March 28, 2012

Associate Dean Prof. Harris Named Provost of Tufts

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Prof. David Harris, sociology, and senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has been appointed Tufts University’s next provost and senior vice president. Harris — who has served in several administrative positions since he first came to Cornell in 2003 — will join Tufts’ leadership July 1.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity,” Harris said. “I will be able to take lots of what I learned here at Cornell — doing everything from being a faculty member, being a provost and being an associate dean — to help lead Tufts to achieve its goal.”

Harris said he was contacted about the Tufts position in November.

At Cornell, Harris is currently completing his term as interim co-director of the Africana Studies and Research Center, an appointment that ignited backlash among students amid the transfer of Africana into the arts college. Harris and Prof. Elizabeth Adkins Regan, psychology and biology, were appointed to lead Africana in August after the arts college failed to find someone “both willing to serve and acceptable to a substantial majority of the Africana faculty,” Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Peter Lepage told The Sun last year.

Africana is currently conducting a search for a new director, a University press release stated.

Prior to his term as senior associate dean, Harris also served as Cornell’s first vice provost for social sciences, deputy provost and interim senior vice provost for research, according to the press release. During his time at Cornell, Harris focused on reducing racial disparities in college achievement, increasing faculty recruitment and retention and improving learning for undergraduate and graduates, the press release stated.

Additionally, Harris left Cornell in 2010 to serve as the deputy assistant secretary for human services policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, working under the Obama administration, The Sun reported in March.

But when Harris first came to Cornell, after teaching at the University of Michigan as an assistant professor, he said he “didn’t expect to be an administrator.”

“Part of the reason I left Michigan was because I didn’t want to do administrative things; I wanted to do research and teaching,” Harris said, adding, “that’s why I was attracted to Cornell.”

Still, Harris said, “it didn’t work out that way.”

“I had certain talents that other people were aware of, and once I got here, I ended up getting involved in administration,” he said. “It was great — very fulfilling, very challenging and wonderful.”

In a University press release, Lepage called Harris “a spectacular asset to the college.”

“He’s made tremendous contributions to Cornell,” Lepage said. “Although we’re thrilled for David, we’re sorry to be losing him.”

Reflecting on his experiences at the University, Harris said he felt “really privileged to have had the chance to work at Cornell.”

“The thing I’m most proud of being a part of at Cornell was being an individual who worked on the University’s financial aid initiatives in 2007,” Harris said, adding, “that, to me, was very important.”

The most challenging part of his Cornell career, Harris said, was serving as the University’s interim provost in 2008 — “when the financial crisis hit.”

“It was on my watch when Cornell lost huge amounts of its endowment and faced significant financial challenges,” he said. “As the interim provost, it fell on me to help lead the University through the period.”

Looking to the future, Harris said he is excited to bring his experiences from Cornell to Tufts University.

“They’re both really great universities,” he said. “It’s a really great honor.”

Original Author: Akane Otani