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Lawrence D. Bobo Named Next Dean of Social Science

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University Hall.

Lawrence D. Bobo, professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology, will become the divisional dean of Social Science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on October 1.

Bobo first joined the Faculty in 1997. From 2005 to 2007, he briefly left Harvard for Stanford, where he headed Stanford’s Center of Comparative Study in Race and Ethnicity. Bobo has served as chair of the AAAS Department since 2013.

FAS Dean Claudine Gay — who served as dean of Social Science before assuming her current role this summer — announced Bobo's appointment Monday. 

As Social Science dean, Bobo will oversee all departments, centers, and programs within the Social Science division of FAS, and will serve as a member of the Academic Planning Group, a board which advises Gay on policy and resource issues.

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In her announcement, Gay cited Bobo’s assistance in the “Inequality in America” Initiative, a multidisciplinary effort to conduct and publicize research on social and economic inequality. Bobo helped Gay found the initiative during her own term as dean.

Several of Bobo’s colleagues praised his selection, calling his appointment “fantastic” and “wonderful”.

“He’s been an extraordinary chair [of the AAAS department],” said AAAS and Anthropology Professor John Comaroff. “He’s a very imaginative, strong leader. He’s very supportive of his colleagues and students. He’s a man who can listen very carefully to those around him.”

History and AAAS Professor Emmanuel K. Akyeampong said he has confidence in Bobo’s leadership, as demonstrated during his tenure as AAAS department chair and as a key figure at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies.

Bobo assumes the deanship as FAS adjusts to a new schedule, new President, and new Dean, and copes with a growing national skepticism of higher education. 

Government Department Chair Jennifer L. Hochschild, who has a joint appointment in AAAS, said she anticipates that a top challenge for Bobo will be to work on “incorporating the Allston community” within the course schedule when Harvard’s Allston campus opens in 2020.

Both Comaroff and AAAS Professor Suzanne P. Blier said that Bobo will also face the challenge of becoming dean in a political climate that they called “very challenging”.

“I can think of no one I would trust more to help to shape this institution going forward,” Blier wrote in an emailed statement.

Some colleagues also commented on Bobo’s excellence as a teacher. He was named a Harvard College Professor — a prestigious award specifically honoring excellence in undergraduate teaching — in 2018.

Akyeampong cited “intellectual curiosity” as one of Bobo’s strengths. He recalled an episode in 2016 when AAAS 11: “Introduction to African Studies” was reorganized and taught by six professors, including Akyeampong, instead of the usual single lecturer.

“Larry said that this was an opportunity for him to hear his colleagues in African Studies give lectures. So though he was not teaching in this course, he attended every single lecture, twice a week, for fourteen weeks,” Akyeampong said.

“For the lectures I gave, I can tell you, he probably took more notes than the students who were there for credit in the course,” he added.

—Staff writer Cecilia R. D’Arms can be reached at cecilia.d’arms@thecrimson.com.

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