Grosz To Serve as Radcliffe Dean

Interim Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Barbara J. Grosz will continue on as the Institute’s permanent dean, President Drew G. Faust announced yesterday. Over six months in the making, the decision is the fourth in a series of deanship appointments Faust was posed to make when she took over the presidency last summer.

Grosz, a professor of natural sciences and a leading computer scientist, was recommended to Faust by a 12-person advisory committee made up of former Radcliffe fellows and professors from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Education, and Harvard Law School and chaired by University Provost Steven E. Hyman.

Homi K. Bhabha, a member of the search committee and a senior advisor in the humanities at Radcliffe, said the decision was “an enthusiastic consensus.”

Bhabha described a national search, in which the committee sat down with multiple candidates face-to-face, some of them more than once. But the Humanities Center director said ultimately the question was “what would be the best fit for Radcliffe,” and Grosz stood out as “a scientist who is interested in the arts.”

“She is a leader that really listens and decides in a very consultative as well as a deeply thoughtful way,” said Bhabha, who served as a Radcliffe fellow in 2004-2005. “She is a person of great integrity, both intellectually and personally.”

Grosz said she was alerted to the decision last week and met with Faust, who made the announcement by e-mail yesterday morning. At a reception at Radcliffe yesterday afternoon, Faust and Grosz spoke before a crowd of alumnae, faculty, a number of Grosz’s students, and Radcliffe fellows and staff.

Grosz told The Crimson after the event that when she was first tapped to serve as interim dean, she told Faust that she would be active in the position, which she assumed on July 1, 2007.

"I didn't think it would be good for Radcliffe and wouldn't be interesting
for me if Radcliffe had to wait until the appointment of a permanent dean to
move forward," Grosz said.


She said her work as interim dean and Radcliffe’s mission made her very interested in serving permanently.

As interim dean, Grosz convened a “policy studies” committee made up of faculty from across the University and led by Radcliffe Executive Dean Louise M. Richardson. Grosz said the committee brings Radcliffe’s interdisciplinary approach to tackling policy issues.

In 2001, Grosz was named Radcliffe’s dean of science. Colleagues said she has since been instrumental in luring leading scientists away from their labs to Radcliffe. Recent science fellows include renowned physicist Lisa Randall and Maria Zuber, the first woman to lead a science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Grosz is a leader in artificial intelligence research, combining her work in computer science with the fields of linguistics, psychology, economics, and philosophy. She has also been a vocal advocate for women in the sciences, chairing Harvard’s Task Force for Women in Science and Engineering in 2005.

In her remarks yesterday, Faust said Grosz will “set a high bar for scholarship at Radcliffe” and heralded her accomplishments in the realm of gender equality.

Grosz, who joined the Harvard faculty in 1986, said she does not know yet whether she will continue to teach classes in her new role as permanent dean. Grosz received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Cornell University and master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley.

Faust still must make deanship appointments for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences when Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti steps down in September and the School of Public Health when Barry R. Bloom leaves at the end of the academic year.

—Staff writer Nini S. Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@fas.harvard.edu.