Welcome to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University (GSAS). Each year, GSAS identifies and attracts the most promising students to form a dynamic and diverse global community, shaping them into visionary scholars, innovative educators, and creative leaders while encouraging them to cross disciplinary boundaries. Graduate students are at the heart of Harvard’s excellence in research and education, studying with distinguished faculty and accessing world-renowned research centers, scholarly collections, and museums. We are proud of this diverse community, which represents many races, ethnicities, belief systems, nationalities, genders, and sexual orientations.

At GSAS, we build bridges between our students and alumni, who together form a community of 40,000 individuals. Our alumni live throughout the world and engage in a variety of careers, both academic and nonacademic, and the experiences they share support our graduate students as they conduct and complete their studies.

Whether advancing groundbreaking ideas or working alongside faculty and undergraduates, these teachers, mentors, and innovators are pushing the boundaries of what we know and how we learn. Their research, begun at Harvard, has the potential to shape the future of our world.

Emma Dench
Interim Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of the Classics

About Interim Dean Emma Dench

Emma Dench was born in York, grew up near Stratford-Upon-Avon, and studied at Wadham College, Oxford (BA Hons Literae Humaniores) and at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford (DPhil in Ancient History). Before taking up a joint appointment in the Departments of the Classics and of History at Harvard in January 2007, she taught classics and ancient history at Birkbeck College, University of London. She has been a Craven Fellow at the University of Oxford, a Rome Scholar and a Hugh Last Fellow at the British School of Rome, a Cotton Fellow, a Member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and a Visiting Professor of the Classics and of History at Harvard, and a Loeb Classical Library Foundation Fellow.

Dench is the author of From Barbarians to New Men: Greek, Roman, and Modern Perceptions of Peoples from the Central Apennines and Romulus’ Asylum: Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian. She is currently completing “Imperialism and Culture in the Roman World” for the Cambridge University Press series Key Themes in Ancient History. Other current projects include a study of the retrospective writing of the Roman Republican past in classical antiquity.

While at Harvard, Dench received a Harvard College Professorship in recognition of “outstanding contributions to undergraduate teaching, mentoring, and advising,” a Marquand Award for Excellent Advising and Counseling, and an Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award for her mentorship of graduate students. 

About Dean Xiao-Li Meng

Xiao Li Meng

Welcome from Dean Meng

Dean Xiao-Li Meng is on sabbatical for the 2017–2018 academic year

Whether you are a prospective applicant or longtime alum, I hope you will be informed, inspired, or even surprised by what you learn on this website. GSAS is the only School that interacts with all of Harvard’s professional schools, through interfaculty programs and coordinated degrees such as the MD/PhD and the JD/PhD. As such, the landscape of GSAS is vast, complex, and ever evolving, with 57 degree programs, more than 4,200 students, 34,000 living alumni, and still counting. I have had the great fortune to learn firsthand about GSAS for over two decades, first as a student, then a faculty member, a department chair, and now as dean. Yet I doubt I could ever pass a “Dean’s Defense,” even if it only focused on the most recent major accomplishments of GSAS students or alumni—I am constantly surprised by the number of new advances made, and by how fast they happen, at GSAS.

But the world out there is evolving even faster, globalizing and individualizing simultaneously in numerous ways. Therefore, to fully prepare our graduates to be the leaders and builders of our global community as we enter deeper into the digital age, GSAS, working with faculty, students, and alumni, is making an unprecedented effort to enhance both intellectual training and professional development for our students. Recent initiatives include a Center for Writing and Communicating Ideas (established in academic year 2015–2016) that emphasizes discipline-specific writing and communication skills; a $2,500 professional development fund for every PhD candidate (beginning with the students who entered in fall 2015); and the Harvard Horizons program (inaugurated in 2013), which showcases top PhD research and communications skills. I invite you to check out these and other programs and opportunities at GSAS—particularly the Harvard Horizons Scholars’ presentations. You might be surprised by the breadth of the topics and the effectiveness of a well-designed and expertly-delivered short talk.

