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First female president named at Harvard

Harvard University has just become the fourth American Ivy League University to name a woman as President. Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian of the American Civil War South and the founding dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study will step up as Harvard’s 28th president as of 1 July 2007. Selected by the members of the Harvard Cooperation after an intensive survey of faculty, students, alumni, and other experts nationwide, Faust is celebrated as an outstanding academic leader. The Radcliffe Institute, which focuses on the study of woman, gender, and society, has transformed into one of the nation’s foremost centres of scholarly and creative enterprise under Ms Faust’s guidance. Radcliffe’s fellowship programme is highly competitive (over 800 researchers apply for 50 positions every year) and its cross-disciplinary approach has linked many departments of the University, from tissue engineering to computational biology and privacy and security technology. As a historian, Ms Faust has also published six books, the most recent of which considers the impacts of the Civil War’s death toll on the lives of nineteenth century Americans. Ms Faust will assume a broad range of challenges in her new presidency, including reshaping the undergraduate curriculum, and developing the staff of the new campus in the Allston section of Boston that focuses strongly on stem-cell research. Thus far, she has been enthusiastically accepted by students though has drawn a mixed review from some of the faculty who question whether she will rise to the challenge of unifying a rather factionalised university. Ms Faust steps in two years after former president Laurence H. Summers suggested that a lack of intrinsic aptitude might explain why fewer women excel in math and science. Harvard University