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Hoekstra Likely to Pick Arts and Humanities, Science Deans In ‘Next Few Months’

Dean Hopi Hoekstra speaks in an interview at University Hall. Hoekstra said she hopes to select two new divisional deans within the next few months.
Dean Hopi Hoekstra speaks in an interview at University Hall. Hoekstra said she hopes to select two new divisional deans within the next few months. By Julian J. Giordano
By Tilly R. Robinson and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra hopes to select two new divisional deans — in Science and in Arts and Humanities — within “the next few months,” she said in a Wednesday interview.

In November, Dean of Science Christopher W. Stubbs and Dean of Arts and Humanities Robin E. Kelsey both announced they would step down from their positions at the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

The two announcements left Hoekstra — then in just the fourth month of her tenure — in a position to appoint new senior FAS leadership and assert her own direction for Harvard’s most influential faculty.

Her pick for Arts and Humanities dean is likely to be especially consequential, as some faculty have grown frustrated with the division’s contentious strategic planning process and distrustful of Kelsey. The new dean will be tasked with implementing the recommendations of the planning process, which could include a substantial reorganization of the division.

Hoekstra declined to indicate how far along in the search process she was, but said she hopes for “as much overlap as possible” between the selection of new deans and the current ones’ tenures.

Since last semester, Hoekstra said, she has solicited input letters from faculty and staff in the two divisions and conducted a faculty “listening tour.”

“We’ve had really robust responses from faculty — sometimes letters that span five or six pages, mostly in the Arts and Humanities,” Hoekstra said.

Hoekstra reaffirmed her previous commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration across the FAS’s three divisions, adding that she is seeking deans who will create new opportunities for such work.

“These two appointments are really an opportunity to think about how we may reimagine the divisional structure — in the sense that there’s a real sense that the divisions are siloed,” Hoekstra said.

“What I’m really looking for are deans who want to think about how we make those real parts of those barriers more porous,” she added.

In addition to the dean searches, Hoekstra highlighted encouraging civil discourse, considering the use of AI to augment classroom experiences, and fostering inclusivity and belonging in the FAS as her main priorities for the semester.

Hoekstra, a biologist serving in her first administrative role, has assembled an unofficial cabinet of top faculty and administrators to advise her on “topics of importance.” Stubbs will continue to weigh in on issues regarding artificial intelligence, while FAS Chief Campus Curator Brenda D. Tindal and Government professor Eric Beerbohm were named advisors on academic community engagement and civil discourse, respectively.

Hoekstra said Tindal will focus on ensuring “faculty, staff, researchers, and students feel included and feel like they belong in our community.”

Tindal’s “first steps are really about outreach,” Hoekstra said, adding that Tindal was set to meet with the Faculty Council Wednesday afternoon.

Hoekstra said her main projects as dean so far — appointing advisors, launching a civil discourse initiative and a committee on classroom conduct, and the dean searches — were united by a concern for the FAS’s “academic mission.”

“All of these really have threads that pull across the FAS, with the goal of bringing our community closer together,” she said.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

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