Harvard University made history twice in one day when it named Evelynn M. Hammonds dean of Harvard College. Not only is she the first female dean, but also the first African American to hold the position. Currently Harvard’s senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity and professor of the history of science and of African and African American studies, Hammonds will assume her new post in June.
“Our choice of Evelynn Hammonds as dean of Harvard College reflects her outstanding leadership as the University’s senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity. Her stellar track record on campus has established her as a thoughtful and skilled professor and administrator,” says Michael D. Smith, Harvard’s dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences, who made the appointment of Hammonds.
Hammonds’ dual priorities as dean will be improving campus life and the renewal of the undergraduate Houses. “I am very much looking forward to implementing the new general education curriculum,” she says. “Over the last few years many Harvard faculty have done outstanding work in designing an innovative curriculum that will improve the undergraduate learning experience and foster increased engagement between undergraduates and faculty.” Hammond will also undertake a renewal of the Houses, which differ from typical dormitories in that each House serves as a social and academic community within the larger collegiate campus. Each house engages students in cultural, intellectual, social, and instructional endeavors.
Hammonds is well aware of the significance of her appointment. “As Harvard’s first senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity I believe that diversity—broadly defined—is critical for any institution to maintain its excellence in today’s world,” she explains. “If an institution is truly committed to diversity you should see that commitment reflected at every level from entry level positions to the top leadership.”
Diversity recruiting specialist LaMonte Owens says that slowly but surely, Ivy Leagues are addressing diversity issues not only in their student body but in their administrations. “Changing times call for positive action toward all groups for upward mobility. Harvard University, one of the stalwarts in forward academic thinking has again stepped up to the plate in bringing on Ms. Hammonds as president of the college.” Owens says.
He adds that overall equal opportunity employment is steadily improving in the nation’s workforce, be it in academia or corporate America. Last year, Yale University appointed its first-ever chief diversity officer as part of a newly implemented faculty and staff diversity initiatives.
Still and all, Ivy League schools have a long way to go, according to a 2005 report by the Graduate Employees and Students Organization at Yale. The report found that minorities and women have made little progress in breaking into the faculty ranks. In 2003 (the latest figures available), Ivy League campuses added 433 new professors into tenure-track jobs; only 14 were black and 8 were Hispanic.
Hammonds is optimistic. “All institutions of higher learning are now recognizing that diversity matters and we should see more and more progress on this in these institutions in the coming years,” she