For The First Time In History, Harvard Has Four Black Women Faculty Deans

All photos via: The Harvard Crimson  

Beginning August 15, Harvard University will have four of its schools led by Black women, which is the first time in the Ivy League institution’s history, reports The Harvard Crimson.

Last week, Professor Claudine Gay became the latest string of Black women to be appointed to dean positions at the university. Her role as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will make her the first woman and first African American to hold that position. In an interview following the announcement, Gay said she hopes her new promotion will inspire other women and people of color, similar to how former University President Drew G. Faust inspired her as Harvard’s first female president.

“If my presence in this role affirms someone’s sense of belonging and ownership, the same way Drew’s appointment affirmed my sense of belonging, then I think that’s great,” said Gay. “And for people who are sort of beyond our gates, if this prompts them to look again and look anew at Harvard and imagine new possibilities for themselves, I think that’s great as well.”

In 2016, Michelle Williams became the first Black person to head a faculty at Harvard, and the first Black woman to lead the Longwood-based School of Public Health. In May and April, Tomiko Brown-Nagin and Bridget Terry-Long became the first African American women deans at the Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study and the Graduate School of Education, respectively.

Before their appointments, Evelynn Hammonds served as the first female and African American dean for the History of Science school for five years until 2013.

John S. Wilson, a senior advisor and strategist on Harvard University’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, calls these recent dean appointments "significant" considering Harvard has long been known as a predominately white institution.

“To now be moving into a phase of Harvard’s life where people who don’t meet that profile are now empowered to advance Harvard, it just signals that Harvard is getting ready for a new future for itself and for the country and for the world,” he said.


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