David Harris to serve as next university provost


University President Anthony Monaco in an email to the Tufts community on March 28 announced that David Harris had been selected as Tufts’ next provost and senior vice president. Harris will assume these posts on July 1.  

Harris is currently senior associate dean at Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences and previously served as deputy assistant secretary for human services policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama administration.

Prior to his position as dean, Harris served as Cornell’s vice provost, deputy provost and interim provost. Before his tenure at Cornell, Harris was the associate chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan. He earned his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University and was the first in his family to graduate from college, according to the Tufts Office of Public Relations’ March 28 press release.

“In my time at Cornell, I was involved in many of the key issues that contemporary research universities face, including diversity, recruitment and retention of talented faculty and students; access and affordability; interdisciplinarity; and budget challenges,” Harris told the Daily in an email. “I look forward to working on these issues, and many others, with the Tufts community.”

“I will be bringing to Tufts my experience as an academic, a senior administrator, and a federal official,” he said. “I believe that my experiences and style will serve me well as I work with President Monaco, his leadership team, faculty, staff, students, alumni and other friends of Tufts to refine and achieve Tufts’ goals.”

“[Harris’] distinctive range of experiences and expertise will be invaluable as we chart a course that will position Tufts University to address the great global challenges of our times,” University President Anthony Monaco wrote in his email to the Tufts community announcing Harris’ selection. “[Harris] has an exceptional record of scholarship and academic leadership at Cornell … He is committed to the core values that define Tufts as an institution of academic excellence and global impact, including active citizenship, access and diversity.”

The role of provost and senior vice president includes a wide array of academic, administrative and leadership roles, Harris said.

“As provost and senior vice president, I will be Tufts’ chief academic officer and the senior member of the president’s leadership team,” he said. “My most important long-term goals will be to lead the collaborative effort both to draft a strategic plan for the university, and then to achieve the plan’s goals. My more immediate, but no less critical goals will be to develop a deep understanding of Tufts’ programs and a strong relationship with the Tufts community, particularly its extraordinary faculty.”

Harris will succeed Vice Provost Peggy Newell, who has served as interim provost and senior vice president since former provost Jamshed Bharucha left Tufts last summer to fulfill his appointment as president of The Cooper Union.

The provost search committee spent a year looking for a replacement for Bharucha, incorporating input from all of Tufts’ schools and considering applicants from a pool of outstanding individuals, according to Fletcher School Professor of International Politics Vali Nasr, who led the search committee. 

“The emphasis [was] academic excellence, entrepreneurship, energy, youth and commitment to be transformative. In other words, not just a great manager, but a visionary who would continue the transformation of the university,” Nasr said. “Everybody wanted a … provost who would understand the complexity of Tufts.”

Nasr said that the committee was impressed by Harris’ leadership at Cornell, an Ivy League university, and his experience in government. 

“We were very dazzled by his youth, by his energy, by his vision, his experience,” Nasr said.

Nasr said that Harris would need some time to adjust to his new role.

“He will have to get familiar with ongoing projects … [and] interdisciplinary initiatives that we have,” he said. “Then he will … get his hands in to the day-to-day affairs that are the domain of the provost.”

Harris said he is excited to learn more about Tufts and has already started meeting members of the Tufts community.

“Most of my interactions have been with the search committee, President Monaco and members of his senior leadership team,” Harris said. “Over the past week, I have greatly enjoyed interacting with the many members of the Tufts community who have written to offer congratulatory words and advice in response to my appointment. I look forward to getting to know many more members of the Tufts community over the coming months.”

“I can’t wait to get started,” Harris said.