Campus & Community

Renewal marks Faust’s first year at helm

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Fresh starts, real progress made through inaugural months

President Drew Faust’s freshman year was one of fresh starts and real progress as she renewed Harvard’s leadership and helped make the University more affordable, more sustainable, and more welcoming to the arts, while maintaining the University’s voice in Washington and the world.

The 2007-08 academic year showcased the University’s new leadership, with new deans at the Schools of Medicine and Design, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and new leadership in a host of other areas, both administrative and academic, such as a new dean for the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a new vice president for Alumni Affairs and Development.

The year was also busy personally for Faust, as her book, “This Republic of Suffering,” was released in January, spent time on best-seller lists, and generated interest in her scholarly work.

Faust credited much of the progress in her first year to her team: the University’s top leadership, the people working with them, and staff up and down Central Administration.

“This has been a year of hard work dedicated to a diverse array of tasks that reflect the breadth that makes Harvard great,” Faust said. “We have made Harvard more affordable and moved forward on a number of fronts important to the University, but nothing would have been possible without the talented, dedicated people — faculty, administration, staff, and students — who make this University run.”

Even before she officially took office July 1, 2007, Faust had begun to make her mark on the University’s leadership. In June 2007, Faust announced that computer scientist Michael D. Smith would become the new dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

There followed the appointments of Jeffrey S. Flier, the George C. Reisman Professor of Medicine, to lead Harvard Medical School in July; of Mohsen Mostafavi, an international figure in architecture and urbanism, to head the Graduate School of Design in August; and of Tamara Rogers, former director of major gifts in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and associate director of University Development, as the University’s new vice president for Alumni Affairs and Development in September.

In December, FAS Dean Smith appointed Allan Brandt as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In March, Smith named Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Evelynn Hammonds as the new dean of Harvard College. And in April, Faust filled her old post, naming Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences Barbara J. Grosz as the new dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

One major initiative during Faust’s first year aims to improve accessibility of Harvard for all students by recognizing that the price of higher education is increasingly stressing not just low-income families, but middle-income families — who might be less eligible for financial support — as well.

In December, Faust and Smith announced a sweeping overhaul of financial aid policies intended to make Harvard College more affordable through enhancements to grant aid, the elimination of student loans, and the removal of home equity from financial aid calculations.

The initiative, which builds on recent policies eliminating the family contribution for students whose families’ income is less than $60,000, reduces the contribution for families whose income is between $60,000 and $120,000, and caps the contribution at no more than 10 percent of income for families making between $120,000 and $180,000 per year.

“We want all students who might dream of a Harvard education to know that it is a realistic and affordable option,” Faust said in announcing the new program. “Education is fundamental to the future of individuals and the nation, and we are determined to do our part to restore its place as an engine of opportunity, rather than a source of financial stress.”

“We want to make Harvard affordable for talented students from all financial backgrounds, and once they are here, we want to make sure they are able to take full advantage of the opportunities we provide to build their skills and knowledge and to engage their deepest interests,” Smith said. “This experience is not possible if families are consumed with financial worry and students are consumed with debt.”

In January, the University reported a record applicant pool for Harvard College, with applications up 18 percent over the previous year, a surge that admissions officials attributed to the elimination of Early Action admissions. The 27,000 applicants to join the Class of 2012 shattered the previous record of 22,955 set just last year.

“Students and their secondary school counselors responded positively to this change, designed to help reduce the frenzy that surrounds college admissions today,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “Eliminating Early Action also allowed more time in late fall for us to reach out to students who might not otherwise think about applying to Harvard.”

In her first year in office, Faust embraced Harvard’s traditional role at the forefront of higher education. In March, she testified before Congress on the dangers of continued flat federal funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which provides a large share of federal research dollars at Harvard and institutions across the country.

In her testimony, Faust decried five years of flat funding that, when inflation is figured in, translates to a 13 percent loss in purchasing power. The funding freeze may result in losing a generation of scientists, she said, as young researchers seeking grants become discouraged.

Faust also carried Harvard’s banner to China in March, delivering speeches at Peking University and Tsinghua University and leading a group of top faculty and administrators to an international Harvard Alumni Association conference. In her speech at Peking University, where she was given an honorary degree, the president described Harvard’s efforts to embrace students of all backgrounds and reach across national boundaries for knowledge and partnerships.

“It is our responsibility that the principles of openness, the habits of curiosity, the dedication to a community of learning be sustained and nourished for the next century to come,” Faust said in her speech.

