Tracy P. Palandjian ’93 is all about making an impact.
Now, as one of the 15 people tasked with finding Harvard’s next president, she’ll be making an impact on the future of higher education.
At 46, she is the youngest member of the search committee and one of just three members of the Board of Overseers on it. Her friends and colleagues said that her international background and commitment to accessibility in education will shape her approach to the search.
Sir Ronald Cohen, a former Overseer who co-founded Social Finance with Palandjian in 2011, said that Palandjian is interested in sustained educational accessibility.
“She is interested in how early you can begin to improve people's educational or attainment level through impact investment and then carrying it on through the whole of primary school, high school, and tertiary education,” Cohen said.
Nicholas D. Kristof ’82, a former Crimson Editor and former Overseer, also said Palandjian cares about accessibility.
“I think she cares about making the university a public good and about helping students find purpose about the Business School, the College, and about basic education expertise,” Kristof said.
Palandjian grew up in Hong Kong, and, before Social Finance, she spent time at McKinsey & Company, Wellington Management, and the Parthenon Group.
Colleagues think Palandjian’s variety of experience will uniquely influence her decision-making in the search.
“She’s a Harvard person, she has a global perspective, she's worked in different sectors,” said Karen Dynan, a professor of economics who serves on the board of Social Finance. “She's worked in the private sector but she’s steeped in nonprofit activities, the nature of them means she’s doing a lot of work with government.”
Indeed, Palandjian’s relationship with Harvard runs especially deep. She graduated from the College with a degree in Economics in 1993, and an MBA from the Business School in 1997. She was elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers in 2012 and rose to become Vice President of the Board in May 2017.
Dynan said she expects Palandjian will consult a wide variety of sources to inform her selection.
“She wants to hear everyone's view, for example, from the undergraduates to the most senior administrators at Harvard. So it's kind of like she's doing her own large scale research project on what would make for a good president and who the strong candidates are,” Dynan said.
Because her methodology is so focused on information collection, colleagues say it is difficult to guess what type of candidate Palandjian might pick.
“I think Tracy's personal style is such that, when she takes a risk, she makes sure she is as informed as best as she can be about all the possible outcomes and what the implications to those outcomes would be,” Dynan said.
Regardless, associates expressed a deep confidence in Palandjian’s ability to guide Harvard into this process.
“She has a remarkable combination of intellect and good heart,” Cohen said.