James Ryan

Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education

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James E. Ryan is the 11th dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A leading expert on law and education, Ryan has written extensively about the ways in which law structures educational opportunity. His articles and essays address such topics as school desegregation, school finance, school choice, standards and testing, pre-K, and the intersection of special education and neuroscience. Ryan is the bestselling author of  Wait, What?:  And Life's Other Essential Questions - a convincing narrative on the power of questions . In addition, Ryan has authored articles on constitutional law and theory and has argued before the United States Supreme Court.

Before coming to Harvard, Ryan was the Matheson & Morgenthau Distinguished Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. He served as academic associate dean from 2005-09 and founded and directed the school's Program in Law and Public Service. While at Virginia, Ryan also received an All-University Teaching Award, an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and several awards for his scholarship. Ryan has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Auckland. He has also served on numerous education boards and commissions, including the U.S. Department of Education's Equity and Excellence Commission and the board of the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.

Ryan received his A.B., summa cum laude, from Yale University and his J.D. from the University of Virginia, which he attended on a full scholarship and from which he graduated first in his class. After law school, Ryan clerked for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and then  worked in Newark, N.J. as a public interest lawyer before entering into teaching. Ryan and his wife, Katie, live near Cambridge with their four school-age children.


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