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Executive Director of HKS’ Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Steps Down

Sushma Raman, who joined the Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy as executive director in 2015, announced that she would be stepping down from the role.
Sushma Raman, who joined the Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy as executive director in 2015, announced that she would be stepping down from the role. By Lucas J. Walsh
By Asher J. Montgomery, Crimson Staff Writer

Sushma Raman stepped down as executive director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy this month after serving more than seven years in the role.

Raman will be taking on a new role as the president and CEO of the Heising-Simons Foundation, an organization based in California that works to advance sustainable energy, support research, and advance human rights. During her time as director, Raman played a crucial role in launching the Carr Center’s Racial Justice program and Technology and Human Rights program.

The Carr Center is finalizing an interim director who will serve in the role while HKS searches for the Carr Center’s sixth director. Mathias Risse, the faculty director of the Carr Center, first announced the news of Raman’s departure in an email to HKS affiliates on Jan. 11.

“For almost a decade Sushma has held together the center,” Risse wrote. “Her deep intelligence, her broad knowledge, and her inexhaustible energy have meant everything to the center, to me personally, and I am sure in many ways to you as well.”

The Carr Center became the subject of controversy this month after HKS Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf denied a fellowship to human rights expert Kenneth Roth, who alleges the decision was due to his criticism of Israel. Amid backlash and calls for resignation, Elmendorf reversed his decision and offered Roth a fellowship.

Raman did not comment on whether the fellowship decision played a role in her exit.

Raman joined the Carr Center as executive director in 2015 after serving as Program Officer of the Ford Foundation for five years, where she launched and managed a $100 million global philanthropy initiative with a focus on women’s rights and social justice.

Raman wrote in a statement that she is grateful for her years at the Carr Center, where she had the opportunity to work with an “incredible community of faculty, fellows, students, and supporters to build the current strategic framework and research programs.”

“I've tried throughout my career to center the perspectives of those most affected by human rights violations and by racial and gender injustice,” she wrote. “I've tried to bring a sense of humility and compassion to my work.”

During the pandemic, Raman led the Carr Center’s transition from in-person to online events. Raman directed and served as host of the Carr Center’s Justice Matters podcast, which investigates human rights issues in the United States and abroad.

“We deeply appreciate the vital contributions Sushma has made to the Carr Center and to the Kennedy School over her decade with us,” HKS spokesperson James F. Smith wrote. “We wish her all the best in her continuing important work in the field of human rights.”

Raman wrote that her new role is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” that will allow her to build on her prior experience in launching social change initiatives.

“I think the Carr Center will continue to play an important role for the Harvard student body, as well as the broader human rights movement, and I look forward to staying connected for the years to come,” she wrote.

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @asherjmont.

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