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FAS Dean Gay Outlines Plan for Diversifying Faculty, Supporting Junior Faculty

Dean Gay Portrait
Josie W. Chen

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay poses in front of University Hall for a portrait on Monday.

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Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay outlined her vision for recruiting new and more diverse faculty in an interview Thursday.

Though departures in the past academic year caused a dip in the number of ladder faculty, Gay said the rosier financial outlook for the FAS has allowed for increased investment in launching “really high quality searches” for faculty. The FAS ended fiscal year 2021 with a $51 million surplus, defying the school’s earlier projections that it would incur a $112 million deficit.

“By high quality, I mean searches that begin through the creation of a really robust and diverse applicant pool,” she said. “Doing that takes work. In many ways, the most important and the most labor intensive part of a search process is at the beginning, when you’re doing the work of building a really robust applicant pool.”

Gay said while recruiting new and diverse scholars is a perennial challenge for Harvard, she believes current work within the FAS to diversify its ranks is “incomparable across time” and “across institutions.” She expressed optimism that “meaningful progress” will continue “on a yearly basis.”

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“It's going to take a while to build a faculty as diverse as we would like for it to be and that truly reflects the pool of talent that’s out there in the world,” she said. “While that progress might feel incremental and too slow for those of us who’ve been waiting for this for a long time, it’s progress nonetheless.”

Gay also discussed how the FAS plans to support junior faculty currently on the tenure track at the University. Pointing to a report published this fall by a tenure track review committee, Gay said it is important that senior faculty engage with junior faculty “through the entire arc of their careers here at Harvard and in the FAS.”

“It might manifest in the form of offering comments and feedback on a monograph in progress or on the development of a funding proposal,” Gay said.

Gay reminisced on the “important source of support” she received through mentorship by a “network of colleagues” along her journey through academia.

“It was mentorship that’s not necessarily focused on a particular end, but really about my full intellectual and professional development,” she said. “One of my ways of paying it forward is through a real commitment on my part to mentoring colleagues who are either early career or graduate students.”

Beyond tapping into the budget surplus to launch new faculty searches, Gay also discussed the “targeted investments” she has made in procuring new hybrid work technology for offices and classrooms.

Envisioning the future of the FAS, Gay said hybrid and remote work will continue to remain a part of on-campus operations, even after the University has a turned a page on the pandemic.

“Flexible work is an area where there’s potential for modernization, again in ways that are still compatible with our identity as a residential living and learning community but that also is able to attract and retain terrific staff and faculty, and use our resources — including our physical space — as efficiently as possible,” Gay said.

—Staff writer Meera S. Nair can be reached at meera.nair@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang can be reached at andy.wang@thecrimson.com.

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