Dean of Arts and Sciences
As Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Dianne Harris is primarily responsible for establishing and implementing a vision and strategic priorities for the College, and for stewardship of the College’s resources. Keeping the University of Washington’s mission at the center of her work, Harris is privileged to work daily to ensure that students, staff, and faculty throughout the College can thrive and succeed. She works collaboratively with the four divisional deans, members of her Dean’s Office leadership team, department chairs and directors, and other staff and faculty to support the very best liberal arts education and a research enterprise that has a positive impact on the lives of all those in our region and beyond.
Harris’s role includes providing leadership and guidance for undergraduate and graduate education, a research enterprise that averages $120 million annually, fundraising for the College, and supporting infrastructure throughout the College. She feels honored to hold this position and regards it as an opportunity to give back and to lift up others through leadership.
A professor of history, Harris began her appointment as dean on September 1, 2021. She was previously a senior program officer with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Higher Learning program and was dean of the College of Humanities and professor of history at the University of Utah.
At the University of Utah, Harris substantially increased the number of underrepresented tenure-line faculty and generated retention-oriented programs; raised the research profile of the college; supported the creation of a digital humanities center; and supported a number of undergraduate student success initiatives.
At the Mellon Foundation, Harris’s responsibilities included program leadership, strategic framework generation, grantmaking innovation, program staff supervision, and the collaborative allocation of a grantmaking budget of $115-$130 million per year. Her grantmaking portfolio included leadership for a range of initiatives with a social justice and access-oriented focus, including higher education in prison, community college transfer pathways, and the reimagined humanities doctorate in the 21st century.
Throughout her career, Harris has been a tireless supporter of the humanities. As a principal investigator for many grants, she has fostered interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation in the humanities, including creating the “Humanities Without Walls” consortium, which includes support for cross-institutional research collaboration, and an innovative program of summer workshops for pre-doctoral students in the humanities who wish to seek careers outside the academy.
Just prior to the 2016 presidential election, Harris was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Council on the Humanities, although her nomination was suspended due to the results of that election.
Harris earned her Ph.D. in architecture/history of architecture, master’s degree in architecture, and bachelor’s degree with a major in landscape architecture, all at the University of California, Berkeley. Her scholarship, which has a broad temporal and geographic reach spanning from 18th-century Lombardy to the postwar United States, is united by a sustained focus on the relationship between the built environment and the construction of racial and class identities. An interdisciplinary scholar whose work focuses on visual and material culture as well as histories of the built environment, Harris is particularly well-known for her scholarly contributions to the study of race and space. In addition to her many essays and scholarly articles, she is the sole author of three monographs, editor of an additional three volumes, and a series editor for the University of Pittsburgh Press.