Weatherhead Center Names Permanent Director a Year After Its Last Leader Resigned

UPDATED: June 17, 2015, at 2:00 p.m.

Sociology professor Michèle Lamont will become faculty director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs beginning July 2015, the center announced Tuesday. The decision comes a year after Government professor Beth A. Simmons stepped down from the faculty director position amid debate with administrators about the distribution of the center’s funds.

Lamont, who is also a professor of European as well as African and African American studies, has served as acting director of the Weatherhead Center—the largest international research center within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences—during the spring semester.

She will become director during a period of financial strain for research centers across FAS. Following the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which took a particularly hard toll on FAS, the body enacted a policy that called for regional centers to contribute large portions of their funds to a centralized operational fund. As the University budget began to recover, Simmons, who became director of the center in 2007, requested that administrators end the so-called “taxation policy.” When administrators did not yield to her request, Simmons resigned from her position last spring.

According to Lamont, despite FAS’s recent reduction of mandated payout rate by 10 percent, the Weatherhead Center has required to contribute over $4 million to the FAS relief effort since the crisis.


Lamont said that she will have to strategically plan her operations as director to sustain the Center’s involvement in international affairs while maintaining financial stability. When she takes office in 2015, she plans to rearrange the 38 seminars currently organized by faculty members affiliated with the center into clusters so that the activities of the center will be focused around several themes.

“Before accepting I had a meeting with the executive committee of the Weatherhead, and I got a strong endorsement for taking a more aggressive role as a director for shaping the agenda of the center by overlapping several research clusters,” Lamont said.

Lamont has been involved with the Weatherhead Center for several years, including serving on the Center’s steering committee that creates grants to fund faculty work.

While Lamont is on sabbatical leave for the 2014-2015 academic year, Government professor Jeffry A. Frieden will serve as acting director for the center.

Frieden expressed faith in Lamont’s ability to lead the Weatherhead Center after his tenure as acting director concludes.

“I am confident that professor Lamont will continue the Weatherhead Center’s long-standing tradition of academic excellence, as well as take WCFIA in important new scholarly directions,” Frieden wrote in an email.

—Staff writer Forrest K. Lewis can be reached at

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

CORRECTION: May 27, 2014

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the new position of Sociology professor Michèle Lamont at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. In fact, she will serve as the research center's faculty director.


An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the position held by Government professor Beth A. Simmons at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. In fact, she stepped down as the research center's faculty director in 2013.


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