Message to GSD Alumni and Friends

Dear GSD Alumni and Friends,

I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to serve the Graduate School of Design and Harvard as dean for the past decade, and am now writing to let you know of my intention to conclude my term at the end of this academic year and to return to teaching and research after a sabbatical. 

The GSD has a long history of being the leader in design education, beginning with its founding in 1936. In recent years we have embraced the One Harvard ideal of President Emerita Drew Faust, and have built on and expanded our collaborative ethos. These collaborations, whether between the School’s various departments and programs or with other parts of the University, have shaped new domains of knowledge that have promoted the role and value of design within the context of a research university and the wider world. The newly established Master in Design Engineering program with the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the joint degree program with the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, the undergraduate program in architecture with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences—all are manifestations of the GSD’s commitment to providing unique and innovative opportunities for pedagogy, research, and scholarship.

The GSD’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni have been an enormous source of inspiration, support, and wisdom. I have learned so much from my interactions with our diverse community and feel fortunate to have worked with an amazing group of colleagues who have been supportive of the School’s many transformative projects, sharing a passion for academic excellence as well as a commitment to change our society for the better. 

The GSD’s global engagement, whether through studios or various research initiatives, has helped to bridge the gap between the academy and practice, in the process allowing our students to gain first-hand knowledge of innovations in the building industry and new approaches to housing and public space, as well as the broader challenges facing the built environment, from confronting climate change to pursuing social and spatial justice. All these issues are part of the broader processes of urbanization that are having such radical impact on our world.

The recently completed capital campaign will enable the School to advance its mission and support students and faculty in the years to come. I am grateful to our campaign leadership and everyone involved for making it such a success. The launch of our plans for an addition to Gund Hall will complement our academic plans by providing extraordinary facilities for design creativity at the intersection of different fields at Harvard.

I am thankful to President Bacow, President Emerita Faust, and Provost Garber for their support of the GSD. President Bacow will soon launch the search for the School’s next dean. Over the coming months, I look forward to our working together and to continuing our commitment to new opportunities that will make design an even more indispensable part of Harvard and beyond.

With gratitude,


Mohsen Mostafavi
Dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design
Harvard University Graduate School of Design