Gay ‘Thrilled’ to Invite First Ethnic Studies Faculty, Expand Programs


Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay said in an interview Wednesday she is “thrilled” to invite Taeku Lee to the FAS and looks forward to the expansion of ethnic studies.

The FAS announced Monday that Lee will join Harvard’s faculty as the first ethnic studies scholar to be brought in as part of a cluster hire.

Following more than four decades of lobbying by Harvard students and alumni for an ethnic studies concentration, Gay launched a search for faculty specializing in Asian American, Latinx, and Muslim studies in June 2019. But the search was suspended in April 2020 due to the pandemic, only to resume four months later.

Gay said she is waiting to hear back from three scholars the FAS has identified as part of the cluster hire, adding that Lee has been helping the FAS with its recruitment.


“I think our success in being able to recruit Taeku was helped enormously by the generosity of our alums, particularly the alums who came together to provide these transformative gifts for Asian American Studies,” she said.

Lee’s professorship will be funded by a $45 million donation made by Asian American alumni last September.

The FAS also established visiting professorships to recruit senior scholars studying ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration this year, with the College welcoming Vivek Bald as the first of the cohort, according to Gay.

Gay added that the FAS is currently recruiting “two or three” more visiting professors to teach and research at Harvard next year.

“The hope is that between the permanent appointments that we’re making for the cluster search and these distinguished senior figures who will come and spend time both doing their work, doing their research, but also teaching and working with undergraduates, then we can really build a very dynamic intellectual community around the topic of ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration,” she said.

Additionally, Gay doubled the Inequality in America two-year postdoctoral fellowship from two to four fellows a year. She said Wednesday that the fellowship would give an opportunity to scholars who recently completed a Ph.D. program to receive mentorship from senior faculty and have “a long runway to get their research to the next level.”

Gay said she hopes once the FAS recruits more ethnic studies faculty, the scholars will help create an undergraduate concentration in ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration.

“From the beginning, I’ve underscored the importance of starting by building faculty, getting people here, building that critical mass, and then asking those faculty to come together to envision the best structure for their work,” she said. “I have not been shy about saying that my hope is that there will be an undergraduate concentration, and I think the interest is there.”

—Staff writer Ariel H. Kim can be reached at

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MeimeiXu7.