Harvard Alumni Association Elected Director

Candidate Questionnaire Responses

March 2017

 

1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)  

 

Thinking back to my time at Harvard, I believe I learned just as much from my fellow students as I did in the classroom.  The diversity of opinions on offer, and one’s freedom to express those, made (and makes) Harvard a special place.  I would agree with the words of Michael Bloomberg, who in his commencement address of 2014 said, “Great universities are places where people of all backgrounds, holding all beliefs, pursuing all questions, can come to study and debate their ideas – freely and openly.”  While some in our society would like to stifle debate, demanding we accept their view of the world, I would work to ensure that dissenting views would be heard on campus, not just tolerated, but encouraged.

2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.)


I think Harvard can encourage more diversity amongst its alumni leaders by broadening the work that the HAA does, thereby attracting more people to participate.  For example, as President of the Harvard Club of the UK, I have helped steer the club to ensure that we work to attract a wide-range of student applicants to Harvard.  We have instituted an expansive program, whereby Harvard alumni volunteers promote the merits of higher education at a number of the state schools around the country.  Many of these students have never thought to go to university, let alone Harvard.  Through offers of need-blind tuition funding, we are able to expand Harvard’s reach, thus helping to attract a more diverse pool of applicants; concrete steps like these helps to increase diversity among students (future alumni).   Interestingly, the alumni that participate in these programs also have a strong sense of mission and commitment, and I would argue more programs like these, bringing Harvard into the community, will engage more alumni.


3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions.

 

We should encourage Harvard to continue its policies of reaching out to attract a diverse group of students and faculty.  Having a racially diverse student body is incredibly important, not just for those students, but for the Harvard community.

4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society?

 

Harvard is a beacon for many aspiring parents and children, not just in the US, but around the world.  The example set by the President of Harvard, the student body and the alumni does matter.  We, as a community, should always strive to be at our best.  We have an obligation to lead and we should do it.

5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with? 

 

While one could speak in general terms on this topic, I thought I would share one concrete example. I was very proud of the Harvard Club of the UK, as recently we did our part for fighting for inclusion and promoting diversity at Harvard.  When two Harvard researchers of Iranian heritage where stranded at Glasgow airport last month, having been denied admittance to the USA, I and my fellow board members rallied the Harvard community to support them.  We coordinated an outpouring of support from Harvard alumni across the UK, ranging from offers of legal aid, potential alternative jobs, housing and even political support from leading members of government.  It is fantastic to see when Harvard fights for what is right – Fight Fiercely, Harvard – especially on topics such as these, that are so important to our society, as so unjust and terrible for the individuals targeted.

Martha Abbruzzese Genieser AB ’91 
Director of Philanthropy, Alan Howard Family Office      London
 
 
 
Nathaniel Q. Belcher MArch ’92

 

Professor of Architecture, Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Penn State

 

1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)


 

\In my experiences as a Graduate School of Design graduate, former GSD Alumni Council Member, and concerned citizen; I see that diversity has been an evolving and sincere conversation at Harvard. I have witnessed and participated in difficult conversations with seen varying degrees of success, learning, and trials result. Diversity is defined generationally, and in any dynamic context such as Harvard it often challenged by faculty, students and the public is way that can only strengthen the institution. As a high profile institution Harvard University rarely shies away from these sorts challenges and I believe that is should remain very important to the mission and future of Harvard.

 

2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.)


 

As a leading institution, I hope that Harvard will continue to reach out to all alumni leaders and engage student/faculty leaders and a full throated declaration about the importance of identifying the value of diversity as both and a domestic and global project that. This should be followed by specific action, goals and public review discussions.

 

3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions.

 

I strongly believe in the importance of affirmative action and the maintenance of race-conscious admissions strategies as a practice in the institution. I also do not see this as a zero sum gain nor do I see this as a detriment to the qualitative mission of Harvard.

 

4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society?


 

Advocacy of the creation of a more equitable, inclusive and just society is a laudable project and should be modeled institutional behavior form a progressive institution with a culture of growth such as Harvard. This is expected in a leading institution with such deep resources, reach and impact.

 

5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with?


 

In my roles as a faculty member, academic administrator and national professional board member (ACSA, NAAB) I have been involved in the implementation, definition and monitoring programs and plans targeted to address diversity. These plans of the involve recruitment, expanded opportunity hires, and regular review of critical discussions and actions.

