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David Harris takes leave to join Obama administration

David Harris

Deputy Provost David Harris has announced he will take an extended leave of absence to join the Obama administration. His last day on campus will be March 19.

Harris confirmed March 15 that he will assume the position of deputy assistant secretary for human services policy in the Department of Health and Human Services. (For more information on the post, see

"This is a tremendous opportunity for David, and it is well deserved," said Provost Kent Fuchs. "While we're sorry to see him temporarily leave Cornell, we're proud of his accomplishment, and we're confident he'll provide a great service to the country."

Harris, who also serves as vice provost for social sciences, has focused his academic research on race and ethnicity, stratification and public policy. Specific research projects have investigated race, ethnicity and higher education; mixed-race identity and interracial relationships; residential mobility; and persistent poverty. He is the co-editor of the 2008 book "The Colors of Poverty: Why Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist."

He also has held several high-level administrative posts at Cornell. During fall 2008, he served as interim provost. From 2004 to 2007, he was the founding director of the Institute for the Social Sciences. He has also been active in the Center for the Study of Inequality and as a leader of the University Diversity Council.

"When I came to Cornell almost seven years ago as a sociology faculty member, I expected to spend my time teaching and conducting research. Instead, I have been presented with a series of opportunities to play leadership roles across campus, in such areas as the social sciences, admissions and financial aid, diversity and academic planning," Harris said. "The challenges have been great; the colleagues have been wonderful. The opportunity to work on poverty policy in the Obama administration is a dream job for me. I look forward to making a contribution nationally, and then coming back to Cornell to rejoin our vibrant community." 

Media Contact

Claudia Wheatley