Information For:

Give back to HGSE and support the next generation of passionate educators and innovative leaders.

Faculty & Research

Richard J. Light

Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr. Professor of Teaching and Learning

Richard J. Light

Degree:  Ph.D., Harvard University, (1969)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.495.1183
Vitae/CV:   Richard J. Light.pdf
Office:  Larsen 307
Faculty Assistant:  Jeffrey Brisbin


Over the past 20 years, Richard Light has been asked by five Harvard presidents — Derek Bok, Neil Rudenstine, Larry Summers, Drew Faust, and Larry Bacow — to explore ways to improve the undergraduate experience at Harvard and a diverse group of other quite different colleges. To accomplish this he founded the Harvard Assessment Seminars, a consortium of leaders from 25 colleges and universities, with the common goal to carry out research on enhancing college effectiveness.

The Harvard Assessment Seminars has led Light to create and co-chair several additional projects, including the Young Faculty Leaders Forum, which invited young faculty from 16 universities across the country to work together to enhance transitions from K–12 schools to colleges. A second is the Forum for Excellence and Innovation in Higher Education which brings together 13 excellent campuses and their leaders to try innovations and rigorously assess their impact on students’ learning. Light recently created and chairs the Harvard Higher Education Leaders Forum that brings together rising future campus leaders each year for discussion and debate about changing campus needs. Most recently Light has organized deans and campus leaders from Harvard, Brown, Duke, and Georgetown to work to explore and enhance the experiences of first-generation college students, especially at demanding and highly selective campuses. This effort has focused on enhancing first-generation student success both inside and outside of the classroom. The project is expected to continue through 2021.

Light is author of Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds which won The Stone Award for best book of the year on education and society. It has become one of the three best-selling books in the 100-year history of the Harvard University Press. He is co-author of Summing Up: The Science of Reviewing Research with David Pillemer and By Design: Planning Research on Higher Education with Judith Singer and John Willett. He has been chairman of the Panel on Youth for the National Academy of Sciences, president of the American Evaluation Association, and a member of the National Boards of the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. Light is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of The National Academy of Education. He has won the Paul Lazarsfeld Award for distinguished contributions to science, and has been named by Vanderbilt University’s Chancellor’s Lecture Series as one of America’s great teachers. He earned his Ph.D. in statistics from Harvard.

Click here to see a full list of Richard Light's courses.

Areas of Expertise
Paul Lazarsfeld Award for Distinguished Contributions to Scientific Practice,(1991)
Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds,(2001)

The Harvard Assessment Seminars: Explorations with Students and Faculty about Teaching, Learning, and Student Life ,(1990)

By Design: Planning Research on Higher Education (with J. Singer and J. Willett),(1990)

Summing Up: The Science of Reviewing Research (with D. Pillemer),(1984)

Chairman, Panel on Youth for the National Academy of Sciences

National Advisory Board, U.S. General Accounting Office

National Board, American Association for Higher Education

National Board, Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education

President, American Evaluation Association

News Stories