 
Sangu Julius Delle AB ’10 cum laude, JD ’17, MBA ’17
Chairman and CEO, Golden Palm Investments Corporation; Founder and President, cleanacwa Ghana

 

  1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)  

 

I’ll never forget May 2007, when as a freshman at the College, I was playing capture-the-flag in the Quad on a Saturday afternoon, as part of the annual Harvard Black Men’s Forum and the Association of Black Harvard Women Challenge. We were having a great time and were very confused when the Harvard University Police Department sent officers to inquire whether we had a permit to be on the field (we did). Apparently a number of emails were sent over the Cabot House email list questioning our use of the public law and whether we were even Harvard students (even though we were all wearing Harvard gear). This generated a lot of hurt and controversy. As an executive in BMF, we launched a campaign in response to dispel racial stereotypes that we called “I am Harvard.” 7 years later, as a JD/MBA graduate student at the Law School and the Business School, and a Resident Tutor in Adams House, I re-lived the 2007 experience as black students on campus organized the viral “I, Too, Am Harvard” campaign.

 

I am proud that half of the deans of Harvard’s schools are immigrants, that our President is a woman, and that in response to Trump’s ban, our University made a decision to appoint a Muslim chaplain and to increase support for Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic. However, there is much more to be done. As a student leader and later as a Resident Tutor in Adams House, I heard from many of my advisees and fellow students about the challenges of being under-represented at Harvard, whether you’re Muslim, African-American, Latino, LGBTQ or First Generation among others. As a black man, international student, financial aid recipient with a Muslim mother and a Catholic father, I appreciate in very personal terms, the power and promise of a diverse world view.

 

I have some ideas that I’d love to see the University pursue:

  • Increasing diversity of our faculty: in my experience at the College, the Law School, and the Business School (and I imagine the same can be said of many other schools at the University), I believe this is probably the area where Harvard has the greatest room for improvement in terms of diversity

  • Increasing socio-economic diversity: even with its generous financial aid program, Harvard can still be a difficult transition for low income students. I believe we need to expand the “start up” grants program and to increase resources for First Generation advising, not just at the College, but throughout the University

  • Increased resources towards diversity training

But it’s not about my ideas because I don’t hold the monopoly on ideas. I believe it’s about my ability and willingness to listen to your ideas, to solicit your input, to gather your perspectives and to represent all of those at the HAA and to vigorously pursue them with the University.


2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.) 

I believe the HAA as an institution needs to do a much better job of engaging with special interest groups and associations that represent diverse members to actively promote its activities, solicit input and recruit leaders.

3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions. 

In an amicus curiae following the University of Texas affirmative action case, our University joined 13 other colleges in supporting the practice of race-conscious admissions policies “to continue to allow educational institutions to structure admissions programs that take account of race and ethnicity as single factors within a highly individualized, holistic review process.” President Faust endorsed “the vital interest of universities in bringing together students from many different backgrounds and points of view. Such diversity enriches the learning experience for all our students, as they live and learn in a community whose collectively variety of experiences, interests and perspectives open minds, expands horizons and better prepares students to live and serve in a pluralistic world.” I am proud of, and continue to support, Harvard’s strong defense of affirmative action and race-conscious admissions not as controlling factors, but as single factors within a holistic review process. We still need to do a better job of socio-economic diversity, even within our under-represented communities.  


4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society? 

I believe Harvard, by virtue of its place in society, as the premier institution of higher learning, has a moral responsibility to lead by example and I commit to doing everything in my power to hold the University accountable in the pursuit of this ideal. I wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power to the University in 2007 on behalf of Harvard workers and I won’t be afraid today and in the future of standing up to the University’s leadership to advocate for progressive change.

5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with? 

I have been involved in promoting diversity and inclusion my entire life as a student leader, as an activist, as an entrepreneur and investor, and as a human being: in my schools, companies, organizations and in my personal life.

 
Drew Engles AB ’87 cum laude
Hand and Microvascular Surgeon, Akron Children’s Hospital    Ohio

 

1.   For Harvard to remain a preeminent, internationally recognized university I believe it imperative that three core values reside at the heart of its mission.  These pillars include intellectual honesty, diversity and the free and open exchange of ideas.  I do not rank these because they are all of paramount importance and all are intrinsically linked to each other.

