Campus & Community

Theda Skocpol named dean of GSAS

4 min read

‘A national leader in multiple fields of study’

Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, has been named dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, effective July 1.

Theda Skocpol

“Theda Skocpol has an extraordinary record of accomplishment as a scholar and teacher,” said William C. Kirby, Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). “She is a national leader in multiple fields of study, a devoted mentor of graduate students, and a dedicated citizen of this faculty. I am delighted that Theda has agreed to lead the Graduate School at a moment of great strength and challenge.”

“The Graduate School is a vital part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the University as a whole, as I have learned through my many years as a graduate student and faculty member at Harvard,” Skocpol said. “For me, this is a special opportunity to work with Dean Kirby, faculty colleagues, professional staff, and graduate students to sustain and enhance our excellent Ph.D. programs. The challenges we face include maintaining our competitive edge in attracting the very best students, building bridges between the FAS and the professional Schools, and enriching the contributions of graduate teaching fellows as the undergraduate curriculum is reformed,” she concluded.

Skocpol joined the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Sociology Department in 1975 as an assistant professor. In 1981, she joined the faculty of the University of Chicago where she also was director of the Center for the Study of Industrial Societies. She returned to Harvard’s FAS as professor of sociology in 1986, and joined the Department of Government in 1995.

Skocpol, who is also director of Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies, has held many leadership positions with a range of organizations, including president of the American Political Science Association, president of the Social Science History Association, and founder and co-chair of the Committee on States and Social Structures of the Social Science Research Council (1985-94).

Kirby, Skocpol, and
Newly named Dean of GSAS Skocpol (center) walks through the Yard with FAS Dean William C. Kirby (left) and outgoing GSAS Dean Peter Ellison. (Staff photo Justin Ide/Harvard News Office)

“Theda Skocpol is an outstanding scholar with a deep devotion to graduate education,” said Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers. “She is a person of remarkable intellectual range who has led the Center for American Political Studies with energy and distinction. I welcome the opportunity to work with her, Dean Kirby, and the faculty on ensuring the continuing vitality and strength of the GSAS.”

Skocpol is the author of eight books and eight edited volumes on comparative and American politics, as well as numerous scholarly articles. She is currently conducting a major research project on civic engagement in American democracy, considering the rise and development of voluntary associations from 1790 to the present. Her most recent book is “Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life.”

Her scholarly influence has broad reach and extends well beyond the academy. She worked with President Bill Clinton on a variety of social issues, and was the author of “Boomerang: Clinton’s Health Reform and the Turn Against Government.” Further, she is often sought after by journalists for comments on social and political issues, and has written opinion pieces for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The New Republic, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Skocpol, who earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard, has received several major academic awards, including the J. David Greenstone Award for the “best book on politics and history,” the Graduate Society Medal of the Radcliffe Alumnae Association, and the Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association. She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994, awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1990, and has been awarded honorary degrees from Amherst College, Northwestern University, and Michigan State University, where she also received her B.A. degree in 1969.