Haitian American

Haitian-American Claudine Gay named Dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow announced Monday that Haitian-American Claudine Gay, professor of government and of African and African American studies, and dean of social science within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS)—will become dean of FAS August 15. She succeeds Michael D. Smith, who announced last March his intention to step down upon the appointment of a successor, concluding 11 years of service.

According to Harvard Gazette,

“Claudine Gay is an eminent political scientist, an admired teacher and mentor, and an experienced leader with a talent for collaboration and a passion for academic excellence,” Bacow said in announcing the appointment. “She is a scholar of uncommon creativity and rigor, with a strong working knowledge of the opportunities and challenges facing the FAS. She radiates a concern for others, and for how what we do here can help improve lives far beyond our walls. I am confident she will lead the FAS with the vitality and the values that characterize universities at their best.”

As dean of social science, she has served on the FAS’ Committee on Appointments and Promotions as well as its Academic Planning Group. A Radcliffe fellow in 2013‒14, she was the government department’s director of graduate studies from 2010‒2015 and is a past member of the FAS Committee on General Education. In addition to leading the multidisciplinary Inequality in America Initiative, launched in 2017, she has served on the steering committee of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science and the executive committee of Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies. Her courses have focused on such topics as racial and ethnic politics in the U.S., black politics in the post-Civil Rights era, American political behavior, and democratic citizenship.

Claudine Gay
New Dean of FAS Claudine Gay looks back at President Larry Bacon at the conclusion of his remarks praising her as a wonderful choice on many levels, at a reception in her honor at University Hall. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

The daughter of Haitian immigrants to the U.S. — her father was a civil engineer, her mother a registered nurse — Gay spent much of her childhood first in New York and then in Saudi Arabia, where her father worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She received her B.A. in 1992 from Stanford University, where she majored in economics and received the Anna Laura Myers Prize for best undergraduate thesis in economics. She received her Ph.D. in government in 1998 from Harvard and won the Toppan Prize for the best dissertation in political science.

Early in her career, Gay served in the Stanford Department of Political Science as an assistant professor (2000‒05) and then a tenured associate professor (2005‒06). In the latter role, she was the department’s director of undergraduate studies and chair of its undergraduate curriculum committee. She was an invited fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 2003‒04.

Widely recognized as one of the nation’s most incisive and imaginative scholars of American political behavior, she was recruited to Harvard as professor of government in 2006. She was additionally appointed as professor of African and African American Studies in 2007 and was named the Wilbur A. Cowett Professor in 2015, when Smith also appointed her as dean of social science

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