 

Intellectual honesty requires that students, faculty and administrators always strive to seek the truth irrespective of whether or not these facts align with their own personal beliefs or experience.  Diversity across all aspects of the University is what gives Harvard strength and enriches the experiences of all of our stakeholders.  It is, however, not the end all.  Programmatic diversity is only the invitation.  Inclusion is what transforms one from a bystander into an essential contributor to the rich tapestry of the Harvard experience.  Only with free and open speech can this diverse body learn, grow and prosper.  It is through the exchange of unique viewpoints and thoughtful debate that we advance as individuals and as a community.

 

Thus, as espoused in the overview above, one can see that I believe diversity is at the heart of both the school’s mission as well as the Harvard experience.  I believe that through the Office of BGLTQ Student Life, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the Harvard College Women’s Center, and other resources, that the University endeavors to address the needs and concerns of multiple constituencies within the Harvard community.  One of the more tangible components of these various groups is the Diversity Educator program. These are undergraduate students who serve as facilitators in promoting diversity and inclusivity on campus.

As an alumni interviewer with more twenty years of experience, I have come to realize my own limitations as an advocate of the Harvard experience.  While I can discuss what it is like to come from a New York City public high school that was in some ways more diverse than my class at Harvard, I am now a middle-aged, bowtie wearing, white male more than 30 years removed from my matriculation to Harvard College.  I wonder then if an ambassador program, with current undergraduates, might not provide a more contemporary and enticing representation of Harvard and all that it offers today.  I think that the development of such a program would enable students seeking admission to have a more realistic and, I believe, a more accurate representation of the undergraduate experience.

I realize that this just addresses one aspect of the Harvard admission process, albeit the one I have the greatest personal knowledge of and connection with.  To address all facets of diversity and inclusion it will require continuous dialogue with both current students and our alumni, the two constituencies that I would serve as an elected director of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA).

 

2.  The Harvard Alumni Association, through its 53 clubs and shared interest groups, seeks to unite alumni who share commonality in a variety of areas other than just geographic proximity.  There are eleven groups that focus on culture or ethnicity and five that are dedicated to gender and sexuality.

While I served as the president of the Harvard Club of Northeast Ohio I sought to cross pollenate with other Harvard groups.  In one instance, I did this by working with the Harvard Business School of Northeast Ohio.  In an attempt to better market each other’s programs, I collaborated with their club administrator to encourage attendance by members of each club to the other’s events.  I think that similar efforts at synergism between local clubs and shared interest groups would provide for an opportunity for learning and personal growth.  It is this type of openness to collaboration that I would hope to champion as an elected director of the HAA.

Part of cultivating engagement in alumni activities after college is through the provision of rewarding and fulfilling experiences for students once they get to college.  This can go a long way in fostering participation by younger alumni. If they build bridges before they leave Cambridge, I believe these connections are more likely to last over a lifetime.  One novel concept would be to have young alums serve as mentors to entering students.  This would allow for engagement of the recently graduated without any financial burden and at the same time make the newest members of the Harvard community feel more than just “welcomed on paper”.  Maintaining touch points for the youngest graduates, I believe, is quintessential to a robust HAA.   

 

3.  Complying with federal mandates for affirmative action and equal opportunity programs is not enough.  This is why I am a wholehearted supporter of the holistic approach utilized in the admissions process at Harvard.  Since the issuance of President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925 in 1961, the United States Government has taken action to ensure that any employee working for a government contractor is treated “without regard to race, creed, color or national origin.”  This was further amended by Lyndon B. Johnson to include gender as well.  Collectively these address both affirmative action and equal opportunity. It is my understanding that applicants for both admission to and employment by Harvard are treated in a manner that complies with these long-standing federal regulatory statutes.  Perhaps what is more telling though is the actual process by which the admissions committee selects each incoming class.  That is to approach each applicant in a holistic fashion taking into account race, ethnicity and gender as facets of an application just as they would standardized testing scores, teacher recommendations, athletic prowess, economic disenfranchisement and geographic distribution.  This ensures that each applicant is treated as an individual rather than a statistic utilized to meet a specific quota.  I am an ardent proponent of this system.  In fact, my belief in this very process has enabled me to approach each interview season with enthusiasm even though I know the vast majority of students I encounter will ultimately not be offered a spot in Cambridge.  I find solace in knowing how much time and effort is expended by the admissions committee in their deliberations for each applicant.

