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GSAS Appoints New Dean

By Laya Anasu, Crimson Staff Writer

Xiao-Li Meng, who as chair of the statistics department increased the concentration’s popularity among undergraduates and raised the profile of its graduate students, has been appointed dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Meng will replace classics professor Richard J. Tarrant, who has served as interim dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science’s graduate school since Dean Allan M. Brandt stepped down in February due to poor health.

Meng is the Whipple V. N. Jones Professor of Statistics and has served as the chair of the department since 2004.

“We at the statistics department are all happy for Professor Meng to be the dean of GSAS,” said S. C. Samuel Kou, co-director of graduate studies and professor of statistics. “We are all looking forward to working with him as the dean of GSAS.”

For Meng, the appointment recalled his rise from humble beginnings as a college student in China who came to Harvard to earn a master’s degree in 1987 and a doctorate in 1990.

“Harvard has been a dream school for generations of students around the world. GSAS made my dream come true by providing me with full financial support when I was literally a village boy on the other side of the globe,” he said  to the Harvard Gazette, adding that he wants to make the same education possible for others.

Tarrant, the interim dean, said he is confident that Meng “will be an energetic and effective advocate for the Graduate School and its students.”

“Xiao-Li Meng has a broad and deep knowledge of FAS and GSAS from his service on key committees such as the Faculty Council, the Educational Policy Committee, and the Graduate Policy Committee,” he said in an email to The Crimson.

During Meng’s tenure as chair of the statistics department, the concentration grew from 16 undergraduate concentrators in 2007 to 75 in 2011, the earliest and latest years for which information is provided in the student handbook. He taught the popular Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning 16: “Real Life Statistics: Your Chance at Happiness (or Misery),” a course geared toward making statistics appealing.

From 2007 to 2011, the Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates, awarded to five teaching fellows annually, went to a statistics graduate student each year.

“He has provided amazing leadership for the statistics department and has really been a leader in the training of graduate students as future faculty,” said Terry Aladjem, executive director of the Bok Center. “He’s a true educator who works in extraordinarily effective ways with graduate students and faculty and is just a phenomenal choice for this position, and we couldn’t be more delighted.”

—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:


Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misspelled the name of newly appointed Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Xiao-Li Meng.

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