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Sandra Naddaff, Dean of Harvard Summer School

Learn More About Dean Naddaff

What was your favorite area of study or class in high school? College?

In high school, I’d say that Latin was probably my favorite course–I especially loved Vergil and Ovid. I continued my love of the humanities in college, but I moved away from the classics and spent more time studying English, French, and Arabic literature.

Who was your most influential teacher/professor?

I’ve been so lucky to have amazing teachers and professors  throughout my life. Mrs. Jaeger, my high school Latin teacher who shared my love of Latin and of the piano, was extremely demanding and somewhat stern, but her passion for Latin literature was contagious and she remained a mentor long after I graduated from high school. 

Edward Said and Dorrit Cohn were two faculty members with whom I studied in college who truly transformed the way I thought about approaching literary and cultural texts. Said was writing his seminal work Orientalism when I took a course on Philosophy of Language with him and forever changed the way I think about how language functions. And Cohn introduced me to narrative theory in her course on Consciousness in the Modern Novel and transformed the way I approach literature. I have saved the syllabi from both of those courses and periodically look back at them and remember the intellectual excitement of those courses.

What do you find special about the Harvard Summer School?

Dean Sandra Naddaff
Sandra Naddaff, Dean, Harvard Summer School

So many things: I love that we make the extraordinary resources of Harvard such as our Libraries and Museums available to students of all ages—ranging from their teens to their 80’s. I love that we offer a far-ranging and dynamic liberal arts curriculum alongside courses in the professional realm. I love that students can come to the Summer School, whether online or in-person, and find themselves in a classroom or a dorm room or on a bench in Harvard Yard next to someone who comes from a different country, who speaks a different language and practices a different religion, but shares a common intellectual passion.

What is your favorite summer pastime?

Long early evening neighborhood walks before the sun sets; cooking with the fruits and vegetables of the season; hiking in Colorado.

What is your favorite place on the Harvard campus?

Two special places: the Widener Library stacks and the Radcliffe garden.

Did you study abroad? Where?

After graduating from college, I spent 18 months studying Islamic History at the American University in Cairo. A few years later, I spent a year in Paris working on my dissertation on the 1001 Nights. Both were memorable adventures.