost at Harvard.

He began his professional career as assistant director of the Harvard Alumni Association from 1994 to 1997. In the University’s development office from 1997 to 1999, Buffington was responsible for strategic planning and fundraising for cross-disciplinary programs. He went on to supervise the operations of 10 interfaculty programs and centers as assistant provost for Interfaculty Programs from 1999 to 2002.

Buffington then served as deputy chief-of-staff to the president and provost under President Lawrence H. Summers. In addition to serving as Provost Steven E. Hyman’s chief adviser and director of operations, Buffington also managed the arts, humanities and social science portfolios on behalf of the provost and oversaw financial, administrative and academic matters for several programs.

A native of La Plata, Md., Buffington graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and American literature and Afro-American studies. He was a Harvard College National Scholar and is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. A Regents Fellow, Buffington earned a Master of Arts degree in American culture from the University of Michigan in 1994. While serving as an instructor at Michigan, Buffington developed and taught interdisciplinary undergraduate courses in history and ethnic studies. 

Buffington serves on the boards of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. He is also a member of the Philadelphia Art Commission — appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter — and of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce's College and University President's Council.