Statement on Harvard Global Institute

Drew Gilpin Faust

Cambridge, Mass

Dear Colleagues,

Harvard University has been inherently global since its founding. Today, knowledge is increasingly shared across national boundaries, and challenges must be understood in their broadest geographic context.  In order to fully participate in an ever more connected world, Harvard must leverage its extraordinary intellectual and programmatic strengths with a more intentional strategy of engagement, ensuring the highest quality and impact for our teaching and research in the decades to come.  One way in which I hope to achieve this important goal is with the creation of the Harvard Global Institute (HGI).

The concept of the HGI grew out of the International Working Group of faculty and staff that deliberated in 2011-12 and has been elaborated and refined through discussions of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Global Institutes.  The original impetus for the Institute arose from the recognition that, although Harvard did not believe the establishment of campuses outside the United States to be advisable, there was nevertheless reason to consider building upon our existing intellectual presence at select international sites.  Such an effort, it was noted, might both strengthen existing programs and enable faculty without deep prior international experience to situate their work in a broader global context.

As you will recall, the University has secured an anchor gift to support the first operations of this new presidential initiative designed to bring Harvard’s deep and broad intellectual resources to bear on issues that reach beyond the purview of a single school, academic discipline, or geographic region.  Building on the work and strength of existing schools and centers, the HGI seeks to harness strengths that exist across Harvard to enhance and deepen the University’s international engagement.

The role of the HGI will be to convene faculty from across Harvard schools and scholars in regions outside the United States to investigate problems of global scale and significance, providing support for collaborative research by faculty and students working with them.  It will seek to attract faculty already committed to viewing the advancement of knowledge from a global perspective, as well as faculty who wish to broaden their vision. By mobilizing our unparalleled resources within a single enterprise, the Institute will help to shape the conversation around questions in new and fruitful ways and will simultaneously serve to advance our broader strategy of deepening Harvard’s international engagement in a truly meaningful fashion.

The generous Institute anchor gift supports research on problems facing contemporary China.  HGI-funded projects will include significant work outside of the United States, and the operational foundation for research in China will be based at the Harvard Center Shanghai and overseen by its Executive Director of University Programs.  As we find additional support for the HGI, we will be able to fund projects in other parts of the world as well.

I am pleased to announce that the HGI will entertain proposals for funding—beginning as soon as the spring—from Harvard faculty.

Grants will be of two types:

  • Large grants to support cross-school research focused on global phenomena; and
  • Smaller grants to smaller faculty groups or to a single faculty member focused on innovative topics

In order to launch this initiative promptly, I have, after careful consultation, awarded the first grant under the auspices of the HGI to a team headed by Michael McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies, and Dale Jorgenson, Samuel W. Morris University Professor. Their work will focus on the complex issues facing China and the rest of the world in addressing the challenges posed by greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, energy security, and sustainable development.  This project builds on the experience of the highly successful Harvard China Project on the Environment and will involve colleagues in China as well as at Harvard.  The proposal exemplifies the global interconnectedness of the issues we aim to address and the international nature of the operational work which the HGI seeks to establish.  I have also awarded seed funding to a separate but related project on the environmental humanities and China to be developed into a full-fledged proposal in the course of the coming year under the leadership of Karen L. Thornber, Professor of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

You will receive a more detailed call for proposals in the next few weeks. I look forward to receiving your most innovative thoughts on possible research collaborations, and I very much look forward to awarding additional HGI grants.

Best regards,

Drew Faust