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Harvard SEAS Faculty Praise New Dean Selection

David C. Parkes, the newly appointed dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, drew praise from faculty affiliates.
David C. Parkes, the newly appointed dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, drew praise from faculty affiliates. By Courtesy of Eliza Grinnell, SEAS Communications
By Mert Geyiktepe, Crimson Staff Writer

Faculty members in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences heaped praise on newly appointed Dean David C. Parkes, who will assume his role next month.

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoesktra announced the appointment of Parkes as SEAS dean in an email last month. Computer Science professor and former Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith had been serving as interim SEAS dean since the departure of Francis J. Doyle in June.

James H. Waldo, a Computer Science professor and the chief technology officer at SEAS, described Parkes as a “superb” choice and said he would continue to improve SEAS’ collaboration with other schools.

“His work with the Data Science Initiative has been with Francesca Dominici, who’s over at the School of Public Health,” Waldo said. “He’s been instrumental in work that we’ve done with the Business School. So I think David really is going to be pushing on collaboration as well as strengthening the core subject matters in SEAS.”

Jonathan L. Zittrain, a Computer Science professor at SEAS and a professor of international law at Harvard Law School, said Parkes is “both grounded and imaginative.”

“He is also deeply respected within Harvard, as a kind and generous colleague, and as someone who gets things done,” Zittrain said.

As the next dean of SEAS, Parkes will oversee further expansion of the school with the establishment of the Enterprise Research Campus in Allston. Construction on the campus began this June, with the goal of providing a new venue for Harvard affiliates to connect with tech companies and startups.

Harry R. Lewis, a retired Computer Science professor who served as dean of Harvard College from 1995 to 2003 and interim dean of SEAS before Doyle took over in 2015, said he hopes Parkes can promote greater social and intellectual cohesion in the school.

“He’s the antithesis of the caricature of the narrowly focused engineering type that was just focused on getting their own problem solved,” Lewis said. “I think David is a person who’s always looking for new problems to solve and new opportunities and that’s a great spirit to bring to this enterprise.”

Computer Science research associate Sam W. Evans, who was recently appointed as a senior policy adviser for the National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology, said Parkes is “very attentive and caring about the people that he works with.”

He added that Parkes has the “vision to be grappling with those large questions” about the way SEAS defines its identity.

“What does it mean to be a school of engineering in a liberal arts university in the 21st century? That’s the fundamental question that shapes not just the way that Harvard approaches engineering but also the question of what does it mean to be a good engineer in the United States and in the world today,” Evans said.

Computer Science professor Ariel D. Procaccia praised Parkes as both a “creative thinker” and a “devoted and generous mentor.”

“In interactions with students and colleagues, he is a harmonizer who excels at fostering collaboration and creating a positive environment,” Procaccia added.

—Staff writer Mert Geyiktepe can be reached at

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