Faculty Deans

Cheryl Chen

Faculty Dean
Cheryl Chen Photo

I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and spent my high school years in New Hope, PA, along the Delaware River. After graduating from New Hope-Solebury High School, I studied Philosophy at Amherst College and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Philosophy at UC Berkeley. I spent five happy years in the Bay Area before returning with Sean to the East Coast in 1999. While Sean taught at Princeton, I worked as an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College. We moved to Harvard in 2006, and have been here ever since.

When I’m not in Dunster, you will likely find me in Emerson Hall, where I teach courses in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of religion, and serve as the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies. My research, very broadly, concerns the contrast between the world seen from a God’s-eye point of view and the world seen from our perspective embedded within it. This has led me to dabble in a variety of topics, such as the relation between perception and cognition, first-person thought, bodily awareness, and the passage of time.

We have two boys, Ben (15) and Nathaniel (9). Ben loves sports – especially soccer – and often represents Dunster in IM soccer, flag football, ultimate Frisbee, and basketball. At school, he enjoys learning languages (French, Latin, and soon Greek) and playing the cello with his chamber group. Nathaniel’s hobbies include track, parkour, playing the cello, and speed solving Rubik’s cubes. I enjoy running, hiking, cooking, and traveling, when I can. The four of us feel so fortunate to be part of the Dunster community, and we look forward to seeing everyone around the House.


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Sean Kelly

Faculty Dean
Sean Kelly Photo

I was born in Ohio, but spent most of my childhood in two different towns in Connecticut. Until I was 12, I lived in Danbury, just a mile or two from the Great Danbury State Fair. (It is now the Great Danbury State Fair Mall.) After that, I lived on a dirt road in West Redding, a rural town outside of Danbury. I managed to get lost in the woods a lot. I liked all kinds of sports growing up, but spent most of my time in the pool, swimming for the Wilton Y Wahoos. At Brown University, I continued to swim, while majoring in math and computer science, and doing a master’s degree in computational neuroscience. Finally, after a circuitous route (ask me about it sometime!), I found my way to philosophy. Once I graduated from UC Berkeley I taught at Stanford for a year, Princeton for seven years, and moved with Cheryl to Harvard in 2006. In Emerson Hall my office is across the corridor from Cheryl’s. I love teaching and thinking about philosophy there!

I was chair of the department for six years, and at the end of that time I led the committee to review the General Education program at the College. I used to teach a lot of philosophy of mind and cognitive science, but have lately started to focus my teaching on 19th and 20th century European philosophy. My research is in what might broadly be called “philosophical anthropology.” In short, I’m interested in what it means to be human. What makes our lives significant and worthwhile? What grounds the meaning in a life? What distinguishes us from God or the beasts? I love the history of philosophy and always wish I knew more about it.

Cheryl will say something about our two boys, Ben (15) and Nathaniel (9), so I’ll just add that in my spare time I like writing, music, travel, and sports.

My family and I are so excited to embark on our third year at Dunster House, and we can’t wait to get to know each of you. I hope you’ll introduce yourself in the Dining Hall or at the foosball table!


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