Robin Kelsey, a distinguished Harvard scholar of photography and American art, has been appointed the dean of arts and humanities by Michael D. Smith, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He will begin his tenure July 1.
Kelsey, who joined the faculty in 2001, has served as chair of the Department of History of Art and Architecture for the past five years. He is also the Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography, and has published on geographical survey photography, photography and chance, landscape theory, picture theory, and the nexus between ecology and art history. His most recent book is “Photography and the Art of Chance” (2015).
Kelsey is co-creator of “The Art of Looking,” one of the Framework series of classes for undergraduates, developed as part of the Humanities Project at Harvard.
“Professor Kelsey has shown exceptional dedication to his students and to the arts and humanities,” said Smith. “He has been a leader across the campus, working with undergraduates, graduates, and our faculty colleagues within the FAS and across the University, all with equal enthusiasm. He has the perfect set of personal skills and intellectual experiences for us and for this time.”
“I look forward to working with my colleagues to meet the challenges of our times with creativity and verve,” said Kelsey. “Harvard’s faculty in the arts and humanities is superb, even peerless. Being given a chance to serve this faculty as divisional dean is an honor, but also a thrill.”
Kelsey will take over as divisional dean from Diana Sorensen, James F. Rothenberg Professor of Romance Languages and Literature and of Comparative Literature. Sorensen, who has served as dean for 10 years, has championed the arts and humanities at Harvard and on a national level.
“Harvard has led the critical conversation about the value of the humanities to every aspect of culture and artistic making,” Sorensen said. “Never has the value of what we teach and study in the division of arts and humanities been more essential to the world. “
“She is a powerful voice for the history and significances of the humanistic traditions, asserting their relevance to contemporary civic discourse, engagement of cultural identities, and personal understanding,” Smith said. “She has successfully advocated for departments and programs, and advanced new areas of scholarship, achieving progress even at times of significant financial challenge.”
Kelsey graduated from Yale University with a degree in art history and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard. In 2004 he became the first historian of photography to win the Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize from the College Art Association.