Clarisse Hart and Claudine Gay.

Harvard Forest staffer Clarisse Hart takes a selfie with Dean Claudine Gay.

Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Spotlight on staff excellence

3 min read

23 receive FAS Dean’s Distinction Award

Clarisse Hart works to build trust with the Nipmuc tribe who originally inhabited Harvard Forest. Joel Ramos innovated a process that makes livestreaming Division of Continuing Education classes more efficient. Both were among 23 staffers honored for their efforts across the University and beyond as recipients of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Distinction Award.

“I’ve been inspired by all the ways that the staff work to support our faculty, our students, and equally important, to support one another,” said Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the FAS, at the June 5 awards ceremony at Dunster House. “I feel tremendous gratitude for your tireless efforts to make Harvard even better.”

Eleven staff members plus two teams received the honor this year. Meredith Vasta, nominated for her labor inventorying a sensitive collection, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn what colleagues are doing across FAS.

“We’re so frequently focused on our own little individual worlds,” said Vasta. “It was wonderful to hear the wide variety of work that we all do to support the mission and goals of the institution.”

Veronica Leahy and Toussaint perform.

Veronica Leahy (saxophone) and Toussaint Miller (trumpet) perform at the ceremony; Angel Velarde of Administrative Operations is congratulated by Gay.

The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, one of two teams recognized this year, “reinvigorated (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) work with a renewed spirit and set a progressive tone for affirming and supporting historically marginalized students,” said Harvard College Associate Dean for Inclusion & Belonging Alta Mauro.

“This recognition from our peers, colleagues, and senior leaders is truly humbling and motivates us to continue striving for excellence in our future endeavors,” said Sadé Abraham, senior director at the Foundation.

Community-building was a theme of this year’s awards. Angel Velarde, a data analyst with Administrative Operations, was honored for being a “tireless advocate for fostering diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging.” The 15-year FAS veteran said he was happy to feel his work was valued.

Honorees also expressed excitement at the opportunity to meet Gay before she takes office as Harvard’s president on July 1. “She has been a game-changer,” Vasta said.

Abraham lauded Gay for her journey as FAS dean, calling it a “true inspiration” for staff members. “Her legacy and dedication to excellence will undoubtedly guide and motivate us in our future endeavors.”

The Dean’s Distinction Awards have been held since 2010, with a brief hiatus during the pandemic. This year there were 205 nominations from 55 departments.

Dean’s Distinction 2023 Recipients

• Velma DuPont, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research

• Clarisse Hart, Harvard Forest

• Eva Kim, Department of Music

• Taylor Maurice, Department of History

• Lauren O’Brien, Division of Continuing Education

• Camila Ossa, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology

• Joel Ramos, Division of Continuing Education

• Nekesa Straker, Residential Life, Harvard College

• Meredith Vasta, Peabody Museum

• Angel Velarde, Administrative Operations

• Teresa Wu, Department of the Classics

Team Dean’s Distinction Recipients

 The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations:

• Sadé Abraham

• Matias Ramos

• Marvin Glenn Baclig

• Hugo Cardona

• Alejandra Rincon

Department of Continuing Education Innovation Team:

• Christian Franco

• Christian Wisecarver

• Joshua Casoni

• Gregory Aimo

• Yared Kasu

• Alexandra Seckar-Bandow

• Cameron Seymour-Hawkins