Amid the surge of candidates put forth by external groups like Harvard Forward, Harvard announced its own eight nominees vying for five anticipated vacancies on the Board of Overseers — the University’s second highest governing body — in late January.
The annual election of members to Harvard’s second-highest governing board has drawn five candidates from Harvard Forward, an alumni group advocating for fossil fuel divestment and the election of younger alumni to governance positions. The five come from a variety of backgrounds, and include a professional soccer player and an Environmental Protection Agency analyst.
Many of the alumni Harvard endorsed, meanwhile, have served in major corporations or in government posts. The list of candidates includes a two-time United States Poet Laureate and the head of sustainable investing at Putnam Investments — a Boston-based management firm.
This year’s election for the Board of Overseers is scheduled to take place from April 1 to May 19. All Harvard alumni are eligible to vote by traditional paper ballot or online for the candidates, except members of the Harvard Corporation and those in University instruction and governance positions.
Meet the candidates the Harvard Alumni Association endorsed for seats on the Board: Raphael W. Bostic ’87, Katherine Collins, David H. Eun ’89, Diego A. Rodriguez, Tracy K. Smith ’94, Miki Uchida Tsusaka ’84, and Ryan M. Wise.
Graduating from Harvard College magna cum laude, Raphael W. Bostic ’87 — a former Cabot House resident — recalled his experience serving as class marshall during the 2012 commencement ceremonies “humbling” and also “a lot of fun.”
Bostic, a former Psychology and Economics concentrator, said serving as class marshall brought him back to the hours he spent in Harvard Yard during his undergraduate days.
In an interview with The Crimson, he said studying Psychology and Economics — fields that he noted respectively teach students how to maximize utility and assume people don’t rationally make decisions — gave him a better understanding of “how the world worked” and is “quite helpful” to his current role.
After obtaining a economics Ph.D. degree from Stanford University in 1995, Bostic now serves as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta — the first African American and openly gay person to head a Federal Reserve regional bank.
Bostic wrote in his ballot statement that he is running for the Board of Overseers because of Harvard’s potential to further expand the access for people around the world to opportunities and to accelerate “broad societal progress.”
“If we are to be a society where people truly have equal access to opportunity and, in turn, an equal opportunity to achieve and thrive, then we must establish this as a high priority,” he wrote.
Prior to his position at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, he served as the assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prior to that, Bostic served as a senior economist for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
Bostic also served as an elected director of the Harvard Alumni Association from 2014 to 2017.
As the head of sustainable investing at Putnam Investments, Katherine A. Collins oversees research and strategy on sustainability issues and manages two public equity portfolios. She graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 2011.
Collins enrolled in the Divinity School nearly 20 years into her career as an investor, hoping to become a better “translator” between sustainability and finance.
“When we were trying to connect issues of sustainability and finance, often, there were sustainability experts on one side of the table, finance experts on the other side, and even when we really wanted to, it was really hard to translate between those two realms” Collins said. “And so I wanted to be a better translator.”
She said she wanted to study at the Divinity School to look beyond the methodologies for sustainability that she was already “deeply engaged” with.
While at the Divinity School, she founded Honeybee Capital — an organization focused on researching sustainability and structuring businesses for charitable giving.
Collins has served on the boards of Last Mile Health, a nonprofit that brings healthcare to rural areas in Africa, and the Santa Fe Institute, a theoretical research center in Santa Fe, N.M. She has also served on the board of the Omega Institute, a nonprofit focused on education in spirituality, and the Wellesley College Business Leadership Council.
“These organizations are trying to reframe conversations,” she said. “I’ve been really intrigued by the way that the specific parts of the mission relate to those broader systems changes and that’s been a big focus of my board work for them.”
Collins said she sees links between her work and contributions she could make as a member of the Board of Overseers.
“One contribution I think that’s really needed in many organizations right now is this translating capacity, being able to go back and forth between different domains of expertise and really frame important questions in their appropriate context,” she said.
