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Sarah Whiting GS ’90 will become the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, effective July 1.

Courtesy of Harvard University

Sarah Whiting GS ’90 has been appointed the first female dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). In addition to receiving her M.Arch. from the University in 1990, Whiting taught at the University as an assistant architecture professor from 2005 to 2009.

Whiting will assume the role on July 1, replacing Mohsen Mostafavi, who, after 11 years, announced his decision to step down in October of last year.

She currently serves as the dean of the Rice University School of Architecture, a position she has held since 2010, and is co-founder and partner of the firm WW Architecture. At Rice, Whiting is credited for revitalizing the curriculum and innovating new studios and other facilities.

Whiting served as a member of the GSD faculty at the beginning of her career and is “thrilled to be returning,” according to Architectural Record.

“The GSD has long been a center of gravity for my thinking and actions,” Whiting said. “It is altogether tantalizing to look across the school’s three departments, with their individual and collective capacities to shape new horizons within Gund Hall. And it’s even more enticing to envision working with the GSD’s remarkable faculty, students, staff, and alumni to help imagine and create new futures for the world, not just at Harvard but beyond.”

In an announcement to the Harvard community, Harvard University president Larry S. Bacow called Whiting “an outstanding leader with broad interests that range across the design disciplines and beyond.”

Whiting’s particular interests focus on the relationship between architecture and social, political, and economic realms. Her focus as dean at Rice, she said, was “dissolving the divide between architecture as an intellectual endeavor and architecture as a form of engaged practice.” She is an expert in the fields of urbanism and architectural theory.

Whiting joins other women in the ranks of leadership among prestigious architecture schools. Mónica Ponce de León became dean of the University’s School of Architecture in 2015. In that same year, Deborah Berke was named dean of the Yale School of Architecture. In 2018, J. Meejin Yoon became the first female dean of Cornell’s architecture school. 

In addition to her time at GSD, Rice, and the University, Whiting has also served as a lecturer at the University of Kentucky, the University of Florida, and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

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