GSAS Dean to Take Sabbatical Next Year

GSAS's Dudley House
Lehman Hall is the main building for the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Xiao-Li Meng will take a sabbatical next academic year, and Emma Dench, a History and Classics professor, will serve as interim GSAS dean.

In an email announcing Meng’s leave, Dean of the Faculty Michael D. Smith wrote that Meng will use his sabbatical to continue studying data science and statistics. Meng will pursue research on “statistical foundational issues for the rapidly evolving discipline of data science” and will assume leadership roles with two societies in statistics “as they embark on strategic planning for the roles and contributions of statisticians to data science.”

Dench will take the helm of GSAS as it undergoes potential changes. The National Labor Relations Board could decide this month whether or not eligible students at Harvard can form a union. And earlier this semester, Smith said that Harvard would accept 4.4 percent fewer graduate students next year.

Praising Dench for her work mentoring graduate students, Smith wrote Dench’s previous roles at Harvard and contributions to the University have prepared her for her role as interim dean.

“She has a deep and nuanced understanding of graduate curricula, the needs of graduate students, and departmental operations and concerns,” he wrote. “Professor Dench is an outstanding teacher and mentor of undergraduate and graduate students, and a University citizen with an exceptional record of service.”


Smith wrote this experience mentoring graduate students and understanding of graduate curricula will allow Dench to continue Meng’s work as dean.

“Professor Dench’s experience, values, energy, enterprise, and collegiality make her an outstanding choice for this position,” Smith wrote. “She is an extraordinary citizen at the departmental, divisional, GSAS, FAS, and University levels, and I know her work as Interim Dean will complement and enhance the tremendous success Dean Meng has had over the past five years.”

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.


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