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Reaffirming a Commitment to Equity

Tree of colorful hands

HGSE’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across curriculum, classrooms, hiring practices, and campus culture began decades ago, and today forms a core part of the institution’s values, goals, and priorities. But the work is by no means done, as Dean Bridget Long reaffirmed in a recent message to the community. Although the school has made tremendous strides in creating a strong, diverse, and equitable community, “living up to these community values takes deliberate work and attention, and it is a journey that is ongoing,” Long wrote.

Consistent values and decades-long leadership have yielded meaningful progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion, but the work is always ongoing.

The modern history of HGSE’s commitment to equity is exemplified in part by Dean Kathleen McCartney, who assumed the deanship with a goal of building a school of education for the 21st century. She recognized that such a goal would necessarily require strengthening diversity within HGSE’s student body and faculty. She increased financial aid and fellowships, allowing more students to matriculate, and she doubled the number of core faculty members of color during her tenure, rising from eight to 20. In 2007, she established the Dean's Advisory Committee on Equity and Diversity, which continues to work to eradicate institutional barriers to access and equity and to increase the experiences of inclusion and belonging for students, staff, and faculty.

McCartney’s successor, Dean James Ryan, made diversity, equity, and inclusion a mainstay of his leadership. With the launch of HGSE’s community conversation Fulfilling the Promise of Diversity and the popular storytelling series DoubleTake, as well as his numerous efforts to support research initiatives aimed at dismantling the inequity in school systems, Ryan encouraged connection through listening to one another and reflecting on the needs of learners everywhere, of every background.

“I think educators have long recognized that embracing and cultivating diversity across a range of identities, experiences, and beliefs is a necessary starting point,” Ryan said to HGSE in 2017. “As a teaching and learning community at the Harvard Ed School, we’ve tried to push past that recognition and to think concretely about actually how to fulfill the promise of diversity in our schools, our organizations, and our society. Fulfilling that promise means looking beyond the mere fact of diversity and creating the conditions for equity, belonging, and thriving.”

Ongoing work to create those conditions has yielded positive change at HGSE. Tracie Jones, the school’s director of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, recently wrote in Harvard Ed. magazine that in 2017, the Ed School achieved “a plurality of racial representation with no single demographic category making up most of the student body.”

“In most organizations, the strategic plan for diversity is bringing in a diversity of people who differ racially. The Ed School has historically made great strides in this category of diversity,” Jones wrote. “This transition, to a school [that] an ever-growing number of students of color call home, speaks to the success of HGSE in its commitment to diversity.”

In recent years, the school has hired the most diverse faculty at Harvard and launched programs devoted to healthy interaction and honest conversation. As part of the Equity and Inclusion Fellows program, students work to foster intergroup dialog and promote diversity initiatives at HGSE and beyond, as well as hold robust workshops, trainings, and inclusive teaching seminars for faculty and staff. The Diversity Innovation Fund supports student-initiated ideas that broaden the conversation at HGSE and encourage more varied perspectives, experiences, and forums. And a wide range of courses on equity and opportunity are taught each semester and J-Term, spanning the field of education.

“I am proud our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, across multiple dimensions, is a constant part of what we do and how we approach our plans for the future,” Long wrote in her community message.

“As educators — and more generally, as citizens of the world — we will meet, work with, and serve a vast array of people who may hold very different views and opinions from ours. Including a diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives at HGSE is essential to our ability to engage in meaningful teaching and practice, conduct relevant and pioneering research, and have a positive impact on the larger field,” she wrote. – Jill Anderson

Learn More and Connect

Learn about diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives at HGSE.

Read about the annual Alumni of Color Conference.

Explore the Professional Education at HGSE offering, Reimagining Integration: Diverse and Equitable Schools.

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