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James F. Harris, Dean
James F. Harris, dean of UM's College of Arts & Humanities, will resign.

Legacy of Innovative Approaches and Initiatives

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - James F. Harris, dean of the University of Maryland's College of Arts and Humanities, will resign his post on June 30, 2011, marking 14 years on the job.

The dean says he is not retiring and will remain on the history faculty. He made the announcement at the annual faculty staff convocation.

"It's time," Harris explains. "In the past decade we have seen a tremendous upsurge in the quality of the student body, our faculty, and our offerings, significantly raising the College's profile. It has been a wonderful period of growth, and I've had the pleasure of leading a phenomenal group of faculty, staff and students."

Harris came to the University of Maryland in 1967. He became history chair in 1993 and dean of the college in 1997. As dean, he has worked to raise the visibility and impact of the college by implementing a series of innovative programs responding to social and academic challenges.

"He has been an outstanding and dedicated member of our community, leaving the College in a much stronger position than the one he inherited," says Nariman Farvardin, acting president and senior vice president for academic affairs and provost."

Jim has put Arts and Humanities on a trajectory for achieving even more significant accomplishments in the years to come," Farvardin adds."I want to thank him for his thoughtful and visionary leadership of the College of Arts and Humanities and for being such a wonderful member of the leadership team. We are also happy that he will remain at Maryland as a distinguished faculty member."


Among the signature initiatives launched under Harris' leadership are a major reorganization and expansion of language education and research. This has led the university to national leadership in the field.

Harris folded the various language departments into the present School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. This interdisciplinary approach proved to be a creative boon.

In the post-9/11 years, the College has taken a lead in developing innovative approaches to foreign language acquisition, including: 
  • Two of the 23 National "Flagship" programs in the country - in Persian and Arabic - offering cutting-edge, advanced foreign language instruction;
  • UM Center for Advanced Study of Language and the National Foreign Language Center, which conduct major research and development for the nation;
  • Added majors in Persian and Arabic;
  • National Science Foundation IGERT, Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, a program aimed at creating new interdisciplinary approaches to language that draws on strengths across the university.
ARTS: Dean Harris oversaw the creation and growth of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center into a national model for university-based academic and performance integration.

A major regional performance venue, the Center has become a vibrant community of artists, students and audiences, where great work happens both on- and off-stage. The Center presents approximately 1,000 events each year spanning all performing arts disciplines.

Also, Dean Harris applied an interdisciplinary approach to the arts to create the School of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies. Along with the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the programs have become what Harris describes as major contributors to the creation of new works of art.

The David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora, established in 2001, provides an intellectual home for artists, museum professionals, art administrators and scholars, who are committed to collecting, documenting and presenting African American art.

MIDDLE EAST STUDIES: Under Dean Harris' leadership, the University of Maryland has developed an integrative approach to Middle East studies. The program has expanded with the creation of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies and the Roshan Center for Persian Studies - the first autonomous, interdisciplinary U.S. center in the field.

DIGITAL HUMANITIES: Another area of innovative, interdisciplinary growth is the field of digital humanities, media and cultures. The College, in collaboration with the Libraries and the Office of Information Technology created the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. In the past decade, it has become a leading intellectual hub and national center.

Last year, the school used a "cluster search" approach to hire top faculty specialists in the field, where various departments competed against each other to fill three slots. The final appointments were in the fields of Art, American Studies and Women's Studies. "The addition of talent to an already strong field has been extraordinary," Harris says. "If we always appoint the best, we will soon be the best."

Harris credits the accomplishments to Arts and Humanities' administrative council, faculty and staff, "who have painstakingly labored to help advance the work of the college."

In addition to his leadership in the College, Dean Harris has had a significant university-wide impact, including his contributions to the institution's strategic planning effort and coordination of the 150th anniversary celebration marked in 2006.


Among the advances during Harris' administration: 
  • The College's enrollment increased from about 2,300 majors to over 4,000;
  • Sponsored research revenue rose from approximately $750,000 to $17 million per year; and
  • The College exceeded its $40 million Great Expectations capital campaign fundraising goal, then increased it to $50 million and is on track to exceed this new amount by the campaign's conclusion. This represents a 300 percent increase over funds raised by the College during the last campaign.
Farvardin will appoint a committee in the near future to begin a national search to fill Harris' position.

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