The Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), renowned for its global leadership and innovation in graduate education, invites inquiries, nominations, and applications for the position of Dean of Students.

Harvard GSAS is where scholarship and innovation meet, where ideas are challenged and theories developed, where new knowledge is created, and where scholars emerge. The mission of GSAS is to identify and attract the most promising students to form a dynamic and diverse community, and to shape them into visionary scholars, innovative educators, and creative leaders.


The Position

Role of the Dean of Students

Reporting to the Dean Emma Dench and serving as a member of her senior leadership team, the Dean of Students is the chief student affairs officer in the Graduate School. The Dean of Students leads the GSAS student affairs organization and works collaboratively with Schools and administrative units across the University to promote a culture of engagement and belonging, enhance the graduate student experience, and support the well-being and success of more than 4,800 students in 58 academic programs. The position supervises 13 employees, including five direct reports, and manages a $2.6 million budget.

Key Responsibilities

  • Provide intellectual, strategic, and operational leadership for five offices that deliver direct services to GSAS students: Student Affairs, Residential Life, Student Services, GSAS Title IX Coordinators, and the GSAS Student Center.
  • Serve as a member of the Dean’s Senior Leadership Team; actively engage with GSAS senior leaders in strategic planning, addressing school-wide issues, framing policy and procedures, and implementing decisions.
  • Be a thought leader, trusted adviser, and action partner for the Dean of GSAS in tackling challenging student and community issues.
  • Develop and implement new student-service and student-benefits-related policies for GSAS in consultation with faculty, staff, and students.
  • Manage disciplinary cases before the GSAS Administrative Board.
  • Counsel faculty, students, and administrators on a broad range of complex personal, academic, and administrative issues, and intervene where necessary with faculty.
  • Oversee GSAS Welcomes events for new students (International Day, Orientation, and Parents’ Brunch).
  • Responsible for the overall budget of the individual units within the Dean of Students Office.
  • Supervise professional and support staff and conduct annual performance reviews.
  • Represent GSAS on various university-wide committees dealing with student-related issues, such as housing, mental health, Title IX, accessibility, international emergency management, and behavioral threat and assessment.
  • Serve as co-leader of the GSAS Local Emergency Management Team.
  • Work closely with GSAS and university staff in handling crisis and emergency situations.
  • Regularly sit on hiring committees for administrative positions across the university, such as director of Counseling and Mental Health Services, Title IX Officer, and director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.
  • Work in close collaboration with the GSAS Alumni Council and the Office of Career Services in developing programming for GSAS students and alumni.

History of the Position

Dr. Garth McCavana served GSAS for more than 26 years, first as assistant dean of student affairs and then as dean of student affairs. An alumnus of Harvard (PhD, French literature), McCavana was the Kirkland House Tutor and Assistant Dean with Harvard College before moving to GSAS in 1994. He retired in July 2020, after more than 32 years of distinguished service to the Harvard community.

Following McCavana’s retirement, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Patrick O’Brien served as interim dean of student affairs until Dr. Sam Bersola was appointed in February 2021. Bersola joined the GSAS senior leadership team during the pandemic and experienced a virtual transition to Harvard. He stepped away from the position in July 2022. Dean of Academic Programs and Diversity Sheila Thomas is leading the student affairs organization on an interim basis while a national search for the next dean of students is underway.

GSAS has retained Spelman Johnson to assist with the search. The successful candidate will be expected to take office on or about July 1, 2023, or as negotiated with the GSAS Dean Emma Dench.

Opportunities and Challenges

Key priorities for the Dean of Students include:

  • supporting and leading a team that is on the front lines in terms of case management, Title IX, residential life, social life, the Administrative Board, and other such areas;
  • winning the trust and respect of GSAS’s nearly 5,000 students, extremely diverse in background, race, ethnicity, nationality, discipline, and perspective, through direct engagement;
  • winning the trust and respect of faculty, in often tense situations involving students;
  • winning the trust and respect of other members of the GSAS Senior Leadership Team;
  • navigating the complicated political landscape of partner Schools across the University, as well as the University Center itself, with diplomacy, tact, and, where appropriate, advocacy and strategy.

