Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
I write to share the excellent news that Sherri Charleston, assistant vice provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and chief affirmative action officer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has agreed to serve as the University’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. She will report to me and begin in her new role on August 1.
Sherri is an administrative leader and interdisciplinary scholar whose work at the intersection of history and law informs her efforts to translate theory into practice that improves higher education. A graduate of Columbia University, with a master’s and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan, and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin, she holds faculty affiliations with both the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, and the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at UW-Madison. Her wide-ranging expertise spans Affirmative Action, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Title IX, as well as the recruitment and retention of students, faculty, and staff of color. Sherri has oversight for the implementation of a University-wide plan for inclusive excellence, including establishing data-driven assessments of progress toward institutional goals, and she is widely admired among her colleagues for her student-centered advocacy and her ability to integrate all aspects of an institution into her strategic thinking and decision making.
Many members of the Harvard community—faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends—offered thoughtful advice during the search, and I am grateful for the great care and attention devoted to bringing Sherri to Harvard. I am also deeply grateful to John Silvanus Wilson for leading the search and for laying the foundation for our future efforts. Two years ago, John took a short-term leave of absence from the Board of Overseers to create, staff, and lead the Office for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. He and his team have implemented many of the recommendations of the Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, including the completion of Harvard’s first-ever Pilot Pulse Survey, the formation of a University-wide leadership council devoted to sharing best practices across Harvard, and the funding of projects through the Harvard Culture Lab Innovation Fund. In addition to seeing those and other important projects through to completion, John has been an invaluable member of the University’s senior leadership team and a trusted counselor to me, offering the perspective and wisdom of a former college president. I am thrilled that he has graciously agreed to stay on as my senior advisor through Sherri’s transition. He will resume his important research on our nation’s historically black colleges and universities later this fall.
I look forward to working closely with Sherri and other members of my senior leadership team to develop and release a strategic plan for diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Harvard. She will need the advice and support of people throughout the University as she begins the important work of helping us become the kind of community we ought to be. The urgency of this moment must not be wasted.
All the best,