ED. Magazine

James Ryan Named HGSE Dean


James RyanJames E. Ryan, one of the nation’s leading scholars of education law and policy, will become the next dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), President Drew Faust announced today.

Ryan, an award-winning teacher who has served on the University of Virginia since 1998, succeeds Kathleen McCartney, who will leave Harvard to become president of Smith College on July 1.

Ryan will officially assume his new role on Sept. 1, near the start of the 2013-14 academic year. Richard Murnane, the Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Professor of Education and Society at HGSE, will serve as acting dean from July 1 until Ryan begins his tenure.

“Jim Ryan is an outstanding scholar, teacher, and academic leader with a deep passion for improving education and for enhancing the interplay of scholarship, practice, and policy,” Faust said. “Throughout the search, I have been impressed by his seamless integration of the intellectual and the practical, his warm and open personal style, and his evident talent for drawing together people from different backgrounds, disciplines, and points of view.

“He has a keen interest in how diverse modes of academic research can benefit education practice and policy,” Faust added, “and how the concrete challenges facing educational leaders and policymakers, as well as teachers and students, can helpfully inform the scholarship and teaching we do here. He is also an astute and empathetic listener, and I know he looks forward to connecting with people across HGSE in the coming weeks and months as he prepares to take up his new role.”

“I am honored and excited by this opportunity, and grateful to Drew Faust for inviting me to take on this role at such a critical time in education and in the life of the school,” said Ryan. “Kathy McCartney’s extraordinary leadership has generated great momentum, and I’m eager to build on that progress in close collaboration with remarkably talented faculty, staff, and students within the Ed School and across the university. Understanding how students learn, enhancing educational achievement, and expanding educational opportunity are among the defining challenges of our time, and HGSE has an essential leadership role to play in meeting them. I look forward to serving a school with the intellectual vitality and commitment not simply to contribute to the field but to continue transforming it.”

A highly influential scholar at the crossroads of education, law, and policy, Ryan is currently the William L. Matheson and Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law and the F. Palmer Weber Research Professor of Civil Liberties and Human Rights at the University of Virginia. He is also co-founder and director of the Program in Law and Public Service at the University of Virginia School of Law, where he served for five years as the academic associate dean. He was a member of the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission, which was charged with examining disparities in meaningful educational opportunities that give rise to the achievement gap, and with recommending ways that federal policies could address such disparities.

Educational opportunity has been the predominant focus of Ryan’s most recent scholarship and teaching. His book, Five Miles Away, A World Apart: One City, Two Schools, and the Story of Educational Opportunity in Modern America, explores questions of school segregation and inequality in the context of an urban school in Richmond, Va., and a nearby suburban school. He has written numerous articles for academic journals and other publications on such topics as school finance, school desegregation, school choice, school governance, a right to preschool, teacher compensation reform, and the federal No Child Left Behind Act. He is also coauthor of the casebook, Educational Policy and the Law.

Ryan has been honored with both the University of Virginia’s All-University Teaching Award (2010) and with the Outstanding Faculty Award presented by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (2011). His courses have included offerings on law and education, comparative education law and policy, and schools, race, and law. He has lectured widely on a range of education policy matters.

Ryan served on the board of the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Previously, he served on the Century Foundation’s Task Force on the Common School and as vice chair of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Public Schools. He has also served as a pro bono consultant on numerous education-related legal and policy issues.

He has received the U.Va. Law School’s McFarland Prize for Outstanding Scholarship, the Education Law Association’s Award for Distinguished Scholarship, and the U.Va. Black Law Students Association’s Outstanding Service Award.

In addition to his scholarship and teaching on education law and policy, Ryan has taught and written about constitutional law, local government law, and Supreme Court litigation. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Yale in 1988, graduated first in his class from U.Va. Law School in 1992, and clerked for the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court. A former visiting professor of law at both Harvard and Yale, he was the inaugural Cameron Fellow at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Ryan is married to Karoline (Katie) Homer Ryan, a clinical instructor at U.Va. who specializes in child advocacy and special education law. The couple has four children.

In announcing the appointment, Faust expressed appreciation to “the many members of the HGSE community who have been so generous and thoughtful with advice on the dean search at a pivotal moment for the school. I especially thank the members of the faculty advisory committee for the search, whose lively discussions and candid counsel have done so much to shed light on the HGSE’s recent trajectory and future opportunities and to bring the search to an excellent conclusion.”

Read more: Q&A with New HGSE Dean (Harvard Gazette, 6/10/13)

Watch: Incoming HGSE Dean on His Passion for Education (Harvard Gazette, 6/10/13)

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  • Gary Orfield

    As a former long-time member of the HGSE faculty and someone who has known Jim for a long time, I think this is a very strong appointment. At a time when American society is becoming more unequal and civil rights are shrinking, it is very good to have someone who has thought very seriously about the problems of equity.

  • Kyle Johannes

    It’s interesting to see your name on here, Dr. Orfield. One of my professors mentioned you the other day.

    I recently read a piece by Mr. Ryan about charter schools and I was
    impressed. It really changed my thinking–not only on the issue of
    charter schools–but on the problem of our shrinking conception of the
    purpose of education. Spurred by Ryan’s piece, I had a long conversation
    with my professor, Dr. Ramon Martinez, about the integration of schools
    in L.A. He said that this had been a prominent topic of conversation at
    the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, where he
    studied. Your name was mentioned as one of the prominent people
    there at UCLA promoting integration of the schools. I have since become interested in the Civil Rights Project you lead.

    I am currently studying to receive a Master’s in Education and a high school
    teaching certificate, but I hope to one day be involved in working on
    legal or policy issues that promote educational equity and opportunity. I
    admire your work wholeheartedly. So, I hope one day I may to be able to
    meet and possibly work with you gentlemen.

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