Indian-American professor Rakesh Khurana has been appointed dean of the prestigious Harvard College, becoming the latest addition to a long list of Indian-origin academicians assuming leadership roles at renowned global universities.
Khurana, 46, is currently the 'Marvin Bower' Professor of Leadership Development at Harvard Business School (HBS), professor of sociology in the Faculty of Arts?and Sciences (FAS), and co-master of Cabot House at Harvard.
He succeeds Evelynn Hammonds, Professor of History of Science and of African and African American Studies?at Harvard and will assume his new role on July 1. Harvard College is the school within Harvard University that grants undergraduate degrees.
Khurana earned his Ph.D. through a joint programme between HBS and Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1998. Harvard President Drew Faust described Khurana as a "faculty leader who embodies the interconnectedness" of Harvard.
"His experiences as a graduate student, an award-winning teacher at HBS, and the master of an undergraduate House give him a unique perspective on the University, and his deep respect for the liberal-arts model and the residential education will serve him well as he guides Harvard College," Faust said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
Following the announcement, Khurana said he is "honored" to have the opportunity to serve the College and work with the faculty, students, and staff to create a "transformative educational experience for our students. I am convinced that, working together, we will have a significant and positive impact on the College."
Although Khurana did not attend the College himself, he said, "one of the benefits of being a House master is that you get some window into student?experiences." FAS dean Michael Smith, who announced the appointment in an email to the FAS community, praised Khurana as a scholar and teacher with deep experience working?with undergraduates and a strong commitment to the College.
He said Khurana is a "distinguished scholar of organizational behavior and leadership" and a dynamic House master who has also deeply engaged with undergraduate issues on important committees. "He brings to the deanship an intimate understanding of the Harvard College experience," Smith said.
Harvard Business School's India-born Dean Nitin Nohria also welcomed Khurana's appointment saying his selection is a testament to his skill and vision as a teacher and scholar.
"I think the appointment is wonderful news, and I am looking forward to working with Rakesh to identify and strengthen efforts across the College and HBS that will benefit us all," Nohria added.
Khurana earned his Bachelor's degree from Cornell University and began graduate studies at Harvard in 1993, earning his Ph.D.in 1998. He was appointed to the HBS faculty in 2000 and became co-master of Cabot in 2010.
He taught at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology between 1998 and 2000. Prior to graduate school, he worked as a founding member of Cambridge Technology Partners.
Khurana's research uses a sociological perspective to focus on the processes by which elites and leaders are selected and developed. He has written extensively about the CEO labor market and business education.
He has also been recognised for his commitment to pedagogy, twice earning the excellence in teaching awards and being nominated in 2013 for the Star Family Prize for Excellence in Advising.
He has also co-authored "Handbook for Leadership Theory and Practice" (2010) and "The?Handbook for Teaching Leadership" (2012), seminal texts on leadership theory and pedagogical practice.
As a member of the Harvard community, he led or served on a number of policy-making panels, including the Committee on Academic Integrity, Campus Culture, and the Alcohol and Other Drug Services Campus-Community Collaborative.
In 2011-2012, he co-chaired the Committee on Harvard College Alcohol Policy. Most recently, he served on the task force charged by Faust with recommending policies related to the privacy of electronic communications conducted at Harvard.
Khurana joins the growing club of Indian-origin academicians heading prestigious universities in the US.
In 2010, Nohria became the first Indian-origin head of the top ranking Harvard business school. In the same year University of Chicago's Booth School of Business had named Stanford University professor Sunil Kumar as its Dean.
Noted Indian-American academician Dipak Jain took over as Dean of INSEAD in March 2011. Before this, Jain was Dean at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management from 2001-2009.
IIT-Delhi alumnus Soumitra Dutta was named Dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University in 2012.
Khurana was named to the deanship after a gruelling selection process which started last July when Smith had announced the creation of an advisory committee consisting of faculty from all FAS academic divisions.
During the fall semester, the committee solicited input from undergraduates, FAS faculty, and College administrators, holding meetings with House masters, resident deans, College staff, the Undergraduate Council, students and faculty members.
The committee developed a short list of candidates, whom they interviewed, and shared their feedback with Smith. Committee member Matthew Nock said Khurana stood out among the "absolutely amazing pool" of candidates under consideration to serve as the next dean of Harvard College.
Nock added that Khurana exemplified all of the "qualities that students, faculty, and staff said are so important in the next dean."