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Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Appoints Sam Bersola as New Dean of Students

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences named Samuel H. Bersola — the assistant vice provost for graduate education at the University of California, Los Angeles — as its new Dean of Students Wednesday.
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences named Samuel H. Bersola — the assistant vice provost for graduate education at the University of California, Los Angeles — as its new Dean of Students Wednesday. By Courtesy of Samuel Bersola
By Isabella B. Cho, Crimson Staff Writer

Samuel H. Bersola, a Graduate School of Education alumnus and current administrator at the University of California, Los Angeles, will become the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’s new Dean of Students on Feb. 8, GSAS Dean Emma Dench wrote in an email to students Wednesday.

As Dean of Students, Bersola will lead the offices of residential life, student affairs, and student services, as well as oversee the GSAS Student Center and GSAS Title IX resource coordinators, Dench wrote.

Currently serving as UCLA’s assistant vice provost for graduate education, Bersola — who earned a master’s in educational administration and social policy from the Graduate School of Education and a Ph.D. in education policy from Stanford University — previously worked in undergraduate admissions at the University of Southern California, California State University Maritime Academy, and Amherst College.

Dench praised Bersola’s past initiatives to support underrepresented students in higher education in the announcement.

“A first-generation-to-college Filipino-American, Sam has championed equity, inclusion and diversity in higher education throughout his career, leading numerous programs that have increased the enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of underrepresented and low-income students,” Dench wrote.

In an interview posted to GSAS’s website Wednesday, Bersola highlighted the importance of supporting international students, teaching assistants and fellows, students with families, and others who have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Teaching assistants and fellows, for instance, are making great sacrifices, waking up at odd hours in time zones throughout the world to lead discussions and share knowledge with other students,” he said. “The pandemic has had an impact on graduate research, too. The fact that students can’t travel to conduct research has delayed projects or forced researchers to redesign them altogether.”

“Looking forward, I think we’ve gotten a clearer understanding of the fact that graduate students are a vital and vulnerable population that needs a great deal of support,” Bersola added.

Bersola also said he hopes to work closely with the GSAS Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs to promote an inclusive learning environment for all graduate students.

“I’ve known [Dean of Academic Programs and Diversity] Sheila Thomas for over five years now, ever since she and I met on the road, recruiting diverse students who participate in pipeline programs for graduate education,” Bersola said. “As dean of students, I will support and collaborate with Dean Thomas and ODMA in any way that I can.”

Dench wrote in the announcement that Bersola’s personal experiences navigating institutions of higher learning will strengthen his capacity to guide students.

“Sam’s own experience as a master’s and PhD student as well as his administrative expertise in student services, residential life, and other areas make him an outstanding choice as dean, and he is excited to return to Harvard and to join GSAS, where he can champion graduate students and help them realize their potential,” she wrote.

On Feb. 8, Bersola will officially replace former Dean of Students Garth O. McCavana. McCavana, a former resident dean of Kirkland House who worked at Harvard for 32 years, retired at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.

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