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A leading expert on law and education, James Ryan has written extensively about how law structures educational opportunity. Before joining HGSE, he was the Matheson and Morgenthau Distinguished Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. There, he served as academic associate dean from 2005–2009 and founded and directed the school’s Law and Public Service Program.
During his time as dean, Ryan increased the size, strength, and diversity of the faculty by hiring 20 new faculty and 12 senior faculty members. He established the Global Visiting Fellows Program, emphasizing recruiting international scholars to HGSE. Much of Ryan’s deanship was focused on teaching and learning and on building HGSE’s connections in the field of education. He established the Teaching and Learning Lab, which supports innovative and practical approaches to education, and the Harvard Teacher Fellows Program, an innovative teacher training program for seniors and recent alumni at Harvard College.
Under Ryan, HGSE’s professional development programs grew to more than 10,000 participants yearly, and revenues more than doubled. In 2014, he guided the relaunch of Usable Knowledge, an online resource designed to make actionable research findings accessible to teachers, policymakers, parents, and other educators.
Building a diverse HGSE community was a priority for Ryan. In 2014, he began a community-wide initiative to prepare students for careers in various environments, which continues today. Ryan implemented the Askwith debate series, designed to teach students how to learn through disagreement and respectful debate. He also launched Double Take, a live storytelling series for the HGSE community, featuring stories from faculty, students, and staff.
During Ryan’s tenure, HGSE surpassed its campaign goal of $250 million by raising $340 million. Ryan also oversaw planning to restructure HGSE’s master’s degree programs. Effective July 1, 2018, Ryan stepped down as dean to become president of the University of Virginia.