Even though this Black History Month will go down in history as the boldest one in a lifetime, it is a shame that we are still seeing firsts in 2016. There’s also no coincidence that all of these Black “firsts” are being announced in February.
Harvard University has made the esteemed epidemiologist Michelle Williams the next dean of the university’s Chan School of Public Health. This promotion makes Williams the first African-American faculty dean at Harvard.
“I am honored and excited by the opportunity to lead the Harvard Chan School, and grateful to President Faust for inviting me to serve in this role at such a crucial moment for public health in the United States and around the world,” said Williams, according to the Harvard Gazette.
The president of Harvard also put out a statement about Williams through the Harvard Gazette.
“She is a skilled builder of bridges — between the theoretical and the practical, the domestic and the international, the different disciplines that drive the School’s academic endeavors, and the different communities that shape its identity and aspirations. I know she will approach her new role with the intelligence, dedication, integrity, and humane spirit that she brings to all she does.”
Now, while this seems so nice and happy, this promotion actually came after a petition drive by 65 Harvard medical and dental students under the name the Racial Justice Coalition, who wanted diversity in the university’s curriculum, administration, admission process.
I think I am still surprised by this idea that one of the Ivy Leagues is just hiring its first Black faculty dean. Isn’t that astounding? Personally, I thought Harvard was a forward-thinking school, but I guess I stand corrected.
Williams was a Princeton University undergraduate in biology who received her Master’s in Civil Engineering from Tufts University and earned advanced degrees from the University of Washington and Harvard.
Nevertheless, congratulations to Michelle Williams and all the best in your endeavors.
Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images