 

4.  If you enter Harvard Yard via Dexter Gate the inscription above the transom reads “Enter to grow in wisdom” and upon exiting, the reverse facade states “Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind”.  I can think of no better marching orders for those have been afforded the incredible opportunity to attend Harvard.  I am proud to be a member of the Board of Trustees for the Harvard Club of Northeast Ohio because I believe my colleagues have taken this dictum to heart.  Just this past Monday, we sat around a table and read essays that were written by high school seniors from the Cleveland Municipal School District.  These were students who had won the Harvard Book Award the previous year. This qualified them to submit an essay, on the topic of their choice, which we then read, debated on and ultimately awarded $500 scholarships to the winners.  The money can be used at any college of their choosing.  When faced with a tie the choice was simple, award a scholarship to both students.  The money utilized to finance these scholarships comes from both donations made by club members as well as money raised from social events throughout the year.  In addition to our book awards and our scholarships, we also have a program entitled Cleveland Goes to College.  This is an early college awareness program where our members go into middle schools, meet with at-risk students and discuss the requisite classes and performance necessary to attend college.  They are encouraged to set going to college as an achievable personal goal.  We also volunteer at college and career fairs throughout the academic year.  With a membership of only one hundred, I believe that we are making a difference in our community.  Harvard Clubs and SIG’s around the world all have the opportunity to make a difference in their own communities, industries and countries.  The HAA can be the resource that enables these groups to initiate such endeavors.

 

5.  As a pediatric hand and microvascular surgeon I have the great luxury of a working at an institution that has been guided by three very simple principles for over one hundred and twenty seven years.  Those three promises that were first made in 1890 are:  First, to treat others as you would like to be treated.  Second, to care for every child as we would our own. And lastly, to turn no child away for any reason.  When embraced and actualized, these principles leave no room for racism, sexism, or intolerance.  Any such behavior is antithetical to our mission. As a surgeon that treats patients on a daily basis with congenital deformities, profound mental and physical disabilities or who have suffered life altering traumatic events, I am constantly reminded of these core values by the empathy, compassion and skill that I see my colleagues demonstrate.  I walked away from private practice in order practice full time in such an environment.  While one constantly strives for greater knowledge and scientific advancement medicine and in the provision of healthcare, these tenets are enduring and require neither change nor modification.  We simply need to be steadfast in our attempt live up to such standards.

 
Sachin H. Jain AB ’02 magna cum laude, MD ’06, MBA ’07
President and Chief Executive Officer, CareMore Health System    Cerritos, California

 

1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)  

Diversity is the reason I chose to attend Harvard.  When I visited the university as a high school student, I knew that I would meet lots of people like me, but that I would also meet lots of people who are different from me, people whose life experiences would challenge my assumptions and own reality.  Diversity is also what kept me at Harvard beyond college into medical, business school, and residency.
 
I believe diversity—gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, geography, socioeconomic experience, ideas - is the foundation of an effective, progressive modern education.
 
Harvard must continue to:

1)      Emphasize diversity in student recruitment AND admissions
2)      Recruit a diverse faculty
3)      Highlight and emphasize the work and accomplishments of diverse faculty across all disciplines and
4)      Install leaders who recognize and honor the value of diversity
5)      Establish a more global presence that extends its base of activity beyond Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts
 
Alumni leaders can support the university in these goals by continuing to advocate for these policies with University administration and continuing to emphasize the contributions diverse alumni make to our university and our society more broadly.  Alumni can also forcefully advocate for the representation of diversity in alumni activities such as reunions, Harvard Magazine, and regional events.  Funding to students 
 
Harvard is operating on an educational delivery model in which the relationship with its students is primarily discrete 1,2,4,4+ year educational degree programs.  Alumni engagement is primarily limited to reunions, regional events, and fundraising.  I believe the University of the future will move away from an episodic relationship with students to a more continuous relationship in which education is delivered life-long, not just through degree-granting programs.  As an example, as a graduate of the business and medical schools, I long for a deeper connection with my alma maters in which my continuing personal development and educational needs could be met by the schools that so strongly shaped my thinking in the first place.  Developing a continuous relationship with students would create a channel through which to continue to affirm the value of diversity to alumni.


2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.) 

See Above

3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions. 

I am a strong supporter of affirmative action and race-conscious admissions policies.  Those who argue against these policies ignore the realities of how opportunities are distributed in our society—and the high degree of latent racism that affects decision-making.  If we strongly recognize the virtue of diversity in producing a high quality modern education, then we must also deliberately seek that diversity and make provisions that facilitate it within admissions policies.  Access to opportunity is not equally distributed in our society and affirmative action and race-conscious admissions policies, however imperfect a solution, help to adjust for that unequal distribution.

