Maria Dominguez Gray (left) and Tara Venkatraman '11, recipient of PBHA's Community Service Scholars Postgraduate Fellowship.
Maria J. Dominguez Gray will serve as the first female executive director of the Phillips Brooks House Association, PBHA leaders announced on Wednesday.
Dominguez Gray, who served as deputy director of PBHA since 1999, will take over for Gene A. Corbin. Corbin left PBHA, Harvard's main umbrella organization for undergraduate volunteerism, for a position in the College administration as an assistant dean of student life for public service.
Corbin said that diversity in leadership is important for any social justice organization, explaining that the appointment of a woman as executive director will be an asset for PBHA in its role as a social justice advocate.
Although Dominguez Gray is the first woman to hold the position, she said that PBHA has had many female staff members and student presidents who have influenced the direction of the organization
E. Abim Thomas ’96, a member of the PBHA Board of Trustees, said that Dominguez Gray’s appointment is not only significant in itself but is also “laying the foundation for...others to follow in her footsteps.”
Corbin, who has worked with Dominguez Gray for more than eight years, stressed that her gender “is really an added benefit.”
“Maria was named to the position because she’s incredibly capable,” Corbin added.
Dominguez Gray graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1994.
For student leaders of PBHA, Dominguez Gray is already a familiar face noted for her efforts to get to know students on a personal level.
“It’s very clear that her priority is supporting students,” said Carolyn W. Chou ’13, president of PBHA. “She has made a big impact on a lot of Harvard students’ lives.”
Jesus H. A. Sesma ’13, a program director at PBHA, said, “It’s not often that you hear [of] someone who has a position like executive director of an organization who has so many one-on-one relationships with the student body that she works with.”
In addition to her work at PBHA, Dominguez Gray said she is actively involved in the wider communities of Cambridge and the Boston area.
Dominguez Gray said that she believes “being present” in the community aids her work at PBHA. By attending community meetings and making an effort to be involved outside of Harvard, she helps staff members adjust PBHA programming to meet community needs and increase PBHA’s credibility as a social justice organization, she said.
“I’ve just always been impressed by her involvement with the community,” said Thomas, who has worked with Dominguez Gray on efforts to encourage service in Massachusetts. As deputy chief counsel to Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78, Thomas worked with Dominguez Gray to establish the Commonwealth Corps program, a statewide youth service program.