NYU President Andrew Hamilton and Provost Katherine E. Fleming announced March 27 in an open letter to the Graduate School of Arts and Science that professor Phillip Harper has been appointed the new Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science.
Harper, who has been on the faculty since 1995, is a humanities scholar with a specialty in American Literature, Gender Studies and other fields. He is the founding chair of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the former Department of English chair.
NYU Spokesperson Matt Nagel said that the university thinks Harper is the right person for this position, because his qualifications will lend to his ability to carry out the role.
“We are thrilled Professor Phillip Brian Harper has accepted the position,” Nagel said. “He is a well-respected scholar, a proven leader within GSAS, someone who has demonstrated great care for graduate students and a powerful advocate for graduate education.”
English Professor Christopher Cannon said that nobody in the department has Harper’s level of administrative experience.
“Phil [Harper] has an encyclopedic understanding of NYU, partly from having held so many administrative positions, but also because he has an extraordinarily fine mind for detail,” Cannon said. “I sometimes think no chair in English or the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis really should dare to make an important decision without consulting him first.”
Harper attributed his desire to apply to his experience as a joint-appointed administrator in both the the SCA and English departments.
“Once you take on administrative roles within your academic department, you become interested and participate in the overall scene of the whole education enterprise at a higher level than just within the department,” Harper said. “I’m interested in forwarding the activities of the larger Arts and Science unit, which I can do from a dean position but can not within [my] department.”
Harper said that his top priority will be to get familiar with all the activities across GSAS to understand what he needs to work on as a dean.
“Since my primary responsibility is to ensure a good experience for all graduate students and to support our faculty and departments in their educational and research mission, the best way to achieve that is first to meet everyone in all of those units, and to listen, listen, listen as much as I can about what the objectives are to all of them,” Harper said.
Like many faculty members in the Departments of SCA and English, Associate English Professor Elizabeth McHenry, who has worked with Harper for over 15 years, expressed her sadness at his departure.
“I will miss having daily contact with him in the English Department, where his leadership can be felt and seen in all of our practices,” McHenry said. “He has been an invaluable mentor in whom I’ve had a model for what it means to teach and conduct scholarship in the humanities at the highest level.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 3 print edition. Email Coco Wang at [email protected]