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Taeku Lee to Join Harvard Faculty as First Professor in Ethnic Studies Cluster Hire

Faculty of Arts and Sciences administrators work in University Hall.
Faculty of Arts and Sciences administrators work in University Hall. By Aiyana G. White
By Ariel H. Kim and Meimei Xu, Crimson Staff Writers

Taeku Lee will join Harvard's faculty as the first ethnic studies scholar to be brought in as part of a cluster hire by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the school announced Monday.

Lee, currently a professor of political science and law at University of California, Berkeley, will join Harvard as the inaugural Bae Family Professor of Government on July 1. Lee previously served as an assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School from 1997 to 2002.

FAS Dean Claudine Gay said in a February interview that the FAS has identified and is “actively recruiting” four ethnic studies scholars.

Lee’s appointment marks a major step in the decades-long lobby for an ethnic studies concentration at Harvard. Gay originally launched a search for faculty specializing in Asian American, Latinx, and Muslim studies in June 2019. Due to logistical issues posed by the pandemic, however, the search was suspended in April 2020, resuming four months later.

Gay said in a press release that Lee’s hire is a significant contribution to Harvard’s research of “ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration” and will promote the study of racial inequality.

“I am thrilled to welcome Taeku who is a true intellectual leader in this rich, dynamic area of inquiry and a scholar I personally admire,” she said.

The cluster hire accompanies other moves by Gay to build on the FAS’s curriculum in racial and ethnic inequality.

In addition to the cluster hire, Gay welcomed Vivek Bald as Harvard College’s first visiting professor in Ethnicity, Indigeneity, and Migration and expanded the Inequality in America postdoctoral fellowship from two to four scholars.

A $45 million donation made by Asian American alumni in September to expand Asian American studies will fund the Bae Family professorship, as well as the postdoctoral fellowship and the ethnic studies visiting professorships.

Lee said in the press release that he looks forward to shaping ethnic studies at Harvard in the next few years.

“What excites me so much is I’ll be joining one of the preeminent political science faculties anywhere and that I’m getting in on the ground of this genuinely inspired EIM initiative,” Lee said.

“It’s a culmination of many things I’ve dedicated my career towards and to be a part of a group of faculty to figure out what form that inspiration takes at Harvard is well worth the next chapter of my career,” he added.

—Staff writer Ariel H. Kim can be reached at

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MeimeiXu7.

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