In January, a University-wide academic calendar was announced. The coordinated calendar, created by the University Committee on Calendar Reform, led by Provost Steven Hyman and Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba, will put all of Harvard’s Schools on the same schedule, coordinating Thanksgiving and winter and spring breaks, and easing cross-School registration.

The changes, effective with the 2009-10 academic year, are expected to facilitate and encourage exchanges across School and discipline boundaries. Said Faust: “This is a crucial milestone in our ongoing efforts to make Harvard a more collaborative and integrated institution. I am grateful for the leadership of Provost Hyman and Professor Verba, the efforts of the University Committee on Calendar Reform, and the tremendous dedication of our Schools’ registrars and faculty in helping to make this happen.”

The calendar will feature an early September start to the fall semester, with exams in December before winter break, spring classes beginning in late January with Commencement in late May, coordinated Thanksgiving and spring breaks, and a three-week optional session in January.

The optional session allows academic enhancements such as study abroad experiences, laboratory sessions, and minicourses.

In September, Harvard launched the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the first new School at the University in 70 years.

The creation of SEAS from a former division of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, long championed by Dean Venkatesh Narayanamurti, started a new era for science and engineering at Harvard. Although Harvard’s first engineering school was dissolved in 1906, the University has a long history of making practical and applied contributions to the field, such as the first large-scale automatic digital computer and the discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance, which led to new medical imaging technology, among many others.

Construction began this year on Harvard’s Allston science complex. The new, four-building complex is the first of many that will transform the Harvard-owned properties into an environmentally friendly academic area.

A renovation of Harvard’s undergraduate Houses is also in the works. Announced in April, the project will be long and careful, designed to enhance House life, and may take as many as 15 years to complete.

“The Houses have been a defining feature of Harvard College life since the House system was introduced in the days of President Lowell,” Faust said. “They are not just places to live, but communities for learning, and renewing them is very much part of the larger effort to enhance the undergraduate experience, both educationally and socially.”

Smith and Director of Athletics and Interim Executive Dean of FAS Bob Scalise announced in March another enhancement: the purchase of new fitness equipment for the Malkin Athletic Center, whose own renovation concluded in the fall.

The purchase included new video-capable treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bicycles. Scalise thanked Faust for making the funding available, acquired through a donation by Elizabeth and Richard Cashin.

In April, the University announced the largest-ever donation by an alumnus: $100 million by David Rockefeller, a longtime benefactor of the University and a member of the Harvard College Class of 1936. The donation is intended to increase the opportunities for Harvard undergraduates to learn from international experiences and participation in the arts.

“Harvard opened my eyes and my mind to the world,” Rockefeller said in making the gift. “It was because of Harvard’s language requirement that I spent the summer of 1933 in Germany and saw firsthand the ominous rise of fascism. And it was at Harvard that I first studied art history. Harvard provided me with an intellectual framework to understand what I was seeing and experiencing that has stayed with me for my entire life.”

Faust announced in November that she was creating a University-wide task force to examine the arts at Harvard. The task force is charged with examining the role of the arts at a research university, in a liberal arts education, and at Harvard specifically. It will look both within and beyond the curriculum, as well as explore how Harvard can encourage connections between arts activities and science, technology, humanities, and other fields.

Cogan University Professor Stephen Greenblatt is chairing the task force, whose membership is drawn from faculty, students, and others across the University.

“Harvard has always had enormous strengths in the arts, and never more so than today, but we have had equally strong ambivalence about the role of performance and practice in the curriculum and in the life of the University. It has been many years since Harvard has attempted to define its aspirations and opportunities in the arts in a systematic way,” Faust said.

This year also brought the promise of future environmental action. In February, Faust announced a task force of faculty, students, and administrators who would work together to examine Harvard’s greenhouse gas emissions and recommend a University-wide greenhouse gas reduction goal. The move is the latest taken by the University to reduce its environmental impact. The University has received recognition in the past for its efforts to reduce and recycle waste, in building renovation, and in other areas.

The learning and living environment within Harvard is the focus of another task force, this one appointed by Faust in April. The committee’s charge is to examine the physical environment of Harvard’s Cambridge campus to find ways to enhance its support of the University’s intellectual and social life. Led by Lizabeth Cohen, Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, and Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the Graduate School of Design, the committee is made up of faculty, students, and staff.

“The Harvard campus has always been an evolving site, responding, at each stage of its history, to the intellectual and social needs of its community,” said Mostafavi. “We have the opportunity to systematically reconsider parts of our campus and create places that not only respond to our current needs but also anticipate future possibilities.”