4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society? 

Harvard plays a central role in shaping the intellect and attitudes of future leaders.  True leaders must be equipped with a strong sense of ethics, right and wrong, and have empathy for a diversity of perspectives.  Harvard creates a more equitable, inclusive, and just society by providing a diverse group of students with access to opportunity; but also by imbuing students with the values they need to make good judgments as leaders in the future.

5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with? 

I am the president of the CareMore Health System, a division of Anthem, Inc.  As such, I am one of the company’s highest ranking minorities.  I am a member of the company’s diversity and inclusion company and have been a vocal advocate for the value of recruiting diverse talent to the enterprise.  I have matched my words with action.  CareMore is one of the most diverse entities within the company and truly aspires to reflect the richness and diversity of the communities we serve.  In addition, I have prioritized directing diverse, high-talent individuals to high level leadership positions across the company.

Elena Hahn Kiam AB ’85 cum laude
Co-Owner and Creative Director, K-FIVE LLC d/b/a lia sophia; Co-Owner and non-executive Marketing Director, Cirrus Healthcare Products  NY

 

1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)

Diversity should be an extremely high priority at Harvard. As one of the leading educational and thought-leading institutions in the world, Harvard must have the benefit of the widest range of thoughts, opinions, and experiences from its major communities: students, faculty, administrators and alumni. If Harvard fails to include a particular minority group as part of these communities, the University will be less equipped to understand and bring about positive change for that group and for the world. To that end, Harvard should have well thought out programs to meet the needs of minorities once they are at Harvard, especially to help them flourish on campus. The Harvard program of first generation alumni reaching out and helping mentor first generation students is a good example of a University strategy which is sensitive to the needs of students who may be less equipped to handle college life. Harvard should broaden and supplement these kinds of programs as much as possible.

 

In its admission, hiring, and appointment practices, Harvard should continue to make diversity a University priority to insure that all major minority groups, and as many smaller groups as possible, can feel part of the fabric of University life. In admissions for example, Harvard must prioritize diversity as a key component of the selection process. Harvard should ensure that all individuals and groups are integrated and made to feel welcome into student life, and provide activities that, while they may appeal more to specific groups, are accessible to all. Funding should be made available to students who can’t afford to participate in the overall educational experience, including socially. An example that is working is Harvard’s subsidizing tickets to events for students in need.

 

When I was a high school senior in 1981, Harvard stood out as a university because of thevery first sentence in the admissions brochure which stated, “Diversity is our trademark.” I am gratified by how Harvard’s Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program (UMRP) purposefully reaches out to recruit minority applicants starting in middle school, and would want to strengthen and enhance these kinds of programs. Harvard needs to fund more initiatives which allow minorities who do come to Harvard to have a social experience which does not make them feel like outsiders.

 
2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.)

Harvard can encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders by electing directors who truly prioritize diversity. These elected directors and other alumni leaders should be champions of Harvard embracing diversity and inclusiveness. In terms of activities, Harvard alumni events should offer programs that have wide appeal. However, Harvard should also be open to enhancing programs that appeal to particular minority groups. These programs should be easily accessible to all who want to attend them.


3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions.

As someone who supports affirmative action and race-conscious admissions, I believe diversity should be a University priority and, therefore, should be a key component of the admissions process. I believe extra consideration should be given to underrepresented minorities who would not otherwise be admitted to Harvard. The reason for this is obvious: Harvard is simply a better place because of the diversity of its extremely talented student body, which brings different points of view, backgrounds and life experiences into play.


4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society?

Through all of its policies and procedures, Harvard should be a role model in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society. Because of its stature as the preeminent University in the world, what Harvard does and how it does it affects how other educational institutions, and society in general, behave. Harvard must take this role extremely seriously and make sure that it is a leader in putting into practice policies which will be widely respected and emulated and which will make our world a better place if more broadly adopted. Simply put, because of Harvard’s leadership role among universities, every decision Harvard makes could set a new norm, which is why it isimperative for Harvard’s leaders to stand up for what they believe is right.


5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with?