The Dean of Students role has become only more demanding in recent years, with GSAS students requiring considerably more mental health support, and an increasing need to be proactive rather than reactive in relation to student well-being.

Measures of Success

Soon after joining the Harvard GSAS community, the Dean of Students will work directly with Dean Emma Dench to identify specific quantitative and qualitative measures of success, along with associated timetables.

In the short term, the Dean of Students’ success will be measured by the degree to which they learn and are able to navigate the culture and complexities of Harvard, build relationships with constituents across the School and the University, and earn the trust and respect of students, faculty, and GSAS senior leaders. In the longer term, the Dean of Students’ success will be measured by the achievement of specific goals related to facilitating student engagement and supporting and enhancing the student experience over the entire trajectory of graduate study.


Qualifications and Characteristics

Harvard GSAS seeks in its next Dean of Students a talented leader of people and programs who thinks strategically, communicates effectively, manages resources wisely, and inspires the confidence and trust of others. The next Dean of Students will be an experienced, engaging, and innovative leader with extraordinary people skills and empathy, combined with sufficient hardheadedness, an excellent ability to manage staff, to strategize, and to propose and write policy. Basic requirements include a minimum of 10 years of leadership experience in higher education focused on the education and support of students. An advanced degree is required.

While no single candidate will likely have all the ideal qualifications and characteristics, the successful candidate will possess many of the following attributes deemed desirable by members of the Harvard community:

  • Familiarity with and/or work experience in graduate education (especially PhD programs) and a keen grasp of the challenges and evolving needs of graduate and professional students.
  • A deep passion for working with and advocating for students—a visible and accessible administrator who finds joy in the company of students.
  • Proven strategic leadership and change-management skills, expertise in assessment and evidence-based decision-making, and ability to anticipate and address challenges proactively.
  • Ability to plan and manage budgets effectively.
  • Strong written communication skills, public speaking, and professional presence.
  • Skill and experience in supervising, developing, and leading professionals who provide direct support to students.
  • A collaborative and highly relational leadership style to earn the trust and respect of students and faculty, thrive in a highly matrixed environment, and work with partners across the university to strengthen structures and programs that support a thriving community in which all students can succeed.
  • Excellent conflict resolution skills and proven ability to manage through crises with equanimity, discretion, and a sense of responsibility and respect for students, families, and the institution.
  • Knowledge of Title IX and legal issues in higher education and student affairs.
  • A commitment to consult extensively, balanced by a willingness to act decisively when consensus is elusive.
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity in all its forms, including a track record of individual action and institutional leadership in advancing equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging.
  • Key leadership attributes, including but not limited to considerable emotional maturity, unimpeachable integrity, exceptional judgment, creativity, diplomacy, humility, the ability to inspire, and gravitas necessary to achieve ambitious goals.
  • Earned doctorate (e.g., PhD, EdD, or JD) preferred.

Institution & Location

Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Since it was first established in 1872 by Harvard’s Governing Boards as the Graduate Department, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) has grown into a leading institution of graduate study, offering the PhD and select master’s degrees in 58 departments and programs that connect students with all parts of Harvard University. The GSAS administrative offices are located in Harvard Square, Cambridge.

GSAS Mission

To identify and attract the most promising students to form a dynamic and diverse community, and to shape them into visionary scholars, innovative educators, and creative leaders.


To provide global leadership and innovation in graduate education.


As of 2022, GSAS enrolled 4,889 students, with the vast majority (4,510 students) pursuing PhDs. Regarding their demographic profile, 49% of GSAS students are women, 36% are international, and 23% are underrepresented minorities; 20% of GSAS students pursue degrees in humanities, 26% in social sciences, and the remaining 54% in natural sciences.

