Q&A with Deana Reardon
The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB) is pleased to welcome Deana Reardon as our new Executive Director. Working closely with the Chair of the department, she will lead administrative teams across multiple areas including faculty and academic affairs, finance, sponsored research, human resources, laboratory and facilities operations, and communications.
Prior to accepting the position of Executive Director, Reardon was CCB's Associate Director of Administration for almost five years; she acted as Interim Executive Director until October 27, 2020, when she was officially hired. CCB's Chair, Ted Betley, said it best: "It turns out the most qualified candidate was already doing the job."
Q: What attracted you to join CCB originally?
While working in the Division of Science Dean’s office, I had a great opportunity to get to know many people from all ten of the academic science departments. It gave me a small flavor for the culture and community within each, and I was always intrigued by the number of long-service employees in CCB. I knew that if so many people had stayed in that department for such a long time, they must be doing something right. And that was a community I wanted to be part of.
Q: What have you prized most about working here?
Definitely the relationships we’ve crafted while supporting some really exciting and cutting-edge science. Being a small part of the team, the machine, that enables faculty to do remarkable science. Being able to provide the administrative framework that paves the way for faculty to have the resources they need. Seeing graduate students publish and defend and then become world-class alumni doing incredible things across the globe. Those are truly the things that craft an experience that makes me cherish my time in CCB.
Q: What are your priorities for the coming year?
It’s important to remember that during the continuing global pandemic, the safety and well-being of our community members is paramount. We’re also doing important, critical, introspective work on what makes CCB a place where people want to be, focusing on making this a community that is diverse and inclusive and creating a culture that fosters individuals towards success. That’s where my work will be focused this year. We also have big goals around endowing fellowships for graduate students which is really a fundamental fundraising effort that needs to be undertaken. We’ll partner on that front as well.
Q: Tell us about your background—what led you to the position of Executive Director?
I’ve had a somewhat non-traditional path to academia. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s with a concentration in journalism. I had my sights set on becoming a political commentator for CNN in my younger days, but I’m so very glad that my trajectory changed. I started my Harvard career by working at the medical school, specifically helping to provide administrative support for a High-Performance Computing Conference.
From there, I was drawn to the administrative underpinnings that serve as a guardrail and foundation for faculty and students to navigate towards success. Joining the Dean’s office allowed me to do that at the Divisional level, often being behind the scenes and playing small roles in progress. In this ED role, my job is to support our remarkable faculty, students, postdocs and staff. Being a part of the scientific enterprise is exciting, challenging and rewarding and exactly where I want to be.
Q: You’re entering this job at an extraordinary time for the department and the University. As Interim Executive Director, you helped manage the transition to remote work, de-densified labs, and, after the anti-racism movement of summer 2020, started to strategize how to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment. What has that been like?
We’re having to re-think the way we do work, the way we engage with each other, and the way we prioritize our activities. We’ve had to be flexible and creative and that part has been challenging but rewarding. We’ve also had to miss out on some cherished experiences: graduation celebrations, retirements, handshakes when meeting new people, and hugs in celebrating outstanding achievements. We still have challenges in the days ahead, but I’ve been re-energized in thinking about the ways we can make our department a more welcoming and diverse place to do science. We’ve had to refocus and re-commit to our mission of excellence in teaching and research and despite it all there has still been progress. This is an incredibly resilient department, and I’m really excited about continuing to face these challenges and opportunities together.
Q: What else would you like the department to know about you?
I think we can only do our best work when all voices have a platform. It’s really my job to make certain that each individual in CCB has that platform. If I can help you find your voice, I’m here. I welcome any and all feedback, ideas, suggestions and conversation, always.