Starting on August 15, four black women will serve as the deans of some of Harvard University’s schools.
Dr. Claudine Gay was appointed as the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Professors Bridget Terry-Long and Tomiko Brown-Nagin are the deans of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Graduate School of Education, respectively. Michelle A. Williams will serve as the dean of the School of Public Health.
This momentous step comes after the university’s murky past ties with slavery.
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John S. Wilson, a strategist and senior adviser on the university’s president on diversity and inclusion initiatives said, “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.”
Brown-Nagin confirmed in an emailed statement that she is “thrilled whenever any organization recognizes talent in women and people of color, just the same of other groups.”
She went on to say that her experience was not “anomalous” however she has familiarity in her career in education often as “the only woman of color or one of a handful in elite spaces.”
Gay added, “If my presence in this role affirms someone’s sense of belonging and ownership, the same way Drew’s appointment affirmed my own sense of belonging, then I think that’s great, 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 A. Williams became the first black woman to head the Longwood-based School of Public Health. Williams was also the first black individual to head faculty at Harvard University.