At Lia Sophia, the direct sales company I co-owned and helped lead, we made diversity a top priority, and as a result, our company had a very diverse work force. We intentionally built a senior executive team and board which was highly diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs and sexual identity. I believe the diversity of ideas and input from our employee base helped catapult Lia Sophia to the success it was able to achieve. As part of Lia Sophia’s company policy and culture, we instituted a robust recruiting and mentorship program to attract as many sales representatives from the most diverse backgrounds as possible. We also created programs focused on educating our employees about diversity, and I personally attended all of our training workshops, including severalon LGBTQ issues which included the most recent research around gender diversity.

 
Ronald P. Mitchell AB ’92 cum laude, MBA ’97
Chief Executive Officer, Virgil Inc.  NY

 

  1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)  

 

Diversity of thought should one of the primary values of any elite university.  There is a vast body of academic work that supports the idea that diverse teams generate the most creative and effective solutions.  Harvard, based upon its track record of producing global leaders, has an obligation to foster this type of diverse and creative problem solving environment.  In today’s world, diversity has come to mean more than racial diversity.  The university should seek ethnic, gender, socio-economic, sexual orientation, geographic, political, age and other forms of diversity.  Yet, having diversity is not enough.  The university must foster an environment that embraces the exchange of diverse opinions.  

 

The recent turmoil at Middlebury College and other campuses across the nation demonstrates the adverse impact of creating environments where there is an unwillingness to tolerate diverse opinions.  We have devolved into a nation with little respect for the constructive exchange of ideas.  The University and its students cannot discourage conversations and perspectives that may appear distasteful to them.  It was not long ago that enrolling women and minority students was thought to be distasteful.  During my years as an undergrad at Harvard, I spent many hours marching and protesting for the University to divest from South Africa, a viewpoint deemed distasteful to University administrators at the time.  It is critical that the university provide safe haven for those with disparate backgrounds and ideas to exchange those ideas in a constructive manner.  That being said, the University must use its discretion to differentiate between hate speech that is not founded in a scholarly or factual foundation from those perspectives that warrant a constructive forum for engagement.  My college roommates were from Indiana, Mississippi and New York.  We still recognize the conversations and arguments that we had in our dorm room as the most important elements of our personal development at Harvard.  


2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.) 

 

There is a big difference between “accepting” diversity and “embracing” diversity.  Harvard has done an exemplary job of accepting diversity on campus and among alumni.  However, embracing diversity is still a challenge for the university and the majority culture as a whole.  Let me give an example.  Accepting diversity means inviting and welcoming an East-Indian population to an alumni event in NYC.  Embracing diversity means hosting that event at an East-Indian cultural space (e.g. museum, restaurant, etc.) and expecting the entire diverse alumni population in NYC to attend.  There are many diverse alumni that still feel that Harvard does not “speak” to them.  It does not represent their reality.  

 

Several years ago, Harvard began supporting a Black Alumni Weekend.  Personally, it has been one of the most rewarding alumni events in which I have participated over my 25 years as an alum.  I appreciate Harvard’s support of this effort; however, events do not need to be segregated in order to achieve an equivalent level of diverse inclusion.  There are elements of that alumni weekend that can be incorporated into broader Harvard events, whether that be the food, entertainment, faculty presentations, etc.  The only way to ensure that this occurs is to have diverse participation in the planning and development of these events.  Alumni representation is critical but so is diversity among the staff that plans these events.  The University needs to have diverse leadership running the University’s alumni relations department.  


3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions. 

 

There is significant factual support that race is a limiting factor in academic, economic, healthcare and political access.  Many may argue that socio-economic inequality, not race, is the true limiting factor.  Yet, that obfuscates the fact that race is a driver of socio-economic success.  Whichever, argument you choose, the fact is that racial minorities do not operate on a level playing field in this nation.  Consequently, if the University wants to secure the benefits of diversity, as articulated above, then it must take extraordinary measures to support it.  Affirmative action and race-conscious admissions is one of those measures.  Harvard and several of its Ivy counterparts have been leaders in a financial aid policy that enables a level of socio-economic diversity that had previously been unattainable; however, it should not stop there.  These financial aid policies have made the challenge of racial diversity more achievable; however, it does not eliminate the need for consideration of race in an additional capacity.

 


4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society?

