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With the Supreme Court on the brink of upending affirmative action, Harvard Board of Overseers candidate Vanessa W. Liu ’96 said she intends to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion if elected to serve on the University’s second-highest governing body.
Liu said she is prepared to help Harvard navigate the consequences of the potential end to the practice of race-conscious college admissions. Equally important, Liu said, is improving the diversity of the University’s faculty.
“That’s certainly what a lot of students are looking for and demanding,” Liu said. “Being able to say, ‘Hey, when it comes to faculty appointments, can we have more transparency around that? Can we have an overview of what the pipeline looks like?’”
“I think that’s also going to be just as important,” she added.
Liu was raised in New York City’s Financial District and attended Stuyvesant High School before enrolling at Harvard College, where she was a resident of Dunster House. After college, Liu obtained a degree from Harvard Law School and spent over a decade working as an associate principal from McKinsey & Company.
In 2005, Liu began working as an alumni interviewer for Harvard. She deepened her ties to the University in 2014 after she was selected to join the Harvard Alumni Association’s board as an elected director. Liu rose through the HAA ranks over the years, becoming president of the organization from July 2021 to June 2022.
Speaking to The Crimson from a cafe just blocks from where she grew up, Liu said she sometimes pinches herself when thinking about her life trajectory. Despite her long track record of service to the University, Liu said her friends from college would never have imagined that she would become this deeply involved with Harvard as an alumna.
“I wasn’t singing Harvard from the rooftops like many people were,” Liu said. “But it’s only afterwards that I’ve just realized that that gave me a path in life that was incredible, and I’m thankful for it.”
Endorsed by alumni advocacy group Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, Liu said she would be a “fervent supporter” of creating an ethnic studies department at Harvard if elected to the Board of Overseers.
While Liu said she is optimistic Harvard will establish an ethnic studies department under the tenure of President-elect Claudine Gay, she noted that it will require administrative and faculty support, as well as financial resources.
“I would very much hope that the Board of Overseers is going to be working with President-elect Dean Gay to basically say what is it that’s needed for that path, and to make sure that’s something that everybody gets a chance to weigh in on,” Liu said.
Liu also said that she believes that her experience as president of HAA will prove valuable as the University gears up for its next capital campaign.
“Most people, probably — you can never say everybody — is proud of the fact that they went to Harvard and also feel very strongly that Harvard should remain a very strong institution,” Liu said. “Being able to drive towards that to say, ‘Hey, we can rally and think about ways that we can ensure the future success of Harvard,’ is something that I’ve been able to talk a lot to alumni about.”
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