Dear GSAS Students,
As you know from my email in February 2020, Garth McCavana, dean for student affairs, will retire from his position at the end of the academic year after serving GSAS for 26 years and Harvard for 32 years. I am pleased to share that Patrick O’Brien, GSAS’s assistant dean of student affairs, has agreed to serve as interim dean of students effective July 1, 2020, as GSAS searches for Dean McCavana’s replacement.
Assistant Dean O’Brien came to GSAS in 2009 as the special students and visiting fellows officer. He became assistant dean in 2014, where he serves as a point of contact and resource for students, faculty, and staff in communicating and interpreting GSAS policy and procedure. He also monitors graduate students’ status in maintaining satisfactory academic progress and advises students on administrative interaction and processes within FAS and across campus.
Patrick earned a BA in Communications–Public Relations & Advertising from the University of Houston’s School of Communications and a MEd in higher education administration from Boston University’s School of Education. His strong background in higher education administration, both at Harvard and at New York University and the University of Texas at Austin, make him the ideal person to step into this interim role.
The search for a new dean for student affairs is ongoing, and I welcome your input. If you have thoughts to share about priorities for the search and for the new dean, please email
With all best wishes,

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

Interim Dean of Students Announced