A study of Harvard Athletics

September 5, 2019
Dear members of the Harvard Athletics community,

I write to you today to announce the launch of a study of Harvard’s Department of Athletics. Rooted in the Harvard College mission and our Ivy League principles, this study will engage our community to learn about our student athlete experience, the culture of our programs, and the structure of our department. This important work will inform strategic planning for Harvard Athletics over the coming decade, drawing on the proud history, traditions, and the values of Athletics at Harvard. 

With a legacy of distinguished leadership, we engage in this study to set our aspirations for the support of athletics at Harvard. As a League, we recognize the power of sport to develop students as individuals and leaders in the context of a liberal arts and sciences education. We recognize the particular role of coaches as educators, and the many ways in which they uniquely nurture the development of the whole student. And we recognize that understanding better how participation in athletics forms powerful bonds between students and pride in Harvard can provide new tools and approaches as we seek to serve all students better. I am excited about the opportunity to learn from our coaches, our students, our faculty, our alumni, and from the department staff through this process. 

This ambitious undertaking would not be possible without the support and guidance of a strong advisory committee. I am enormously grateful to Bob Scalise, John D. Nichols '53 Family Director of Athletics, Jack Reardon, Senior Adviser for Alumni Affairs and Development, Rakesh Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College, Leslie Kirwan, FAS Dean for Administration and Finance, and Armin Afsahi, FAS Dean for Development, who have agreed to serve. The study process will launch in the coming weeks, and will include interviews, surveys, and other opportunities for input from across our community. It will conclude with a public report that will be available in the spring semester. In this work we are fortunate to have support from Mercer, a consulting firm that brings deep expertise in the study of culture, as well as organizational best practices, from across sectors.

This is a moment in higher education when the role of athletics is the subject of much discussion and review. At Harvard, we are motivated to join this discussion by a desire to reinvigorate our Ivy League principles for a new generation of Harvard students. Through this work, we hope to enable Harvard to continue to provide the best possible experience for our student athletes for years to come.


Claudine Gay
Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences