Stephen Ball started his role as Harvard Law School’s new dean of students on March 7. From his hometown of Southfield, he has made history as the first Black man to serve in that role in the school since it was founded in 1817. The 36-year-old is also only the second Black person to serve in that position. The first was a Black woman.
Growing up in Southfield, Ball said his hometown’s diversity influenced him in his formative years, and it continues to shape his perception of how people from different backgrounds can live and thrive together.
“At HLS, I will serve and represent all students — nearly 2,000 total — and these are students from across the country and around the world, coming from all walks of life,” Ball said in an interview with C and G Newspapers.
Ball, in his new role, will help promote the well-being of students by creating enriching student programming, helping prepare them for the Bar application process, connecting students to resources across the school, mentoring them and supervising events on campus.
Ball grew up in two homes in Southfield. After high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s of public policy from the University of Michigan. He graduated from Harvard Law school with his Juris Doctor in 2010.
As a graduate public policy student, he interned at the office of the mayor of Detroit and at a major nonprofit in New York. In law school, he interned at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and at the Washington, D.C., office of a major law firm. He subsequently practiced law in New York City at a major national law firm for almost six years.
After, he worked for an insurance company near San Francisco then headed to Airbnb before going to Wells Fargo, where he worked as a senior vice president and strategy lead, helping to advance the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“This is such a tremendous opportunity on both a professional and personal level,” Ball said of his new role at Harvard Law School. “It builds on what I accomplished in my previous roles, while also allowing me to embrace an entirely new challenge. Being able to bring all of that together for a place that I care so much about is deeply inspiring.”
Ball has indeed taken many steps in life and in his career. Even though there were challenging moments, he said everything he experienced helped him grow.
“I often tell students that their career arc is presumably long — somewhere from 30-40 years, perhaps even more,” he told C and G Newspapers. “For that reason, they should embrace their curiosities and passions, provided other life responsibilities allow them to.”
In a message to the Harvard Law School community, John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Dean of Student Services Jessica Soban ’07 said they are glad to have Ball back at Harvard Law School.
“His time as a student here, his broad knowledge of our profession, and his demonstrated commitment to mentorship and to fostering the aspirations and talents of others make him an excellent choice to be our new dean of students,” they wrote.