These are just a few examples of what GSAS aims to be: a global leader and innovator of graduate education. Guided by this vision, we work tirelessly to support our students through the “four seasons” of graduate school:

  • Entering: by identifying and attracting the most promising students around the globe regardless of their backgrounds;
  • During: by providing students with the deepest intellectual training and the broadest professional development;
  • Departing: by facilitating and encouraging our students to launch a career that best fits their passion and training;
  • Returning: by building mutually beneficial bridging programs for alumni and students, providing opportunities for career advice and networking, as well as intellectual engagement.

In a nutshell, GSAS is a dynamic and diverse global community of—and incubator for—visionary scholars, innovative educators, and creative leaders and builders from all walks of life. For those of you who are already students or alumni of GSAS, I thank you for your contributions to our mission and appreciate your continuing engagement and support in whatever ways you find most effective. For those who are contemplating studying here, my line of persuasion is simple: we don’t settle for higher education—we aim for the highest education.

Thank you again and enjoy browsing, 

Xiao-Li Meng, PhD '90
Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Whipple V. N. Jones Professor of Statistics

Dean's Short Bio

Xiao-Li Meng, dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), Whipple V. N. Jones Professor of Statistics, and former chair of the Department of Statistics, is well known for his depth and breadth in research, his innovation and passion in pedagogy, and his vision and effectiveness in administration, as well as for his engaging and entertaining style as a speaker and writer. His interests range from the theoretical foundations of statistical inferences to statistical methods and computation to applications in natural, social, and medical sciences, and engineering.

Meng has received numerous awards and honors for the more than 150 publications he has authored in a dozen theoretical and methodological areas, as well as in areas of pedagogy and professional development. He has delivered more than 400 research presentations and public speeches on these topics, and he is the author of “The XL-Files," a regularly appearing column in the IMS (Institute of Mathematical Statistics) Bulletin.

Meng received his BS in mathematics from Fudan University in 1982 and his PhD in statistics from Harvard in 1990. He served on the faculty of the University of Chicago from 1991 to 2001 before returning to Harvard as professor of statistics, where he was appointed department chair in 2004 and the Whipple V. N. Jones Professor in 2007. He became dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2012. 

Dean's Biography

Xiao-Li Meng is the Dean of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), Whipple V. N. Jones Professor and former chair of Statistics at Harvard, an Honorary Professor of the University of Hong Kong, and a faculty affiliate at the Center of Health Statistics at the University of Chicago. He is well known for his depth and breadth in research, his innovation and passion in pedagogy, and his vision and effectiveness in administration, as well as for his engaging and entertaining style as a speaker and a writer.

Meng, a native of Shanghai, China, started his academic career at the age of 19, when he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Fudan University. After two years of teaching at China Textile University, he went back to Fudan and received a Diploma in Graduate Study in Mathematical Statistics in 1986. He then entered the Harvard Statistics Department, from which he was awarded his PhD in 1990. He was on the faculty of the University of Chicago from 1991 to 2001, before returning to Harvard as Professor of Statistics. He was appointed as the department chair in 2004, and the Whipple V. N. Jones Professor in 2007. He was appointed GSAS Dean effective August 15, 2012.

Meng has authored more than 150 publications in more than a dozen theoretical and methodological areas, and was ranked by Science Watch (May/June 2002) as one of the world’s top-25 most-cited mathematicians for articles published and cited during 1991–2000. His work spans from theoretical foundations of statistical inferences (e.g., the interplay among Bayesian, frequentist, and fiducial perspectives; quantify ignorance via invariance principles; multi-party inferences), to statistical methods and computation (e.g., posterior predictive p-value; EM algorithm; Markov chain Monet Carlo; bridge and path sampling), to a wide range of applications in natural, social, and medical sciences and engineering (e.g., complex statistical modeling in astronomy and astrophysics; quantifying statistical information in genetic studies; detecting and estimating trends in environmental and geophysical measurements; measuring disparities in Latino and Asian mental health services; assessing reporting delay in AIDS surveillance systems; and de-noising and de-mosaicing in digital cameras).

For his research contributions, Meng received the 2001 COPSS (Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies) Award, the most prestigious award by five statistical societies to a single statistician annually for being “The outstanding statistician under the age of forty.” He also received the 2003 Distinguished Achievement Award from International Chinese Statistics Association (ICSA), and was elected fellow by Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) in 1997 and by American Statistical Association (ASA) in 2004. Most recently, he was the 2010 Medallion Lecturer of IMS, 2011 Mosteller Statistician of the Year by ASA Boston Chapter, the recipient of a 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award by Fudan University, and a recipient of the inaugural (2012) PL Hsu Award for distinguished achievements in research and education by a statistician under the age of fifty. His research accomplishment together with his presentation style has made him a much sought-after speaker in statistics and neighboring fields, with over 300 seminars, keynotes, and banquet speeches since his PhD.

