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Harvard FAS Dean Hoekstra Sets Sights on Interdisciplinary Work in First Year

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra discussed interdisciplinary efforts within the school in a Nov. 16 interview.
Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra discussed interdisciplinary efforts within the school in a Nov. 16 interview. By Julian J. Giordano
By Rahem D. Hamid and Elias J. Schisgall, Crimson Staff Writers

With two major academic leadership positions to fill, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra said she wants to focus on facilitating interdisciplinary research and scholarship during an interview with The Crimson earlier this month.

The two new openings will give Hoekstra, who began her position in August, an opportunity to implement a vision for the future of Harvard’s largest academic school.

Hoekstra said while she had not yet developed specific priorities or long-term goals for the institution, “emerging themes” of a vision are beginning to take shape, including creating opportunities for interdisciplinary work between the FAS’ three academic divisions and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

She said she hopes to “create can inclusive engagement that draws from across our many disciplines in the FAS.”

Earlier this month, Arts and Humanities Dean Robin E. Kelsey and Sciences Dean Christopher W. Stubbs both announced they would step down from their roles at the end of the academic year, capping off their eight- and five-year tenures, respectively.

Hoekstra, who largely declined to address campus controversies over Israel in the same Nov. 16 interview, said advisory committees have not yet been assembled for the searches for their successors, but added that she hoped the roles would be filled by the end of the academic year.

Kelsey’s resignation came amid internal frustration from some humanities faculty members surrounding the Arts and Humanities strategic planning process, particularly surrounding a proposal — since abandoned — to condense several language concentrations into one broader program. Kelsey previously told The Crimson his resignation was unrelated to faculty backlash on the proposal.

Hoekstra said she was “enormously grateful” for Kelsey’s leadership and supports “efforts to develop a strong and affirmative vision for the future of humanities at Harvard,” but acknowledged that the strategic planning process has been “challenging.”

“It’s not an easy task, but nothing worth doing is easy,” Hoekstra said, adding that faculty input was important to guide the strategic planning process to its conclusion.

“I have really no preconceived notion of what the final outcome should be,” she added.

Asked about Stubbs’ replacement, Hoekstra — herself a biologist — said she was still working on developing priorities across the FAS, including the Sciences. Still, she said, there was “exciting opportunity” in the Sciences, including helping facilitate the adoption of artificial intelligence at Harvard.

She said the FAS has created an AI systems working group, chaired by Government professor of the practice Latanya A. Sweeney and FAS Dean of Administration and Finance Scott Jordan.

The group, consisting of faculty and staff, is “exploring potential opportunities and disruptions of AI systems,” Hoekstra said.

Stubbs will remain an adviser to Hoekstra on matters regarding AI, according to Hoekstra. She added that there are active faculty cluster hire efforts in two interdisciplinary fields — climate studies and ethnicity, Indigeneity, migration — with the climate cluster hire nearing completion.

“We must be nimble,” Hoekstra said. “This is really about having the ability to seize opportunities as they present themselves, whether that’s in faculty hiring or new areas of scholarship.”

Still, Hoekstra said she was “still in the listening and learning phase” of her transition into Harvard’s most powerful deanship, focusing on continuing to have conversations with department chairs, faculty, and students about the FAS.

“I expect to be able to talk to you about priorities in the spring,” she said.

—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at

—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at Follow him on X @eschisgall.

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