Lisa M. Coleman, Harvard’s first Chief Diversity Officer, will leave her post in July to take on a similar role at New York University.
No replacement has so far been named, according to University spokesperson Tania DeLuzuriaga, and Coleman said she is unsure if the position will remain in its current iteration.
“I don’t think they will dissolve the role,” Coleman said. “I don’t know what it will be called—the thing is these roles morph and change a lot within institutions. It could be separated into several roles. There’s work with students, there’s work with faculty, there’s work with staff, and that work has grown over the years.”
Coleman—who is also a special assistant to University President Drew G. Faust—has served as Harvard’s Chief Diversity Officer since 2010, coordinating diversity-related programs across the University.
“We’ve really developed a lot of partnerships across the school and we have more people who are actually doing this work, so literally boots on the ground, which is really terrific,” Coleman said.
Executive Vice President Katie Lapp wrote in an email that during Coleman’s seven-year tenure, Coleman played an integral role in overseeing and expanding diversity and inclusion efforts across the University. According to Lapp, she oversaw “the growth and expansion of the Administrative Fellowship Program, as well as University Disability Services assistive technologies offerings, and its educational outreach and partnerships.”
Coleman said that there are now more diversity and inclusion officers and committees across Harvard’s schools than when she arrived in 2010.
“There was a lot going on even before my arrival, it’s just what we’ve been able to do now is sort of knit it together,” Coleman said.
When Faust named Coleman to the new position, The Crimson’s Editorial Board heralded the move as a step in the right direction, writing, “Without the oversight the position provides, the need to ensure diversity may have fallen by the wayside.”
But it is unclear if the Chief Diversity Officer position, which centralizes responsibility for diversity initiatives in one University administrator, will remain in its current state now that the role has evolved over the past seven years.
“My job became much bigger from 2010 to 2017, so part of it is to parse out and figure out what we really need at this point,” Coleman said, adding that she sees the changing nature of the role as a mark of success.
Coleman said she imagines that the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, of which she is a member, will offer recommendations in the fall on next steps regarding the Chief Diversity Officer position, among other diversity-related recommendations.
Lapp wrote in an email that the University will take into account recommendations from the Task Force in order to get a “better idea of how to advance our agenda of diversity, inclusion and belonging.” Since the Task Force will complete its work next fall, the CDO position may be left open for some time after her departure in July.
“The work of diversity, inclusion, and belonging should be everyone’s job at Harvard,” Lapp wrote. “Over the next several weeks, I will be consulting with colleagues across Harvard to assess the University’s needs in the next phase of this important work.”
Coleman, an NYU alum, will return to New York to serve as the school’s Senior Vice President for Global Inclusion, Diversity and Strategic Innovation. She will also receive a faculty appointment in addition to her administrative role.
—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.
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