Drew Faust, the president of Harvard University, will step down next year after leading the institution for 11 years.
Professor Faust, an historian of the Civil War and the American South, was the first woman to lead the university and has been a strong advocate of increasing diversity during her tenure.
In a message to Harvard staff and students on 14 June, she wrote: “It has been a privilege beyond words to work with all of you to lead Harvard, in the words of her alma mater, ‘through change and through storm’.
“We have shared ample portions of both over the last decade and have confronted them together in ways that have made the university stronger – more integrated both intellectually and administratively, more effectively governed, more open and diverse, more in the world and across the world, more innovative and experimental.”
When Professor Faust took the helm at Harvard in 2007, she expanded the undergraduate financial aid policies to extend greater support to middle-income families. One in five undergraduates now come from a household with a family income below $65,000 (£51,000) a year.
The proportion of women on the tenured faculty has also increased by 25 per cent since 2008 and now represents almost 26 per cent of the total. Meanwhile, the proportion of under-represented minorities on the tenured faculty has increased by 49 per cent.
Writing for Times Higher Education last year, Professor Faust announced a new university task force on diversity and belonging to “identify the demographic, cultural, organisational and social aspects of campus life that together constitute the experience of working and living in our community”.
“It is not enough for colleges and universities to bring people of varied backgrounds, cultures, races, identities, life experiences, perspectives, beliefs and values together. We must create communities in which every person has the opportunity to thrive. We must recognise that all our endeavours are enlarged and expanded by what we share,” she wrote.
Professor Faust’s departure, at the end of June 2018, will coincide with the end of the university’s current fundraising campaign, which has so far raised more than $8 billion.
Under her leadership, Harvard partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012 to launch massive open online course (Mooc) platform edX.
Professor Faust has also been credited with fostering collaboration between the university’s undergraduate, graduate and professional schools. She also placed new emphasis on innovation in learning and interdisciplinary programmes.