In additional to his research presentations, he is also a frequently invited speaker to teaching conferences and career development workshops for his pedagogical innovations and leadership. He is internationally known for his Real-Life Statistics: Your Chance for Happiness (or Misery), a general education course at Harvard that he designed and taught with the help of his “Happy Team,” a dozen master's and PhD students in statistics. The pioneering project of directly involving graduate students in designing undergraduate courses, and hence providing them with hands-on pedagogical training, together with his other innovations—such as a year-long required course on teaching and communication skills for all first-year PhD students (The Art and Practice of Teaching Statistics)—helped win Harvard Statistics, in 2008, a $25,000 GSAS Dean’s Prize for Innovations in Graduate Education at Harvard.

The impact of these innovations is also reflected in the fact that statistics PhD students have won the Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates every year since the award’s inception in 2007. Meng’s effort in helping students’ career development has led to students’ nomination of him for the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award in 2009–2010. For similar efforts, previously he was nominated by students and awarded the 1997–1998 University of Chicago Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.

Meng is also known as a dedicated citizen and energetic leader in the statistical profession. He has served on the editorial boards of nearly all leading statistical journals such as IMS’s flagship journal The Annals of Statistics and ASA’s The Journal of American Statistical Association, as well as the co-chair editor of ICSA’s flagship journal Statistica Sinica (2005–2008). Currently he is the statistics editor for IMS-CUP (Cambridge University Press) Series on Monographs and Textbooks. He has served on numerous national and international professional committees and governing boards, including chairing the 2004 Joint Statistical Meetings and the Committee on Meetings of ASA. His recent articles on the future of statistics in American Statisticians (2009/2010) “Desired and Feared—What Do We Do Now and in the Next 50 Years?” and on gateway statistical education in Amstat News (2009/2010) “AP Statistics:  Passion, Paradox, and Pressure” have sparked much discussion and debate in the statistical profession. For his services and contributions as such, he was awarded the ICSA Distinguished Service Award in 2008, and was selected as the final two candidates by ASA nomination committee as vice president and as president of ASA in 2006 and 2008 respectively.

At Harvard, Meng is appreciated for his chair’s role in reforming the statistics department into a role model in FAS in terms of education programs at all levels and interdisciplinary outreach on all fronts. During his time as chair, the department doubled its faculty size, tripled its graduate program, and increased its undergraduate concentration tenfold. Course enrollments also went up dramatically, from more than 1,100 to over 2,500, partially due to the introduction of subject oriented statistics (SOS) courses, another pedagogy idea Meng advocates in the statistical profession. He also introduced social gatherings such as “Applied Probability Night” (poker and other games), annual holiday talent shows, and departmental lunches (Chinese catering) to improve the interactions among faculty, graduate and undergraduate students outside the classroom. These efforts helped to change the statistics department from one of the most isolated departments in FAS to one with the reputation of being “notoriously friendly and cozy bunch” among students. The department also entered, for the first time in its 50-year history, the top three statistics departments in the nation, as ranked by the US News & World Report.

Meng worked closely with alumni to establish the first endowed biennial distinguished teaching lecture and junior faculty/teaching fellow awards (David Pickard Memorial Fund) and graduate student research awards (Art Dempster Fund) in statistics. He also led the faculty to engage itself in periodical vision and mission planning, including the Long-term Strategic Planning (2004), Interdisciplinary Science Planning (2006), and Five-Year Academic Plan (2008).

As a mark of his effectiveness as a department chair, Meng was elected to the FAS Faculty Council (2007–2010) and appointed to the Task Force on Teaching and Career Development (2006–2007), the Committee on Pedagogical Improvement (2004–2009), the Committee on Undergraduate Education (2007–2009), and the Graduate Policy Committee (2008–present), all at FAS. In each of these capacities, Meng advocates that faculty members at top research universities should possess “both beautiful minds for research and beautiful hearts for teaching.”