Student Life

GSAS students have a dedicated space on Harvard Yard, known as The GSAS Student Center at Lehman Hall. Graduate students who prefer to dine on-campus do so at the GSAS Student Center, which features a full-scale dining hall as well as a smaller cafe. The building also provides study and leisure spaces.

Financial Aid

All admitted PhD candidates are guaranteed full financial support for five years, which covers tuition, health fees, and living expenses. The PhD aid packages include a combination of tuition grants, stipends, traineeships, teaching fellowships, research assistantships, and other academic appointments. Although master’s students are not guaranteed full funding, they often receive financial support covering at least half of tuition and fees.


Harvard’s GSAS guarantees housing for all first-year graduate students, as long as the students apply before established deadlines. GSAS offers housing through several on-campus residence halls, as well as Harvard-owned apartments, both on and off-campus. In addition, approximately 100 GSAS students live in Harvard’s undergraduate houses and freshman dorms as resident tutors and proctors.


Emma Dench – Dean

Emma Dench was born in York, grew up near Stratford-Upon-Avon, and studied at Wadham College, Oxford (BA Hons Literae Humaniores) and at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford (DPhil in Ancient History). Before taking up a joint appointment in the Departments of the Classics and of History at Harvard in January 2007, she taught classics and ancient history at Birkbeck College, University of London. She has been a Craven Fellow at the University of Oxford, a Rome Scholar and a Hugh Last Fellow at the British School of Rome, a Cotton Fellow, a Member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and a Visiting Professor of the Classics and of History at Harvard, and a Loeb Classical Library Foundation Fellow.

Dench is the author of From Barbarians to New Men: Greek, Roman, and Modern Perceptions of Peoples from the Central Apennines and Romulus’ Asylum: Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian. She is currently completing “Imperialism and Culture in the Roman World” for the Cambridge University Press series Key Themes in Ancient History. Other current projects include a study of the retrospective writing of the Roman Republican past in classical antiquity.

While at Harvard, Dench received a Harvard College Professorship in recognition of “outstanding contributions to undergraduate teaching, mentoring, and advising,” a Marquand Award for Excellent Advising and Counseling, and an Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award for her mentorship of graduate students.

GSAS Dean of Students

Reporting Units

Student Affairs
The GSAS Office of Student Affairs is responsible for the welfare of graduate students and monitors their academic status, progress, and discipline. The office also administers leave/travel applications and readmission applications.

Residential Life
The GSAS Office of Residential Life oversees four residence halls: Child, Conant, Perkins, and Richards, all of which are located in the North Yard of Harvard’s Cambridge campus. The residence halls provide a community-based environment where residents are encouraged to meet one another, enjoy a variety of events, and dine together in GSAS Commons. The GSAS Graduate Residence Hall Council (GRHC) is a voluntary, student-run organization that fosters a sense of community among hall residents by organizing various social activities.

Office of Student Services
The Office of Student Services is the go-to office for GSAS students. The staff provide advice and ongoing support and make referrals to other services as necessary. In emergency situations, the staff receive notifications, reach out to offer assistance to students, and meet with and assist students having academic or personal difficulties in navigating and connecting with GSAS, Harvard, and local resources. The office is additionally responsible for various aspects of GSAS Welcomes events and often partners with other offices or student leaders to bring wellness-focused initiatives and programming to students.

GSAS Student Center
For more than 25 years, the GSAS Student Center has offered social, intellectual, and recreational activities designed to help GSAS students make connections outside of the classroom, lab, or library. From its convenient location at Lehman Hall in Harvard Yard, the Center welcomes students from all GSAS departments and disciplines. The Center manages the GSAS Student Center Fellows, advises the GSAS Student Council (GSC), supports the GSAS Student Groups, contributes to GSAS Welcomes orientation programming, coordinates January@GSAS winter session programming, and oversees the GSAS Engage website and Lehman Hall operations. The GSAS Student Center welcomes individuals with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities.