 

Harvard’s primary role is to produce leaders who operate in all segments of our global society.  We hope that these leaders embrace fairness and inclusivity as a value.  However, today, our global leaders seem to be failing in this regard.  We cannot simply blame a particular individual or political party for this failure.  If anything, we need to blame ourselves and our institutions.  As a nation, our academic institutions have a disproportionate impact on the development of our children.  If we want an equitable and inclusive society, then our institutions must represent, embrace and develop that in our young people.  As the preeminent academic institution in the world, Harvard’s obligation in this regard is even more significant.  This may require that the University take what many may deem as a “political” stance on maintaining an equitable and inclusive environment on its campuses, in its curriculum and in its surrounding communities.   Harvard should be at the forefront of the dialogue around inclusivity even if that may run counter to the political trends of the moment.  This position should not be shaped as the viewpoint of a particular administrator or faculty member.  It should be the position of the University because it is critically important to our primary value proposition:  creating the world’s best leaders.

 
5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with? 

 

I have spent the past 15 years of my professional career working to create opportunities that level the playing field for students and professionals seeking career fulfillment.  I have founded three companies that have developed programs and technologies that provide transparency and coaching to individuals seeking to advance their careers.  These programs and services enable access to the information and networks that have often limited underserved populations from achieving the same career outcomes as their majority counterparts.  Programs and technologies that my companies currently deliver include:

  • Coaching platform that provides personal career coaches to thousands of diverse professionals within major professional services organizations in the U.S., U.K and South Africa

  • Technology platform that provides personalized career development roadmaps to underserved minorities seeking employment in high-tech careers

  • Platform that helps highly educated immigrant populations understand how skills, developed in their home country, map to careers in the U.S.

 

This type of work is a passion of mine.  I look forward to sharing some of the insights I have developed through this work with the Harvard community.

 
Paola A. Peacock Friedrich SM ’06, EdLD ’14
Human Capital Management Consultant, AchieveMission    Massachusetts

 

1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)

 

Addressing diversity, equity and inclusion as a matter of strategy and longevity should be a core priority at the highest levels of leadership at Harvard. Harvard holds a legacy of leading research, leadership, education and policy innovation globally. In order to maintain this level of quality and innovation, Harvard must continue to value, include, and support the full talent potential that exists.

The following specific initiatives would ensure that Harvard holds issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as central to strategy and mission both internally within the broader Harvard community and externally.

  • Adopting a justice-mindset – Leading the way in policy and practice on issues of diversity as a matter of social justice versus a matter of reparations or charity is paramount. 


  • Partnership Philosophy – Articulating a clear approach to partnerships that values the mutual contribution of stakeholders and expresses Harvard’s value of local leadership. 


  • Community Engagement Strategy – Following and a policy and practice of community engagement that acknowledges and upholds local strategies and indigenous leaders sets Harvard as a mutual contributor and mitigates imposing or dictating a strategy in a particular community or geography. 


  • Leadership Competencies – Clearly articulated competencies for leadership in the form of observable behaviors that are valued and upheld regardless of demographic factors. Remaining consistent and broadening the spectrum of what skills and capabilities are valued in leadership will offer a diverse and inclusive approach to leadership development. 
2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.) 
In addition to the initiatives mentioned above, it is important for Harvard to balance key leadership and decision-making roles among people of color and those from underrepresented groups. This clear distinction of responsibility will engage alumni of color and of underrepresented groups and will ensure that their engagement is far from token. 
3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions. 
Affirmative action and race-conscious admissions are a component of, what I believe to be a fundamental and universal right to quality education. When crafted and implemented well, these policies offer a way to evaluate the strengths and capabilities of first generation college goers and families of racial minorities – both of whom are highly correlated with low socio-economic status – alongside their counterparts from affluent or legacy backgrounds. If affirmative action is practiced as one part of a justice-minded approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, then it can have a holistic benefit. Alone, there is no single policy that will create an equitable school or society. 


 

4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society?

 


Harvard has the utmost responsibility to practice a justice-minded approach in order to contribute to crating more equitable, inclusive and just society. Each of us as individuals have this same responsibility, and together as alumni and a Harvard community we have even more influence. Harvard is an influential leader in thought and practice. This has brought such prosperity and innovation to our society over time already. Our moral responsibility as a Harvard community is to put that excellence and potential to good use, toward creating a just society.

5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with?


 

From my earliest memories of school and work, I have always brought a justice approach to diversity and inclusion in my pursuits and collaborations. I am the daughter of two Mexican immigrant parents. Within that identity, I am an anomaly. My father and mother came to the united states in 1974 when my father was accepted into a PhD program in Physics at the University of California at Riverside. Already a minority in the science community, my sister and I attended Dartmouth College, both pursuing pre-Medicine in our undergraduate studies.

