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New Dean for Arts & Sciences

In September, weeks before new and returning students arrive on campus, Dianne Harris will join the University of Washington as dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Her appointment begins on September 1, following the retirement of longtime dean Robert Stacey on August 30.

Dianne Harris headshot

"As someone who has embraced collaboration and interdisciplinary scholarship throughout her career, I'm particularly pleased to be stepping into this leadership role in a college that is replete with such opportunities,” Dianne Harris says of her appointment.

Dianne Harris’s background includes leadership roles in academia and beyond. After serving as dean of the College of Humanities and professor of history at the University of Utah, she is now a senior program officer with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Higher Learning program.

"I am thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to lead this outstanding college within a university I have long admired for its exemplary leadership, and for its excellence in every facet of the academic mission,” Harris says of her appointment. “My deepest personal and career commitments have been to the public universities that have meant so much to me, to my family, and to the lives of so many others, so it's a particular joy for me to be joining the UW.”

 

A commitment to access, diversity, equity, and inclusion

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 include 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 includes 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.

 I am thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to lead this outstanding college within a university I have long admired.

Harris’s work at the Mellon Foundation includes programs on diversifying higher education leadership, building a more diverse academy, support for American Indian and Indigenous studies and tribal colleges, scholars at risk/in exile and the Just Futures Initiative competition. She leads the annual New Directions Fellowship competition and a range of initiatives on the public humanities, interdisciplinary programs, and public research universities.

“Dr. Harris’s track record of scholarly and administrative work reflects her commitment to expanding access, diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education,” says UW Provost Mark A. Richards.

 

Supporter of the Humanities

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.

Harris now looks forward to her role as Dean of the UW College of Arts & Sciences.

“The breadth and depth of excellence that resides among the many facets of the College of Arts and Sciences and — most importantly — among its faculty, students, and staff is breathtaking, and their work results in the innovative production of new knowledge our world and our students need now, more than ever. As someone who has embraced collaboration and interdisciplinary scholarship throughout her career, I'm particularly pleased to be stepping into this leadership role in a college that is replete with such opportunities, and where students and faculty are tackling some of the thorniest grand challenge issues of our time from a wide range of perspectives and approaches."

As we prepare for the coming academic year, we look forward to Dianne Harris’s arrival and thank Robert Stacey for his many years of exceptional leadership.