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John Harvard's Journal

Doctoral Director

March-April 2008

Allan M. Brandt became dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), on January 1. A historian of science, Brandt holds a joint appointment as Kass professor of the history of medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS). The appointment was announced on December 12 (see www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/12.13/99-gsas.html).

Brandt will succeed Theda Skocpol, Thomas professor of government and sociology, who became dean in 2005 but announced her intention to step down last spring. She made her final report to the faculty at an FAS meeting on December 11; in it she highlighted forthcoming increases in financial aid for doctoral students in the social sciences and humanities, and new funds that will allow more graduate students in the sciences and engineering to be admitted across the University. (For details, see “Gains for Graduate Students,” page 58, on the financial initiatives, and “Focusing on the Ph.D.,” page 64, on Skocpol’s tenure.)

Brandt chaired the history of science department during the 2000-2001 through 2005-2006 academic years. That administrative experience, his dual appointments in FAS and HMS, and the nature of his academic work should serve him well in his new responsibilities. As Skocpol noted, the GSAS deanship is neither organizationally powerful nor equipped with the financial resources available to the deans of Harvard’s separate faculties. But it affords access to exciting research, faculty members, and graduate students across the University, because GSAS is the steward of all of Harvard’s Ph.D. programs, many crossing disciplinary and even school boundaries (see www.gsas.harvard.edu/programs_of_study/programs_of_study.php for a complete list).

Of immediate relevance, during the fall term, Brandt (although on leave) began participating in the Graduate Policy Committee, which Skocpol established to review GSAS programs, resources, and directions. In that capacity, he worked directly with deans and faculty members in FAS, HMS, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and with GSAS administrative staff.

A Brandeis graduate who earned a Ph.D. in American history from Columbia in 1983, Brandt taught at Harvard from 1982 to 1990, and then returned in 1992. He has offered a popular undergraduate Core course, Historical Study A-34, “Medicine and Society in America,” and writes on the social and ethical aspects of health, disease, and medical practice, focusing on twentieth-century America. No Magic Bullet explores venereal disease. The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America, examines the tobacco industry (see “The Fall of the House of Ashes?” July-August 1996, page 19, on the research then in progress). It won the Albert J. Beveridge Prize of the American Historical Association and the Arthur Viseltear Prize of the American Public Health Association. On his website for the book, Brandt wrote, “We now confront a worldwide pandemic of tobacco-related diseases as cigarette use has spread.…It is my hope that The Cigarette Century provides a strong foundation for a critical discussion of new strategies to avert a potential global health disaster.”

As a scholar, Brandt has been involved in graduate training at the master’s and doctoral level within both FAS and HMS; the latter’s Ph.D. programs are offered through FAS’s departments of anthropology and history of science. In 2005, he was appointed director of a new social-sciences track in the joint M.D.-Ph.D. program, combining work in anthropology, health policy, government, or psychology with clinical medicine (www.hms.harvard.edu/md_phd/program/sstrack.htm). In earlier FAS discussions concerning revision of the undergraduate curriculum, Brandt urged broad perspectives on how faculties from other Harvard schools might be further involved in education in the College, and advocated a holistic assessment of students’ coursework, extracurricular activities, and study abroad. He has also served as the director of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments (see “Telltale Apparatus,” March-April 2006, page 42).

In the official announcement, FAS dean Michael D. Smith noted, “Allan is an exceptional scholar and teacher who will bring to the position a deep understanding of the complex issues facing the graduate school.…[H]is service on committees, experience as a department chair, and his service as the director of the social-sciences track of the M.D.-Ph.D. program give him a unique background on which to draw when looking broadly at our graduate programs….With creative energy, enthusiasm, and a collaborative spirit, Allan will continue to move us forward in the areas of teaching, training, and funding for graduate students….”