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Faculty & Research

Danielle S. Allen

James Bryant Conant University Professor
Professor of Government
Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Danielle S. Allen

Degree:  Ph.D., Harvard University, (2001)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Personal Site:   Link to Site


Danielle Allen is James Bryant Conant University professor and director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics. She is a professor of political philosophy, ethics, and public policy. She is also a seasoned nonprofit leader, democracy advocate, national voice on pandemic response, distinguished author, and mom.

Allen’s work to make the world better for young people has taken her from teaching college and leading a $60 million university division to driving change at the helm of a $6 billion foundation, writing as a national opinion columnist, advocating for cannabis legalization, democracy reform, and civic education, and most recently, to running for governor of Massachusetts. During the height of COVID in 2020, Allen’s leadership in rallying coalitions and building solutions resulted in the country’s first-ever Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience; her policies were adopted in federal legislation and a presidential executive order. She made history as the first Black woman ever to run for statewide office in Massachusetts. She was the 2020 winner of the Library of Congress' Kluge Prize, which recognizes scholarly achievement in the disciplines not covered by the Nobel Prize. She received the Prize "for her internationally recognized scholarship in political theory and her commitment to improving democratic practice and civics education."

A past chair of the Mellon Foundation and Pulitzer Prize Board, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Philosophical Society. As a scholar, she currently concentrates on the Democratic Knowledge Project and Justice, Health, and Democracy Impact Initiative, housed at the Safra Center, on the Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation, housed at Harvard’s Ash Center, and on the Our Common Purpose Commission at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Learning from the natural sciences, she has built a lab to extend the impact of work in the humanities and social sciences. 

Her many books include the widely acclaimed Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown v Board of Education;  Our Declaration: a reading of the Declaration of Independence in defense of equalityCuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.; Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus; and the forthcoming Justice by Means of Democracy. She writes a column on constitutional democracy for the Washington Post.

Outside the University, she is Founder and President for Partners In Democracy, where she continues to advocate for democracy reform to create greater voice and access in our democracy, and drive progress towards a new social contract that serves and includes us all. She also serves on the board of the Cambridge Health Alliance. Her personal website is available here.

Click here to see a full list of Danielle Allen's courses.

Sponsored Projects


Humanities and Liberal Arts Assessment Lab (HULA) (2015-2016)
Spencer Foundation

Founded in 2012, the Humanities and Liberal Arts Assessment project (HULA) research team has taken on the project of understanding the learning theories and related theories of human development that lie at the heart of the humanities. Professional Humanists — those with advanced degrees in humanities subjects — have been passing on their practices and craft knowledge for millennia through master-apprentice relationships. Our goal is to make the implicit craft knowledge and practices of these disciplines explicit. The value in illuminating the craft knowledge of the goals of the humanities in relation to the methods and mechanisms by which those goals can be achieved is that then assessment becomes possible via assessment instruments developed organically out of humanists’ practices—as opposed to being imposed on them by instruments ill-fitted to the humanities. These assessment instruments have a twofold value for those outside the humanities as well for professional humanists: more accurate and useful evaluation of outcomes and success for presenting humanities work to those outside the humanities, as well as developmental resources for professional humanists that will serve to help them hone and refine their own crafts.

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