Friday, June 08, 2007

Harvard's New Dean

If you haven't heard the news, Michael Smith, a computer science professor renowned for his work in compilers, programming languages, and security, has been named the next Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences here at Harvard. This is great for many reasons:
  1. It's great for Harvard. Mike has served as associate dean (which equals chair in Harvard-speak) for EE and CS here; he is a fantastic administrator with great insight and vision. He knows how to build consensus and get positive things done. We need that here.
  2. It's great for computer science. Mike will have a large presence in the world of higher education; this will improve the visibility of computer science in the always-important administrative circles.
  3. It's great for applied science at Harvard. Harvard has been talking a lot about improving its applied science programs; Mike has the background and knowledge to continue to make these improvements happen.
However, I can't help but be a bit saddened by his selection.
  1. It's a bit of a blow to computer science at Harvard. We're losing one of the key figures in our department. Sure, technically he'll still be around, but we won't have the immediate benefit of his leadership.
  2. It's a deep personal loss. Mike has been in the office next to me pretty much since I arrived at Harvard. He's been a mentor and a friend. Sure, technically he'll still be around, but I won't be able to just pop my head in next door anymore. I'll probably have to make an appointment.
The times are a-changing for the better here. Best of luck, Mike!


GASARCH said...

This is an example of the paradox (if thats the right
word) of hiring a great
researcher to an admin position. External searches
for chairman are like that--- you hire a brilliant
researcher to do admin stuff.
Of course, when they finish up their chairmanship they are in your dept so you want someone
good, but its still odd
to use one criteria for
hiring and a different one for the job.

Eugene Wallingford said...

The same is true at schools that emphasize teaching. An external search often looks for a great teacher, but great teachers don't necessarily make great administrators -- or like administration as much as they thought they would. I was hired as head through an internal search and am learning a lot of what it takes to be an effective administrator. o much of that involves interacting with the public these days, so teaching experience helps.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Mike will give you a promotion after all of your apple-polishing....sheesh.