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Ciotti Appointed FAS HR Dean

By Bonnie J. Kavoussi, Crimson Staff Writer

Christine C. Ciotti, the Harvard School of Public Health’s head of human resources, has been named the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ new Associate Dean for Human Resources, effective Nov. 9, FAS Dean Michael D. Smith announced in an e-mail to staff yesterday.

In her new capacity, Ciotti will “seek to increase the focus on talent and performance management..., enhance employee communications, and advocate for diversity and inclusion” within FAS, Smith wrote.

Several HSPH staffers said yesterday that Ciotti—who took the helm of HSPH’s human resources division in 2007—regularly spoke with HSPH staffers and made them feel as though they were being listened to, underlining a collaborative spirit that may prove useful at a time when FAS staffers have said they feel out of touch with the administration.

“She really opened the door for interaction and exchange—for getting feedback from us,” said Laura Jay, the director of administration for HSPH’s Department of Society, Human Development, and Health. “The predecessor had a sort of closed-door policy, and Chris was much more active and open.... She was easy to approach, it was easy to talk about an issue with her.”

Ellen M. Gilmore, an HSPH assistant director of human resources, said that Ciotti is “all about collaboration” and “sits back and does a lot of listening at first” to try to make decisions that benefit the entire organization.

“If [staffers] are engaged, they’re going to do a better job,” Ciotti said. “One way to engage them is to connect with them and give them feedback.”

Ciotti spiked HSPH’s participation rate in Harvard’s annual performance survey from around 34 percent when she arrived to 94 percent in 2008 and 2009 both by dangling carrots like ice-cream or pizza parties and waving sticks—threatening not to hand out small performance bonuses until a department had achieved 100 percent participation.

Ciotti added that she hopes to improve “customer service” and “lay out an HR framework that supports FAS’ strategic priorities.” She said that she plans to talk to FAS staffers to try to find out “the things that are driving morale down.”

Ciotti—who will report to incoming FAS Dean for Administration and Finance Leslie A. Kirwan—met with Kirwan for Starbucks coffee last week and said that she looks forward to “working with her and learning from her.”

Smith has been searching for a new HR dean since this spring, when Ciotti’s predecessor Geoffrey M. Peters, along with 152 other FAS staffers, elected to take an early retirement incentive package offered by the University. Until a replacement could be found, Julie Stanley served as FAS’ interim HR chief since July, according to Smith’s announcement e-mail yesterday.

—Helen X. Yang contributed to the reporting of this story. —Staff writer Bonnie J. Kavoussi can be reached at

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