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Michael Smith Returns To Administration As Interim SEAS Dean

Former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith will take over as the interim dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith will take over as the interim dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. By Helen Y. Wu
By Rahem D. Hamid and Elias J. Schisgall, Crimson Staff Writers

Michael D. Smith, a former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a Computer Science professor, will be the interim dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, FAS Dean Claudine Gay announced Tuesday.

Smith, whose term begins on July 1, will succeed outgoing dean Francis J. Doyle III, who is leaving the school to become the provost of Brown University.

“Mike is a distinguished, longstanding faculty member of SEAS, a highly regarded teacher, mentor, and advisor, and one of Harvard’s most respected and experienced leaders,” Gay wrote in an email to Harvard affiliates.

The search for a new SEAS dean began in early February, spearheaded by a 13-member faculty advisory committee. Gay’s announcement did not specify how long Smith will serve as an interim, nor did it say whether the search for a permanent dean remained ongoing.

Members of the SEAS faculty have called for a top scholar to fill the role following Doyle’s departure, as well as someone who could negotiate with residents of Allston — the location of Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex — with a steady hand.

As FAS dean, Smith was largely responsible for guiding the school through the 2008 financial crisis, cutting FAS budgets by 15 percent across the board to save on costs. Smith also oversaw a substantial restructuring of the FAS, a fundraising effort for the school, and the beginning of the House renewal project during his tenure. Smith stepped down from the position in 2018.

Smith’s deanship was rocked by the Government 1310 cheating scandal, during which more than 100 Harvard students were investigated for cheating on a take-home exam. Smith came under fire after he covertly authorized searching email accounts of 17 resident deans as part of the investigation.

In her message, Gay praised Smith’s FAS leadership.

“Mike led the FAS with consummate skill to financial strength and stability, growth and increased diversity in the faculty, an improved and refined tenure-track system, a renewed emphasis on teaching excellence, renewal in the House system, and much more,” she wrote.

This will not be Smith’s first time in a SEAS leadership role. Prior to being selected as FAS dean, he served as the SEAS associate dean for Computer Science and Engineering.

With the announcement, Gay temporarily has deans in place for three of the four open deanships she inherited when she was chosen for Harvard’s presidency. On May 4, Gay announced Jane Kim as the interim dean for the School of Public Health and six days later, Harvard Divinity School dean David N. Hempton announced he would briefly extend his tenure in the position.

The search to fill the last open deanship — Gay’s own — also began in February, led by Gay and University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76. In an interview earlier this month, Gay declined to provide a timeline for selecting a new FAS dean and or confirm that one would be in place by the time she assumes the presidency on July 1.

—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at

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

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