School of Arts and Sciences Dean James Glaser to Step Down

Longtime political science professor and administrator will become provost and executive vice president of Santa Clara University

James M. Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences since 2014 and a faculty member at Tufts since 1991, has been named provost and executive vice president of Santa Clara University in California. He will take up the position in July 2024.

During his tenure as dean, he helped lead the university to assume the operations of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and integrate it into the School of Arts and Sciences, establish two new departments, and hire 60 percent of the current faculty in the school. Thanks to successful fundraising, the school also added seven new endowed full professorships, 13 new endowed assistant professorships, and several other term professorships.

“I’m excited about joining a quality, values-driven institution like Santa Clara, but it’s going to be hard for me to leave,” said Glaser, AP14, AP17. “I’ve been part of this community for such a long time. I’ve been able to grow so much, and Tufts has given me the opportunities that I don’t think would have happened at most other places.”

In a message to the Tufts community, President Sunil Kumar and Senior Vice President and Provost Caroline Genco thanked Glaser for “his tireless dedication to enhancing the student experience, furthering inclusive excellence, and the pursuit of creative solutions to the complex challenges of higher education.” 

After receiving a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, Glaser started at Tufts as an assistant professor of political science in 1991. He served as chair of the department and in 2005 was promoted to professor. In 2003, he was tapped as dean of undergraduate education for arts, sciences, and engineering, serving in that capacity until 2010, when he became dean of academic affairs for arts and sciences. In June 2014, he was named dean ad interim for the School of Arts and Sciences, and dean in February 2015.

“By the time I leave, it will be 10 years in total as dean and interim dean, and a total of 33 years and four months at Tufts—that’s a third of a century,” Glaser said. “I think I’ve been able to put my stamp on the school, to guide and lead it, and I’m proud of that. But it’s healthy for the school to have turnover in leadership, and healthy for me to experience a new challenge.” 

Glaser noted that he has family living in California whom he will be closer to: “We also lived in the Bay Area for 10 years before we came here. I said to my wife at the time we moved east, ‘Let’s try it out for a few years and see what it’s like, and then we’ll try to get back to California.’ That never happened, but now it will.”

A Legacy on the Hill

Among his many accomplishments as an administrator at the School of Arts and Sciences, the largest school at the university, were the creation and implementation of a strategic plan in 2015, and a year later the integration of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. He also hired all of the 15 leaders who report to him, “an extraordinary group of talented people who will support the school after I leave,” he noted.

“When the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston determined that their art school needed university management and sought a partner, our proposal was selected from among several contenders,” Glaser said. With steady investments from the university, he noted that the SMFA at Tufts has grown immensely and is increasingly popular with prospective students. 

“An institution is made up of its people, and this place has a lot of extraordinary people who I’ve been so lucky to know and to learn from. They’ve been mentors and colleagues to me, and they’ve been my students who’ve gone out into the world and done amazing things.” 

James M. Glaser

Two new academic departments were created in the School of Arts and Sciences under Glaser’s watch. The Department of Community Health had been an interdisciplinary program, and “now, with a larger faculty, better serves the large number of students pursuing that major,” he said. Establishing the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora consolidated and integrated many of the school’s interdisciplinary ethnic studies programs. “Both departments have enabled us to hire some superb faculty and to address the academic interests of many students,” Glaser said.

He also pointed to curricular changes around climate, with a focus on the newly renamed Department of Earth and Climate Sciences, which will soon offer a major in climate science. The school has also established a new Ph.D. program in economics and public policy, a new master’s degree program in diversity and inclusion leadership, a popular finance minor in the economics department, and certificate programs in impact investing and data science. 

“The diversity of our student body also continues to grow, and we are now supporting students in need with a quite remarkable bridge program, the FIRST Resource Center, and summer session financial aid,” Glaser said. During the Brighter World capital campaign, the school raised $506 million, surpassing its $450 million goal, helping fund the new endowed professorships, among other things. 

Glaser has made it a point to teach a course each fall, as he has for two decades as an administrator. “I really enjoy being in the classroom and working with students. I get a lot out of seeing them grow and learn and engage with the material and confront things that they’ve never confronted before,” he said.

Working with colleagues in Arts and Sciences and in Engineering, he helped successfully navigate educational challenges during the pandemic. That included his teaching classes in person starting in Fall 2020. 

“I was asking people to teach in person, so I had credibility when I made the ask,” he said.

Throughout his career, Glaser has been active as a researcher. Early in his career, he wrote two books on politics in the Southern U.S.: The Hand of the Past in Contemporary Southern Politics and Race, Campaign Politics, and the Realignment in the South, both published by Yale University Press and both winners of the V.O. Key Award for Best Book in Southern Politics. 

In 2013 he co-authored Changing Minds If Not Hearts: Political Remedies for Racial Conflict with his former student, Timothy Ryan, A06, now a professor at the University of North Carolina. He currently is working on another book, Liberals, Conservatives, and Everyday Democracy, co-authored with Jeffrey Berry, professor emeritus at Tufts, and Deborah Schildkraut, J95, professor of political science. 

After nearly a third of a century at the university, “I have come to know Tufts from so many different angles—including as a father—that I’ve come to appreciate it in all of its different ways.” 

What he will miss most when he leaves, he said, “are the relationships that I have here. An institution is made up of its people, and this place has a lot of extraordinary people who I’ve been so lucky to know and to learn from. They’ve been mentors and colleagues to me, and they’ve been my students who’ve gone out into the world and done amazing things. I don’t think people can grasp how hard it’s going to be for me to not be here.”

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