Campus & Community

Sheree Ohen named first FAS associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and belonging

Higher education leader starts tenure next month

4 min read
Sheree Ohen

Sheree Ohen will begin her tenure Sept. 28.

Courtesy of Sheree Ohen

Sheree Ohen has been named the inaugural associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and belonging for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of FAS, announced today. Ohen will begin her tenure Sept. 28.

“I am thrilled beyond words to come to Harvard at such a time as this,” said Ohen. “Dean Gay’s commitment to advance racial justice and address inequality is truly monumental. I am honored to step into this inaugural role to help build on the efforts already underway and to shape and co-create a strategic vision for sustainable inclusive excellence. This work extends to all aspects of life, teaching, and living communities of the FAS.”

In her community message announcing the appointment, Gay called Ohen, who comes to Harvard from Clark University in Worcester, Mass., “a highly principled leader … known for the trusted partnerships she builds with people across the university community.” She praised Ohen’s work as a vocal advocate for equity and inclusion in higher education and noted her extensive experience as a guest lecturer, invited keynote speaker, and adviser to institutions and companies across the U.S. on best practices in diversity and inclusive excellence.

“I am delighted that Sheree will be bringing her expertise and passion to this newly created role,” Gay said. “As the FAS associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, she will serve as the lead FAS administrator responsible for conceiving, developing, and overseeing strategies to advance and support diversity, inclusion, and belonging for all constituencies at the FAS.”

For the past four years, Ohen served as chief officer of diversity and inclusion at Clark. The university received the prestigious 2018 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine under Ohen’s leadership, a national recognition honoring colleges and universities for outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Ohen, a California native, received an undergraduate degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law. After a successful career practicing civil rights litigation, employment law, and criminal defense, she began working in higher education to advance initiatives in equity and diversity in California and Massachusetts. 

While at Clark, Ohen co-chaired the president’s commission on speech rights and community values, which led to the adoption of a statement of principles and policy focusing on freedom of expression. She also led the process of developing the university’s first campus climate survey and a strategic roadmap for more effective inclusivity measures.

The creation of the associate dean position is one of several measures laid out last week in Gay’s anti-racism agenda. Gay described the new role as one that will ensure that “all members of the FAS community feel welcome, included, and supported, and that diversity, inclusion, and belonging are established as core, lived values of the FAS.”

Other initiatives include restarting a search for four new senior faculty in ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration (EIM), establishing a visiting professorship in EIM, expanding the Inequality in America postdoctoral fellowship program, setting up a study of racial diversity at the senior staff level, and creating a task force to assess and examine FAS visual culture and signage.

“Declaring our values is an important step, but only through institutional action will we make progress in becoming the Harvard we aspire to be,” Gay said. “I am eager for the benefit of Sheree’s leadership as we work at every level of the FAS to dismantle the cultural and structural barriers that have precluded that progress.”

One of Ohen’s first tasks will be to lead a study of FAS senior staff practices in hiring, development, and promotion, with a focus on increasing racial diversity. She will also be a member of the Task Force for Visual Culture and Signage led by Dean of Arts and Humanities Robin Kelsey.

In her work to improve equity, inclusion, diversity and belonging in higher education, Ohen said, “I have pursued an evidence-based approach that aligns research, best practices, and quantitative and qualitative data that underscores the lived experience across constituencies

“I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to advance a more inclusive community that matches our aspirations,” she added.