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Doyle Reaffirms Importance of SEAS Diversity Initiatives

Francis J. Doyle III
Francis J. Doyle III is the dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
As its student body grows more diverse, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will continue to prioritize diversity initiatives, Dean of SEAS Francis J. Doyle III said earlier this month.

In a March interview, Doyle said he was “extremely passionate” about a number of SEAS recent diversity initiatives, including a recently created committee on diversity, inclusion and belonging.

Appointed in 2017, the committee has worked in “parallel” to the the University-wide Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, which University president Drew G. Faust formed in 2016.

SEAS spokesperson Paul Karoff said the committee or its subcommittees meet “on a weekly basis.”

According to Doyle, the SEAS committee is entirely composed of volunteer “stakeholders, undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff, faculty.” Doyle said he wanted to make clear that diversity was not the sole “responsibility of the underrepresented.”

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“Quite frankly, I wanted to see, and I pointed my finger at some of the faculty, I wanted to see the white men in there helping out, making sure we're doing the right thing, changing the landscape, moving the needle to use a different metaphor, so that we really are advancing the goals that we espouse,” he said.

“It's one thing for a dean to tell a faculty member to join a committee, but when the students start queuing up, and the undergrads, the grads, the postdocs, master students too are all passionate and participating in this as well, we really have all the stakeholders in place,” Doyle added.

Doyle said that, though the committee is in its “early days,” it has already begun to raise thoughtful questions.

“There's nothing I'm gonna report yet that we're going to tackle,” he said. “But they're creating a list, and we're gauging impact, gauging what resources required, and rolling out initiatives that would make sense.”

Another initiative Doyle mentioned is the push to establish additional infrastructure and support via student groups. Three affinity groups, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, established chapters at Harvard in the past year.

“When I got here, I was absolutely shocked that we didn’t have Society of Women Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, or Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers,” Doyle said. “We found a way to do it where we sponsor it from within SEAS because I felt those groups were crucial to take root and have an anchor within SEAS to support our students.”

Just last week, Doyle spoke at a panel discussion centering on “challenges and issues” of diversity in engineering at the National Society of Black Engineers national convention.

Doyle also praised a number of previously existing diversity initiatives, including a graduate recruiting committee for students from underrepresented groups, student organizations like Women in Computer Science, and a National Science Foundation-sponsored summer research program for undergraduates.

“Some of them might apply to Harvard for grad school eventually, some of the people go to other places. But it’s our part to help ensure that we're bridging the pipeline in terms of diversity,” he said.

—Staff writer Luke W. Xu can be reached at luke.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @duke_of_luke_.

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