Lizabeth Cohen, an eminent scholar of 20th-century American social and political history and interim dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study since last July, has been named dean, Harvard President Drew Faust announced today.
“Liz Cohen is a distinguished and imaginative scholar with a deep knowledge of Radcliffe and Harvard and a strong dedication to Radcliffe’s pursuit of new ideas and collaborations across the academic disciplines, the professions, and the creative arts,” said Faust in announcing the appointment. “She is an experienced academic leader with a talent for nurturing creativity and spurring cooperative effort, and as interim dean she has already strengthened Radcliffe’s ties to people and programs across Harvard and beyond. Her wide span of intellectual interests, her spirited curiosity, and her incisive intelligence promise to serve the institute well.”
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study to further success in its mission to create and disseminate bold new thinking in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and the arts,” said Cohen. “In my eight months as interim dean, I have learned how much the institute has to offer — advancing the research of Harvard faculty and students, providing intellectual invigoration to our interdisciplinary fellows, sustaining the world’s preeminent research library on the history of women, and pursuing programs to share this wealth of new knowledge with wider audiences close to home and increasingly around the world.
“I like to think of Radcliffe as Harvard’s front door — open and welcoming to all who seek intellectual nourishment and creative inspiration.”
Cohen joined the Harvard faculty in 1997 as a professor of history and was appointed the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies in 1999. Since coming to Harvard, she has served in a variety of academic leadership roles, including chair of the History Department, director of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, and co-chair of the Common Spaces Steering Committee. She co-chaired the Harvard College Curricular Review’s working group on pedagogy in 2003-04, and she served on the Harvard Task Force on Women Faculty in 2005. She was a Radcliffe fellow in 2001-02.
Much of Cohen’s influential scholarship has probed the connections between Americans’ social and cultural experiences and their political orientations over the course of the 20th century. Her writings range widely from urban, social, and political history to popular culture and the built environment.
She is the author of “Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919–1939,” which won the Bancroft Prize in American History and the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her book “A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America” explores how an economy of mass consumption shaped social life, culture, and politics following World War II. She has published widely in leading history and urban studies journals, and her writings have also appeared in edited collections and such popular venues as The New York Times, the Washington Post, The American Prospect, and the Boston Herald.
With David Kennedy, Cohen is co-author of a widely used U.S. history college textbook, “The American Pageant,” now in its 15th edition. Cohen’s current book project, “Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age,” considers the benefits and costs of strategies to rebuild U.S. cities through the life and career of urban redeveloper Edward J. Logue.
Cohen received her undergraduate degree from Princeton and her M.A. and Ph.D. in American history from the University of California, Berkeley. She served on the faculties of New York University (1992-97) and Carnegie Mellon University (1986-92) before coming to Harvard. Besides her Harvard appointments in history and at Radcliffe, she is an affiliated professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Design in Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, a core faculty member of the Real Estate Academic Initiative, and a member of the higher degree committees for the programs in the history of American civilization and in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning.
A longtime member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Standing Committee on Women, she has additionally served on the Tanner Lectures Committee, the Social Sciences Chairs Council, the History Department Planning Committee, the FAS Resources Committee, the FAS Faculty Council, and administrative committees for the Charles Warren Center and the Center for History and Economics.
Cohen’s teaching has ranged widely from survey courses of post-World War II America to more-focused classes on topics such as Boston’s urban history.
Cohen has been awarded fellowships by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2001, she served as president of the Urban History Association. During the 2007-08 academic year, she visited Oxford as the Harold Vyvyan Harmsworth Professor of American History.
In a letter announcing the appointment, Faust expressed her gratitude “to the many people who offered advice on the search and, especially, to the 14-member faculty advisory group, whose insights were invaluable to the process.”
“The Radcliffe Institute was my first Harvard home,” she wrote, “and I know from experience what an important role it has to play — within and beyond the University — as a hub for innovative and influential scholarship and as a crossroads for thinkers and practitioners from different domains. I hope you will join in welcoming Liz Cohen as Radcliffe’s dean and in helping the institute fulfill its vital role in the world of ideas.”