It is with mixed emotions that I write my last report as dean of the Division of the Social Sciences. After much deliberation, I have accepted an invitation to return to Harvard, where I received my PhD, to become the Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology, beginning July 1. I feel privileged to have been part of the University of Chicago’s intellectual community and to have had the opportunity to serve as dean. In my nearly eight years at the University, I have been consistently impressed by our community’s seriousness of purpose and commitment to rigorous discourse. While I am thrilled about the opportunities that await me, I will miss deeply the many friends I have made here.
In addition to the work we have done over the past two years to strengthen the Division institutionally and financially, to position it for agenda-setting work in urban research and practice, and to prepare its students for leadership inside and outside the academy, we are now working to attain distinction in computational social science. This field requires theorists, subject-matter experts, algorithm developers, and database managers; it is team based and cross-disciplinary to the core, which is why our faculty members interested in computation collaborate with researchers far beyond their typical departments and outside the Division.
Our faculty members are developing a training program in computational social science that will draw graduate students and postdocs with exceptional quantitative skills from fields such as computer science, applied mathematics, and physics into the social sciences. Developing a new program and group of students with dedicated space, integration with the Computation Institute, and a series of courses designed to reshape social sciences education will influence both undergraduate and graduate education. Whether they work inside or outside the academy, students trained in computational approaches will be poised to become the next generation of leaders in the social sciences.
This work furthers the openness to new ideas that we have sought to cultivate in the Division. Our staff has developed a team-based approach to new possibilities, and the faculty have responded with their usual creativity and intellectual rigor. I anticipate a continued upward trajectory for the social sciences at the University of Chicago.