FAS Dean Gay announces cluster search to expand faculty focused on climate

Harvard Yard in autumn,

Harvard Yard in autumn. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

3 min read

At the first in-person faculty meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences since February 2020, Edgerley Family Dean of the FAS Claudine Gay announced a cluster hire of three scholars specializing in the environment, climate, and sustainability. The hiring effort marks initial steps in advancing FAS research and teaching efforts focused on the climate change crisis.

At the meeting, Gay said the FAS plans to make up to three senior appointments focusing on climate and the environment during the next two years. She further described this effort as an opportunity to surface exciting candidates and catalyze additional hires beyond the cluster hire. The searches will commence immediately, and recruitment efforts are already underway.

Gay initially wrote to the FAS department chairs in June, inviting all departments to identify and nominate individuals for consideration.

“Recognizing that fighting the climate crisis requires engagement by the full breadth of academic disciplines, this opportunity is open to any FAS department,” said Gay in the message. “I believe we have an opportunity — unique in all of higher education—to convene a broader conversation about the climate, and for scholars across the FAS to work together to further understandings of our relationship to the environment and prepare our students to lead the fight against the myriad factors driving the climate crisis. Strengthening our community of faculty doing work in this area is critical to that ambition.”

Expanding the faculty is one part of an emerging climate agenda in the FAS.

“We also need to connect the faculty to an education that empowers our students to act,” said Gay at the faculty meeting. “We have an opportunity to offer an immersive and integrated learning approach that takes full advantage of our residential student experience and mobilizes all of our remarkable assets — from our collections to our huge network of alumni in climate-focused careers.”

Meanwhile, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has launched an open rank search for four positions in climate and energy science and technology.

The FAS and SEAS climate announcements come on the heels of the founding of the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability at Harvard, a new entity formed to advance and catalyze research programs across all of Harvard’s schools. The Institute is led by Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability Jim Stock, who also attended the FAS faculty meeting to share an update.

“The Salata Institute will bring together faculty and students across different disciplines and different Schools to work on some of the biggest and most difficult climate problems of our time,” Stock said. “Harvard’s tackling climate challenges is both a responsibility and an opportunity …. for us as scholars to shape how our respective fields handle climate change and the energy transition, that is, to shape the many ‘climate and’ fields that are just emerging.”