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Professor and former Obama administrator appointed dean of Heller School

By Chengcheng Xiang

Section: News

September 8, 2017

David Weil, a former administrator appointed by President Obama, has been named the new dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and a full professor beginning Aug. 14, 2017. Working as an economics professor for the majority of his career, Weil has always had his research focus on social policies.

Speaking of his experience with the Obama administration, Weil described it as “incredible but very challenging… It was a very political position in the sense that my former agency enforced minimum wage over time, child labor, (and) guest worker programs were all very challenging tasks,” Weil said.

“President Obama and former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez were very anxious to move forward on helping working people in general, particularly low-wage workers who have faced very difficult and eroding conditions for decades. My task as the head of the labor department was basically to help them and see what we could do to change something that had been happening in the world,” he said.

Weil speaks highly about the Brandeis community. “Brandeis has a very exciting environment,” Weil said. “We have an incredible set of faculty, staff and students.” More importantly, he holds that the fundamental mission of the Heller School is to enact social justice. “Brandeis is so mission-focused as a university. I was really fascinated by a lot of different ways that things are happening here.”

As the new dean of the Heller School, Weil looks forward to creating an impact by enforcing social justice strategically. “It is really figuring out, how do we undertake the mission effectively?” Weil said.

Weil talks about his biggest challenge as the dean. “People believe in knowledge advancing social justice. But you have got to translate that in terms of, how we teach, how we integrate our research in our teaching, (and) how, as an institution, we behave.”

He believes that there exists a vast gap between the training at academic institutions and the reality in the policy world, which is what he attempts to eliminate. “So the research we are doing, the way we are training our students really gives you the ability to affect all the kinds of public policies,” Weil said.

Having focused on the study of economics, Weil believes that his academic experience will benefit his performance and understanding as the dean. “Economics, I find, is a very powerful tool to think about things like, how…you allocate resources effectively,” Weil said.

He believes that economics can play an essential role in terms of impacting social justice. “Social justice is a profound statement of values. You still have to think about how to achieve that in the context of how society works and to understand how society works is through economic institutions,” he said.

With this in mind, Weil is looking forward to his new role. “A dean is someone who needs to bring together the faculty, students and staff. A big part of what I view my next year will be engaging my colleagues here in the discussion…and making sure that people really have ownership in that direction forward,” he said.

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