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The Pfinalists: Pforzheimer Faculty Dean Search Down to Three Pairs of Candidates

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The search for the next faculty deans of Pforzheimer House is down to three pairs of candidates, Pforzheimer Resident Dean Monique A. Roy announced in an email to house affiliates Monday.

The contenders are Physics professor Jennifer E. Hoffman ’00 and her husband Daniel T. Larson ’98, a postdoctoral researcher in Physics; Harvard Kennedy School professor Erica Chenoweth and their wife Zoe Marks, an HKS lecturer in public policy; and Engineering and Applied Sciences professor Petros Koumoutsakos and his wife Christiane Baumann, a postdoctoral fellow at HKS.

A pair of faculty deans oversees each of Harvard’s 12 undergraduate houses. Faculty deans live alongside students and are largely responsible for hiring tutors and staff, dispensing a budget, and setting house culture. At least half of the couple must be a tenured professor or hold a senior academic position.

The chosen pair will replace outgoing Faculty Deans Anne Harrington ’82 and John R. Durant, who announced last December that they will step down at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year.

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Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana — himself a former faculty dean of Cabot House — is leading the search for Harrington and Durant’s successors, in conjunction with an advisory committee composed of undergraduate residents and house tutors.

Chenoweth wrote in a letter of intent shared with Pfoho affiliates that they see the position as “one of good stewardship” and intend to prioritize building a strong house culture if selected as faculty dean.

“I love talking about ideas and learning from others’ perspectives, and I am drawn to causes greater than myself,” Chenoweth wrote. “I grew up in a multicultural environment where difference and diversity were celebrated, and I’ve always had a heart for justice.”

“I would not presume to know what each person in the house needs in order to recover a sense of routine, belonging, or agency, but it will be important to acknowledge the extraordinary nature of our time and to provide ample opportunities for students to claim space, rituals, and traditions and to make them their own,” they added.

Hoffman, who along with her husband is a former Pfoho resident, wrote in her letter of intent that she seeks to “empower” students to solve problems they are facing.

“I strive to engage students in conversation about what outcome they really want for themselves, and then problem-solve what steps they can take to get there without relying on others to change first,” she wrote. “Underlying these techniques is a core philosophy: I am unafraid to admit my own weaknesses to my students.”

In his statement, Koumoutsakos wrote he is motivated by “serving humanity,” inspired by his family and upbringing in Gythio, Greece.

“Neither of my parents went to the University but my brother, sister and myself all did, with two of us receiving Doctorate degrees,” he wrote. “I have learned to believe in miracles and experienced first hand that dreams come true if you believe in them hard enough (and I do not underestimate luck).”

Koumoutsakos also wrote he would promote “indispensable” computer skills and wants to start Pfoho initiatives to promote awareness around “looming problems across the globe,” such as water shortages and global inequality.

In interviews in January, Pfoho residents praised the outgoing faculty deans for establishing new house events and said they hoped the incoming deans would maintain a tight-knit house culture.

In her email, Roy asked residents to share initial feedback on the candidates in advance of their visits to the house, which are still being scheduled. There will be additional opportunities for Pfoho residents to share feedback following the visits, she added.

—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at elias.schisgall@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @eschisgall.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @neilhshah15.

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