GSAS Title IX Coordinators
Harvard maintains a network of over 50 Title IX resource coordinators who address issues of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, and other sexual misconduct, and work together to carry out the University’s commitment to providing a positive learning, teaching, and working environment for the entire community. The two resource coordinators working within GSAS receive disclosures concerning concerns of a sexual and/or gender-based nature, provide supportive measures, and serve as resources for questions about sexual harassment, including sexual assault, and other sexual misconduct.

GSAS Organizational chart

Harvard University: An Overview

Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States and is a worldwide leader in education and research. It comprises twelve degree-granting schools (Harvard College, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Business School, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Graduate School of Education, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health), the Division of Continuing Education, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, as well as an array of museums, research centers, and the largest university library system in the world. For the 2022 fiscal year, Harvard’s operating budget is estimated to be approximately $5.0 billion and its endowment is valued at approximately $39.2 billion.

Since its founding, Harvard University has grown from nine students and a single master teacher to an enrollment of more than 20,000 degree seeking candidates taught by more than 2,500 faculty, and an additional 11,500 medical school faculty. The distinguished careers and achievements of Harvard’s faculty and over 360,000 living alumni have earned the institution a global reputation for excellence. Eight Presidents of the United States and 32 Heads of State have graduated from Harvard. Forty-eight current or former faculty members are Nobel Laureates, and 48 current or former faculty members are Pulitzer Prize winners. Harvard graduates are heavily represented among Fortune 500 CEOs, leaders of academic fields, and elected members of Congress. Part of the challenge and gratification of working at Harvard University comes from this selectivity and excellence.

Lawrence S. Bacow became the 29th President of Harvard University in 2018. Prior to his appointment, President Bacow was the Hauser Leader-in-Residence at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Center for Public Leadership and served as a member of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s principal governing board. One of the most widely experienced leaders in American higher education, Dr. Bacow is known for his commitment to expanding student opportunity, catalyzing academic innovation, and encouraging universities’ civic engagement and service to society. Dr. Bacow is the former President of Tufts University and past Chancellor and Chair of the Faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) is the largest School at Harvard University, comprised of Harvard College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; undergraduate and graduate admissions; the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and the Division of Continuing Education which includes the Extension and Summer Schools. FAS also encompasses academic resources such as libraries and museums, as well as campus resources and athletics.

As home to more than half of the University’s students (6,700 undergraduates and more than 4,800 graduate students) and just over 1,200 full-time faculty members and instructors, it is often considered the heart of the University with over 50 departments and large centers. The FAS is an ambitious academic community dedicated to being at the forefront of teaching and learning and fostering cutting edge-research and discovery.

Claudine Gay leads Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) with a longstanding dedication to academic service and to the value of scholarship, and with a deep devotion to mentorship for both students and faculty. She assumed the role of Edgerley Family Dean of the FAS in August 2018, having served previously as Dean of Social Science from 2015 to 2018. A professor of Government and of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University since 2006, Gay has studied political behavior, considering issues in her research such as: how the election of minority officeholders affects citizens’ perceptions of their government and their interest in politics and public affairs; how neighborhood environments shape racial and political attitudes among black Americans; the roots of competition and cooperation between minority groups, with a particular focus on relations between black Americans and Latinos; and the consequences of housing mobility programs for political participation among the poor. She served as a member of both the FAS Academic Planning Group and its Committee on Appointments and Promotions. A Radcliffe fellow in 2013-14, she is former Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Government and past member of the Committee on General Education.

For additional information on the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, please visit this link.

Cambridge and Boston, MA

Cambridge embodies the American democratic ideal—a stimulating and accommodating place where future presidents and immigrants study together and where residents strive for higher goals and a richer life. It is also one of the most exciting cities in the world, with a dazzling variety of recreation and culture packed into a very convenient 6.5 square miles.

