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Dean’s Office

A call to action from Dean Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams

This is a crucial moment for public health in the United States and around the world, and we at the Harvard Chan School have an imperative to both serve and lead.

We must confront the many challenges that threaten global health. We must develop creative and pragmatic solutions. We must empower both systemic change and individual action.

To borrow a phrase from Toni Morrison, we must work toward the world as it ought to be.

Supporting and strengthening our community

The Dean’s Office is here to give you the support you need—as faculty, as students, as staff—to accomplish those bold goals.

We support you as you explore new ideas and generate new knowledge. And we support you in translating those insights into policies and practices that make a difference for the world.

Here’s how we intend to strengthen our community in the coming year across three critical dimensions:


We have brought together extraordinary talent at Harvard Chan. This year, we will continue our ongoing drive to recruit faculty, staff, and students who bring diverse perspectives and a deep commitment to our community and to the cause of public health. For students, our focus is boosting financial aid, expanding fellowships, and providing more hands-on, field-based learning opportunities. Faculty will see increased institutional support for junior faculty and an investment in pioneering, multidisciplinary research initiatives.


We are tackling the most critical challenges facing our planet, including deadly outbreaks of infectious disease; the fatal consequences of global warming; inequity, injustice, and the trauma and violence that follow. This year, we are driving with fierce urgency to turn knowledge into action—action that will save lives. We will optimize resources across the School to advance critical research and education. Another crucial focus: Effectively communicating our insights to policy makers and the public at large as we mobilize as a society to face these emergent challenges.


To achieve our goals, we need more than labs and classrooms. This year, we will improve the institutional support that positions our faculty to win highly competitive grants; bolster platforms that promote team-based and interdepartmental research; and build on the exceptional quality of education at Harvard Chan. We will also strengthen our development and communications infrastructure to enable this growth.

At the start of the academic year, I wrote to our community:

More than anything, I’m in awe of how each of you has risen to meet this very moment. It’s certainly easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the unprecedented global health challenges before us. But those challenges are the reason we’re all here—and precisely why we’re called to public health.

And from what I’ve witnessed this last year-plus, nothing has deterred you. Instead, you are motivated. You’ve chosen to run toward some of the greatest threats we face in today’s world—and you are poised to make a powerful impact and lasting contribution.

It is such a privilege to lead this community. I look forward to our work together to build the world that ought to be.

Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty

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