Six Months After Departure, College Still Without Dean for Diversity

Six months after Assistant Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Emelyn A. dela Peña left Harvard, the College is still searching for her replacement and will interview three finalists for the position next week.

According to Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair, the national search for candidates has been ongoing since dela Peña’s departure, and the finalists will come to campus to meet with several students. O’Dair said the College hopes to hire a replacement by the beginning of the summer.

“Ideally, we’d like someone to be here this summer, but all of that is really dependent on who are final candidate is and what their schedule is,” O’Dair said.

O’Dair added that the position “generated a lot of interest.” A search committee selected the three finalists after a round of interviews with semi-finalists concluded last month.

Students Discuss Diversity and Inclusion
Former Assistant Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Emelyn dela Peña at an event in the wake of a diversity task force report. Dela Peña left the College in October, and the College has not yet found a replacement.

Next week, when the finalists arrive on campus, they will meet with “campus constituents, campus partners, people who work on issues of diversity and inclusion,” according to O’Dair. She said that they will meet with a variety of officials who work to improve diversity across Harvard, and “not just within the College.”


O’Dair named the Bureau of Study Counsel, University Health Services, Counseling and Mental Health Services, and the Freshman Dean’s Office as several of the organizations who will greet candidates.

The College also aims to directly involve students in the selection process through a student forum, where finalists will meet with students and answer questions about the job.

“It’s a confidential student forum where the candidates will present a little bit about their philosophy around diversity and inclusion and will engage with students about who they are,” O’Dair said.

The forum will consist of recommended students and the President and Vice President of the Undergraduate Council. According to O’Dair, Diversity Peer Educators and interns from the Harvard Foundation, Women’s Center, and Office of BGLTQ Student Life will also participate in the forum.

In the future, O’Dair stated that she would like to see increased diversity and inclusion efforts engaging with “a wide variety of issues” that are relevant both at Harvard and across the United States.

“[Students are] looking at candidates who understand the various intersectionalities. They’re looking for someone who cares deeply about students who is going to be present on campus with students. And who is able to understand a really wide range of needs at the college,” O’Dair said.

—Staff writer Alice S. Cheng can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @alicescheng.

—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.


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