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Nonie Lesaux Named HGSE Interim Dean

Professor will become interim dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), acting Harvard President Alan Garber announced today.

Lesaux, the Roy Edward Larsen Professor of Education and Human Development, will assume the role at the conclusion of Dean ’s tenure at the end of the 2023–24 academic year. Long announced her pending departure as dean in January 2024.

In a statement, Garber announced Lesaux’s appointment and described the search process for a permanent dean. He also praised Lesaux’s commitment to education and to the HGSE community in replacing Long moving forward.

“Nonie is a widely respected scholar and educator whose work appears in numerous scholarly publications and has influenced state and national educational policy,” Garber wrote in an email to the Harvard community. “We are grateful to Nonie for her willingness to lead the school in this interim period, and we hope you will join us in congratulating her on this new role.”

at HGSE from 2017 to 2021, succeeding Long, who held that post for four years. She was previously named the Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Professor of Education and Society before her appointment to the Larsen chair in 2021.

“I am deeply honored to serve in the role of interim dean,” Lesaux said. “I have seen firsthand the positive impact that our exceptional faculty, dedicated staff, and inspiring students and alumni make in the field of education. Their steadfast commitment to our mission — and expanding educational opportunities for learners everywhere — is a source of energy and hope.”

A native of Canada, Lesaux earned her doctorate in educational psychology and special education from the University of British Columbia in 2003. Her research focuses on promoting language and literacy skills of children from diverse linguistic, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Working largely through partnerships with school districts, states, and communities, Lesaux has worked to improve literacy rates, including seven years with San Diego Unified and 10 years with the New York City Department of Education.

Lesaux serves as co-chair of the at HGSE, which addresses the global challenge of improving the quality of early education and has informed a new era of science and policymaking in early education, building a network and partnerships representing all 50 U.S. states and 92 countries.

A former chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education Care, Lesaux has been instrumental in efforts to improve third grade reading outcomes in Massachusetts. Her work authoring a state-level literacy report was the basis for a Third Grade Reading Proficiency bill passed in the state legislature. The bill established an Early Literacy Expert Panel, which Lesaux co-chairs, and is tasked with developing new policies and initiatives to impact early childhood literacy development.

The practical applications of her research are featured in several books for school leaders and educators. She is co-editor of the Handbook of Reading Research (2022) and recently published a series of literacy briefs for the New York State Department of Education along with HGSE alum Katie Carr.

Lesaux is a recipient of the William T. Grant Scholars Award as well as the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor given by the United States government for young professionals early in their research careers. She later served on the U.S. Department of Education’s Reading First Advisory Committee, as well as the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council’s Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8. Lesaux is an expert consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section.

“At this complex time for our profession, HGSE’s role in supporting educators is even more vital,” Lesaux said. “I am confident that, building on Dean Long’s legacy, our community will continue to make a lasting difference for learners around the world.”

On Thursday, Garber also announced opportunities for student and faculty involvement and input in the search for a new, permanent dean. Harvard also announced the formation of a Faculty Advisory Committee which will aid in the search for HGSE’s next dean. The committee includes a number of HGSE faculty members, including professors Ebony Bridwell-Mitchell, Andrew Ho, James Kim, Karen Mapp, Paola Uccelli, Meredith Rowe, Adriana Umaña-Taylor, Richard Weissbourd, and Martin West.

“The members of this faculty advisory committee,” Garber said, “bring a depth of wisdom and experience that will be critical as we work to develop a nuanced understanding of the school and search for an outstanding leader to help guide HGSE into the future. We are grateful to them for agreeing to serve in this capacity.”