Michelle Williams, Paula Johnson breaking new ground

2 min read

Michelle Williams, new Dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Paula Johnson, new president of Wellesley College and a professor in Harvard Chan School’s Department of Epidemiology, talked about their milestone achievements and education in Boston in a Q&A in the July 2016 issue of Boston Magazine.

Both women represent historic firsts. Williams is Harvard Chan School’s first female dean, and the first black person to head a faculty at Harvard. Johnson is Wellesley’s first black president.

Speaking about the advantages of working in higher education in Boston, Williams said the higher education community “recognizes the importance of partnership,” and that the city is “at the cutting edge of bringing technology, industry, government, and philanthropy together.” Johnson called Boston “an extraordinary, exciting, vibrant environment in which to solve the most complex problems of our world.”

Both women also spoke about what it means to them to be the first black leader of their respective institutions. Said Williams, “I’ve always appreciated that the best way to solve complex problems is for people with diverse sets of talents and perspectives to be at the table.” Johnson concurred, noting that “when you bring different perspectives together, we achieve more.”