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Robin Kelsey to Head Arts and Humanities Division

By Melissa C. Rodman and Luca F. Schroeder, Crimson Staff Writers

Robin Kelsey, chair of the Department of History of Art and Architecture, will become the Dean of the Arts and Humanities division of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences starting in July.

Kelsey will succeed longtime divisional dean Diana Sorensen, according to an email that Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith sent to the Faculty on Wednesday.

“I’m thrilled to be leading a terrific division,” Kelsey, a professor of photography, said. “The faculty in the Arts and Humanities are immensely impressive, and being at the helm of the division is a great honor.”

The position of the arts and humanities has changed at the College and in the minds of students over the years, Kelsey said, emphasizing that he is excited to work with his colleagues in the division to address those challenges.

Over the past few years, University President Drew G. Faust has emphasized the importance of revitalizing the arts and humanities on campus, from engaging undergraduates in the Harvard Art Museums to launching the College’s new concentration in Theater, Dance, and Media.

Kelsey said he wholeheartedly supports the initiatives in the arts and looks forward to pursuing them.

“I think the place of the arts and humanities within the broader intellectual landscape of the College and the University is less definite than it once was,” Kelsey said. “I think there’s been a shuffling that has taken place, as the result of many factors, but all this means that we need to rethink what we teach, how we teach, and how we pursue our research, and these are exciting challenges to have.”

In his new role, Kelsey said he also hopes to foster faculty research and incubate new ideas and initiatives. In addition, he said he wants to include undergraduates and graduate students—not only faculty members—in shaping the future of the division.

“I want to ensure that our students feel that they are part of an intellectual community with a mission and shared interests, and find a way forward together from the top of this institution to the bottom,” he said.

Kelsey’s colleagues across the division, which comprises 15 departments in addition to many other degree programs, committees, and museums, praised his scholarship, leadership, and character.

“Robin Kelsey is a scholar of immense distinction, but he’s also a person who cares passionately about the corporate good, the collective good,” English department chair W. James Simpson said. “He’s got the skill and the energy to realize the collective good.”

Catherine McKenna, chair of the Celtic Languages and Literatures department, also emphasized Kelsey’s ability to bring colleagues together.

“I think that Professor Kelsey is a very wonderful scholar, and a talented teacher, and he’s, in my experience, a very congenial colleague, so I look forward to working with him as Dean,” McKenna said.

Kelsey will become the third permanent dean of the Arts and Humanities division, established by then-FAS Dean William C. Kirby in 2003. Maria Tatar, professor of Germanic Languages and Literature and Folklore and Mythology, was the first dean, and Sorensen formally took over the position in 2007.

In 2010, FAS announced Sorensen’s departure from the role. A year later, however, she returned as dean, after Smith asked her to hold the position for two more years.

In his email, Smith praised Sorensen’s focus on strengthening curricula, reaching out to students, and creating new programs.

“She has successfully advocated for departments and programs, and advanced new areas of scholarship, achieving progress even at times of significant financial challenge,” Smith wrote. “She leaves a formidable legacy and I am deeply and sincerely grateful for her leadership and her dedication to the mission of the Arts and Humanities division.”

—Staff writer Melissa C. Rodman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @melissa_rodman.

—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.

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