At the T. Chan School at Harvard, I was surrounded by students from diverse backgrounds and experiences. We were unified by our commitment to high quality and equitable health for communities and while I co-led the Latin American and Caribbean Student Group, I consciously partnered with the African Health Student group and others who were aligned with our core purpose.

As an alumna of the Doctor in Education Leadership, I felt compelled to lead the alumni network dedicated to continuing to transform US education. I was selected to co-design and lead the second annual Ed.L.D. Alumni Network Convening in 2015. As co-chairperson, I worked to curate and design a program that covered issues of educational excellence, policy and equity.

At AchieveMission, I am the leader of our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. I designed and facilitated a webinar in 2017 entitled, Local Leaders Out Front: Responding to Community-led Strategies and Investing in Local. A recording of this webinar is available at achievemission.org. In all of my talent and leadership consulting work, I help nonprofit CEOs and leadership teams to work through challenging conversations regarding race and equity internal to their organization and external in the communities they serve.

 
 

Leslie Miller Saiontz AB ’81
Founder and President, Achieve Miami

 

  1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)

 

The world is diverse. If Harvard’s mission is to prepare leaders to thrive when they graduate, then the University must prepare students for engaging thoughtfully with people across lines of difference, and grappling with diverse ideas, opinions, and perspectives. The ability to thrive in a global society is neither a conservative nor a liberal value. It is a foundation for a modern university.


 

2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.)

 

I’d encourage Harvard to consider not just diversity, but inclusion. Just because a population is diverse doesn’t mean all people feel welcome at the table. .

 

As diversity increases we must not pretend that we have a more inclusive environment. Diversity does not guarantee inclusiveness. We need to consider ways to fight against hidden biases, disadvantages, and potential subtle cues that make certain subgroups feel more welcome and able to thrive. It’s not just about having diverse bodies in the room. We need to actively create a diverse environment.

 

I’d recommend ensuring that there are diverse leaders involved in decision making… not just in background but in career and outreach engagement as well.  Determining the scope and sequence of events, considering policies, and serving to ensure that Harvard doesn’t just talk the talk.

 

3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions.

 

In my work as board chair at Teach For America we have thought long and hard about how to diversify our corps. We have exceptionally high criteria for admission, and we do not lower the bar for anyone based on race – we do several things instead. (1) We work hard to unearth potential racial biases in the application and interview process, and factors that might disadvantage certain subgroups. (2) We actively recruit diverse applicants with the expectation that if outstanding diverse candidates get into the pool of applicants, the corps will naturally become more diverse. (3) We’ve worked to create a more inclusive environment so that diverse corps members are more likely to succeed, and encourage their friends to apply. In Miami, we have seen our corps go from being only 20% minority to over 50% minority in just a few years. And it wasn’t because we lowered the bar for anyone. It was because we became highly race-conscious in our recruitment, training, and support, and ended up building a far more inclusive experience for our members. I in no way consider myself an expert on this topic, and am glad that this is a focus area for this group. I look forward to learning alongside you, and finding more strategies that work.

 

4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society?

Harvard is in the business of leadership and ideas. If we want to build a more equitable, inclusive and just society, we need to build leaders who value those things, and champion ideas that promote equity and inclusivity. When I see that someone has a Harvard degree, I assume that they are not only smart but motivated. I hope that through their Harvard experience that they leave with a strong moral compass and a sense of responsibility to do good in the world. We want to build leaders who think more broadly about the impact their businesses;  Who consider the true cost of their practices, including the impact on human life, on their own staff, and on the world at large. We don’t just want to teach our students what is happening on the ground – we want to teach them to shape the trends of the future. As I said above – these aren’t liberal or conservative values – there are many ways to lead toward equity…we just need to commit to prioritizing it and searching for solutions.

 

5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with?


My energies and resources have been devoted to improving equity and access to education in my community (Miami.) We develop programs which support teachers, schools, and educational activities for underserved students. I am particularly proud of innovative programs which disseminate their lessons to other school districts, and plan on expanding this outreach not just programmatically but in energy and passion. But this discussion is for another day.

© 2023 by The Voice Project. Proudly created with Wix.com

  • Facebook App Icon
  • Twitter App Icon
  • YouTube App Icon