Over the course of its 350 years of history, Cambridge has welcomed different populations. The result is a rich collection of neighborhoods—many of them might be called “urban villages”—providing attractive housing of every kind, from Colonial mansions to town houses to riverfront high rises, for a wide range of budgets. A powerful sense of history and community serves to tie neighborhoods and families together.

Cambridge is also a “walker’s city,” where most shopping and major cultural attractions are no more than a short walk from home and where a European style café culture makes every afternoon a pleasure.

Few of America’s largest cities offer as much cultural enrichment as Cambridge. There are 12 major museums, such as Harvard’s Fogg Museum and the Museum of Science, featuring a planetarium and a special effects theater. The city also hosts a chamber orchestra, the Cambridge Pro Arte, judged among the world’s best, and the Dance Umbrella, which has premiered works by leading international choreographers like Mark Morris.

Cultural variety extends to the nightlife, too, with nearly 250 restaurants representing every cuisine imaginable, and with clubs for every musical and performance specialty—even poetry “slams” that attract local laureates and Nobel Prize winners alike.

Neighboring Boston, of course, is a center for world-class entertainment of all kinds, including the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Museum of Fine Arts with its prized collection of Impressionists, the Children’s Museum, the Computer Museum, and the “Freedom Trail,” a unique collection of Revolutionary-era landmarks.

Within a few hours of the city there are altogether different kinds of activities—to the north, skiing; to the south, summer getaways on Cape Cod; to the west, the Berkshire Mountains and the music of Tanglewood; to the east, fishing and sailing the Atlantic.

Cambridge has so much more to offer its residents and visitors.

  • Farmers’ markets, street fairs, and festivals around the city throughout the year
  • A public library with nearly 500,000 volumes and six neighborhood branches
  • Three fine hospitals—Cambridge, Youville, and Mt. Auburn—and access to Boston’s medical centers, the best in the world
  • A nine-hole public golf course at Fresh Pond
  • Nearly 60 houses of worship embracing more than 20 religions
  • Twelve public elementary schools, five upper schools, and a comprehensive high school with curricula tailored to a diverse range of learning styles and interests
  • Public transportation at nearly every corner: six major “T ”stops on both the Red and Green lines, countless bus routes criss-crossing the city, and a commuter rail station
  • Close proximity to Logan International Airport: 10 minutes by car and 30 minutes by subway
  • Youth programs at both the YMCA and the YWCA
  • A centrally located, state-of-the-art seniors center
  • Dedicated bicycle lanes along major routes, including the MinuteMan Bike Path that winds from North Cambridge to Lexington
  • Countless lush green parks and playgrounds, with regulation ball fields, football fields, and tot lots
  • Private and public health clubs to suit every need

Chamber of Commerce link:

Benefits Overview

Harvard offers comprehensive benefits as part of a competitive total rewards package. Click here for more information.

Application & Nomination

Harvard University has retained Spelman Johnson to assist with this search. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email

Confidential inquiries and nominations and questions about the status of the search should be directed to Jim Norfleet, Practice Leader and Senior Consultant, at

Visit the Harvard University website at

The Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences will not provide visa sponsorship for this position.

COVID Vaccine Policy: The University requires all Harvard community members to be fully vaccinated (primary series) against COVID-19, as detailed in Harvard’s Vaccine & Booster Information. Individuals may claim exemption from the vaccine requirement for medical or religious reasons. More information regarding the University’s COVID vaccination requirement, exemptions, and verification of vaccination status may be found at the University’s “COVID-19 Vaccine Information” webpage:

Commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging: Harvard University views equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging as the pathway to achieving inclusive excellence and fostering a campus culture where everyone can thrive. We strive to create a community that draws upon the widest possible pool of talent to unify excellence and diversity while fully embracing individuals from varied backgrounds, cultures, races, identities, life experiences, perspectives, beliefs, and values.

Equal Employment Opportunity Statement: Harvard is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Applications from women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, or any other characteristic protected by law.