Message from Dean Michelle Williams

Dear Members of the Harvard Chan Community,

It feels bittersweet to type these words for the last time as your Dean. As you know, I am stepping down at the end of the month after seven wonderful years leading this extraordinary School. But this is not a farewell. After a year-long sabbatical, I’ll be back on campus to focus on research, teaching, and mentoring.

Today, I am pleased to share two beautiful summations with you. The first is a short video that captures the spirit of our recent Commencement. The second is our end-of-year report, which highlights some of our many accomplishments during the 2022-23 academic year. I look back with pride on this year and on the progress we made throughout my tenure—progress that was possible only because of your hard work and fierce determination to build a more just and healthier world.

Over the past few years, we significantly improved the quality of education at Harvard Chan School. We launched our first fully online MPH program and co-developed the first-of-its-kind Global Nursing Leadership Program with Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and partners on the African continent. We created the Rose Service Learning Fellowship and the Herbert S. Winokur, Jr. Fellowship in Public Health for the Mississippi Delta to give our students more field learning opportunities. And we revitalized the Center for Health Communication.

We recruited more than two dozen top scholars and practitioners to our faculty and increased support for our tremendous junior faculty. We broke down academic silos by establishing cross-disciplinary initiatives and cutting-edge research initiatives, such as the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE), the Microbiome in Public Health Center, our emerging research program in precision nutrition, the Zhu Family Center for Global Cancer Prevention, and the new Thich Nhat Hanh Center for Mindfulness in Public Health.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic—one of the toughest public health challenges in generations—our faculty conducted groundbreaking research and emerged as trusted voices for policymakers, the press, and the public. Our community has also spoken with passion and clarity about the pernicious impact of structural racism and the urgency of fighting for environmental justice.

There is so much more to do, but I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together. And I know this community will continue to discover, to grow, and to lead. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

As for me, I’ll spend the next few months finishing my book on the public health warriors who improved the quality of life for millions of people. I’ll study social impact entrepreneurship and deliberative polling at Stanford—and will ponder how best to apply those lessons to public health. Finally, I’ll be working on Vice President Kamala Harris’ new initiative to close the digital divide in Africa. (And yes, I am planning to relax on the beach as well… and I can’t wait.)

Thank you for everything you have done across the years. I have learned so much from all of you.

With deep appreciation and all my best wishes,


Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development,
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School