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Bohnet To Serve as Kennedy School Academic Dean

By Ariane Litalien, Crimson Staff Writer

Kennedy School Women and Public Policy Program Director Iris Bohnet will serve as the school’s Academic Dean beginning July 1, according to a statement released on Thursday.

A behavioral economist, Bohnet has taught classes on gender equity and decision analysis since she came to the Kennedy School in 1998. Her work has also been featured in numerous publications, including the American Economic Review and the American Political Science Review.

As part of her new position, Bohnet will oversee the school’s faculty budget and academic curriculum. She will also be in charge of the Kennedy School Faculty Steering Committee.

Bohnet, who has committed much of her career to studying gender issues in the work place, will be the second woman in a row to serve as the Kennedy School Academic Dean. She will succeed Mary Jo Bane, who has held the position for the past five years.

Bohnet’s appointment comes in the midst of recent discussions on gender imbalance at the Kennedy school. Earlier this year, members of the Progressive Caucus—a student organization at the Kennedy School that addresses social justice issues—gave away homemade pastries to students in an attempt to raise awareness on the low percentage of female faculty at the Kennedy School.

But Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood, who personally appointed Bohnet, said he was not specifically looking for a woman when seeking to fill the position.

“I wanted someone who was superb,” Ellwood said.

However, the Dean said the fact that Bohnet is a woman with a renowned understanding of gender-related issues will allow her to bring an interesting perspective to her position.

Associate Professor of Public Policy Hannah R. Bowles, who has known Bohnet for 10 years, said she thought Bohnet was a great choice because of her experience in fields ranging from research to administration.

“She’s a real bridger,” Bowles said. “She can connect the researchers to people primarily in the teaching area.”

Bowles also said she thought Bohnet’s appointment was a great way to stress the Kennedy School’s commitment to international studies. Bohnet, a Swiss citizen, moved to the U.S. in 1997 to pursue research at the University of California, Berkeley.

As the new Academic Dean, Bohnet said she intends to promote interdisciplinary collaboration between the Kennedy School and other Harvard graduate schools and to raise awareness of gender issues among faculty and the student body.

“Faculty demographics can only be changed slowly over time—but we can affect very quickly who joins us at Harvard as a student, fellow or speaker,” Bohnet wrote in an email. She added she would also like to incorporate gender issues into the Kennedy’s School academic curriculum.­­­

—Staff writer Ariane Litalien can be reached at

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