Featured Alum – Gene A. Jarrett ’93

by Paulina Klubok ’19

Gene A. Jarrett ’93 was appointed as Dean of New York University’s College of Arts and Science (CAS) last June. Before his return to New York, Dr. Jarrett was in Boston for the last decade. He joined Boston University as a Professor of English and African American Studies in 2007 and was named Associate Dean of the Faculty in 2014. Specializing in African American literary history from the eighteenth century to the present, Dr. Jarrett has published two books and edited/co-edited eight other works and has received acclaimed academic fellowships for his work.

Dr. Jarrett attributes his accomplishments to his upbringing. His parents are first generation Jamaican immigrants who instilled him with strong values of hard work and education. “They were always talking about how education is a pathway toward opportunities,” Dr. Jarrett said. “My father used to say to me: the harder you work, the luckier you get.”

Stuyvesant, with its competitiveness and rigor, reinforced these values. At Stuyvesant, Dr. Jarrett explored his dual academic interests of English and Mathematics. The long commute (Dr. Jarrett traveled from the Bronx) and challenging curriculum were obstacles that “you just had to persevere through.” Despite them, Dr. Jarrett remembers Stuyvesant fondly. “[At Stuyvesant], there were a lot of people who excelled in their studies and it made me appreciate how important it was to bring a certain degree of intellectual intensity and energy to whatever I did,” he said.

After graduation, Dr. Jarrett went to Princeton where he received a minor degree in computational mathematics but ultimately decided to pursue his love for literature by majoring in English. It was at Princeton that Dr. Jarrett was exposed to African-American studies. A series of lectures that he heard there riveted him. “Because I am a person of African descent, the issues regarding race and culture interested me in terms of understanding the world in which I lived and gave me a chance to learn more about myself,” Dr. Jarrett said. Through reading books written by African-American authors about what it means to be American and his own research, Dr. Jarrett found a long history of African-American culture, politics and intellectual exchange that inspired him to write his own works.

In his current position as Dean of CAS at NYU, Dr. Jarrett works hard to put students in a position to succeed. When students enter NYU, Dr. Jarrett guides them on how to navigate through college and, eventually, through their careers and the rest of their lives. He finds it rewarding to interact with students and faculty from different backgrounds. For Dr. Jarrett, it is important to be compassionate to the different experiences of his students and to be true to who he is and where he came from.  To Stuyvesant students, Dr. Jarrett advises studying widely, and to young writers, to practice writing daily. He is currently working on a biography of the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.