Closing a chapter of 33 years, Tufts’ Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James M. Glaser will depart the university to begin tenure at Santa Clara University in California as its executive vice president and provost come July.
Glaser’s departure was first announced in an email sent Wednesday by University President Sunil Kumar and Provost and Senior Vice President Caroline Attardo Genco, who praised his extended commitment to improving student life. For the last 10 years, Glaser has overseen academics and research at Tufts’ largest school of undergraduate and graduate programs.
“Today is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate Jim 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,” Kumar and Genco wrote in the email.
First coming to the university in 1991 as an assistant professor, Glaser became a full professor of political science in 2005, later serving as the school’s dean of undergraduate education and dean of academic affairs before stepping into his current role in 2014.
At the beginning of Glaser’s deanship, he led the development and implementation of the school’s 2015 strategic plan before playing “an instrumental role” in Tufts’ acquisition of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2016, Kumar and Genco wrote. He helped organize the Brighter World fundraising campaign, which supported efforts to increase diversity among the student body and faculty, and guided the university through the pandemic. In recent years, Glaser worked to bring climate change to the forefront of the university’s goals with curriculum changes and hirings. Glaser has also worked closely with other deans and university administration to “revamp and reorganize” shared student services, such as Tisch Library and the Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion.
His counterpart in the School of Engineering, Dean Kyongbum Lee, said that as “the senior dean of all the deans, … he’s certainly had an impact beyond Arts and Sciences, and I think that cannot be overstated.”
“I think a really important legacy that he leaves behind is how important and essential the student experience is,” Lee said. “He’s lifted that up to be a priority.”
While Glaser expressed excitement about his move to California — where he’ll be closer to family — he said that the decision to leave Tufts did not come easily.
“I’m very conflicted,” Glaser said in an interview with the Daily. “I’m really excited about it, and I’m fully embracing it, but leaving here will be challenging for me. We have so many friends here. I have so much invested in the success of the place and I’m so proud of what it is and what it aspires to be.”
Outside of administrative work, Glaser has published academic articles and co-authored the 2013 book “Changing Minds, if Not Hearts: Political Remedies to Racial Issues,” which explores political approaches to building support for minority groups. He is also the father of two Tufts alums.
He has continued to teach classes for the Department of Political Science, “a source of great pleasure for him,” according to Kumar and Genco.
Sophomore political science student Daniel Meyerson just finished a seminar with Glaser in fall 2023 and said that “taking one of his classes was really important” to him. He said that Glaser did not let his duties as dean take away from his ability to teach and connect with those he advised.
“He truly cares about his students,” Meyerson said. “Whenever I met with him, he remembered everything that I talked to him about in the meeting before even though he has so many responsibilities. He just did a really good job of making you feel important.”
Lee likened Glaser’s departure to losing a member of his extended family. When he first learned of it, his first reaction was to try to talk Glaser out of his decision.
“That’s the selfish reaction, but once I got over it — he doesn’t take this decision lightly, he really does love Tufts — I was very happy for him,” Lee joked, calling Glaser “an incredible gift” to the School of Arts and Sciences for “his ability to really manage all the breadth that spans so many different disciplines, all the way from art to physics.”
According to the announcement email, a plan for the search for Glaser’s replacement will be shared with the community next semester.
“Jim set the bar pretty high. … Jim has been one of those leaders who set a tone that caring about people matters a lot,” Lee said. “That’s a personal quality that he cares about people he works with. He’s genuinely kind, [and] that has been a major strength for him in his role as dean.”