David H. “Dave” Eun ’89 said he is running for the Board of Overseers because he has thought deeply about innovation and he wanted to ensure other Harvard students have the same experience he did while studying at Harvard.
Eun currently serves as the chief innovation officer of Samsung Electronics and the president of Samsung NEXT — a group focused on innovation and helping entrepreneurs expand software and services ventures.
Prior to his work with Samsung, Eun held management positions at AOL, Google, Time Warner, and NBC. He was also named a Hollywood Reporter “Digital Power Player of the Year.”
But for Eun, advocating for diversity in education and volunteering were of “personal interest.”
He said he volunteered with the Phillips Brooks House Association during one summer at Harvard, teaching English to Cambodian and Vietnamese teenagers at night after working in the admissions office during the day. As an undergraduate, he also worked with the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program and later went on to work as an alumni interviewer in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
Now, Eun co-chairs the board of StreetSquash — a program for children in Newark, N.J. and Harlem, N.Y. — and serves on an advisory board for the PACER Center, which aims to support children and young adults with disabilities.
“I’ve always thought about my own journey and having parents who immigrated to this country,” he said. “I’ve always had a particular sensitivity to those who might not feel like they’re part of a majority.”
He said he sees parallels between his roles at Samsung and Harvard’s institutional goals.
“Much of what I do is trying to make sure that I can identify new opportunities for Samsung and the partners that we work with,” he said. “I think that an organization like Harvard must have people who are asking these kind of questions. What’s working well? And what are those kind of traditions that make us who we are that we absolutely want to continue? And what are those things that we have to reexamine? What are those things that we have to change?”
“That’s what I’ve been doing professionally for decades,” he said.
After graduating from Harvard College and writing a thesis on American political theater when arts were still “primarily extracurricular,” Susan M. Novick ’85 wrote that her college years studying “anything and everything” led her to many career ventures.
Following a passion for the arts, Novick graduated to become a talent and literary agent, collaborating actors and writers. She wrote in an email that her years at Harvard made “natural” for her to “fight against stereotyping in casting” and “advocate for diverse representation in the arts.”
A former president of the Harvard Alumni Association and the parent of two College graduates, Novick has spent years helping organize Harvard’s alumni groups. The Long Island, N.Y. native began on HAA’s board of directors in 2007 and then was elected president of the Harvard Club of Long Island in 2012. In 2014, Novick began serving on HAA’s executive committee. She became the organization's vice president in 2016 and its president in 2017.
Novick wrote in her ballot statement that her service to Harvard is inspired by the University’s mission to “educate global leaders who create positive impact.”
“As the parent of two College graduates, I understand the concerns of today’s students, the perspectives of multi-generational alumni around the world, and the opportunity to bridge the two as we chart Harvard’s future together,” she wrote.
Novick wrote that her decision to run for the Board of Overseers stems from her belief in Harvard’s responsibility to lead.
“In a time when many institutions are under attack, it is important that Harvard reaffirms and sustains the educational excellence, diverse community, and interdisciplinary thought leadership that has enabled it to advance the pursuit of truth and effect positive change in the world,” she wrote in her email
In 1999, Diego A. Rodriguez began his Master of Business Administration program at Harvard Business School. Almost two decades after graduating from the Business School, Rodriguez said one of his “greatest joys” is to go back to campus and interact with his professors and current students at the school.
After graduating in 2001, Rodriguez served as an “entrepreneur-in-residence” at an entrepreneurship center at the Business School. He is also an alumni advisor for Harvard’s MS/MBA technology leadership program.
Rodriguez is now the executive vice president and chief product and design officer at Intuit, an American financial software company.
“I've spent my entire career really building new products and services,” Rodriguez said. “As a byproduct of that, I’ve also been heavily invested in helping other people do the same thing.”
Rodriguez received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and a multidisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degree at Stanford, which he said gives him a “balance” of engineering and humanities perspectives.
Currently serving a two-year term on the Board of Overseers, Rodriguez serves on several of the board’s committees, including the standing committees on humanities and arts and on institutional policy. He also serves on a visiting committee for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which will have a new campus in Allston due to open in the fall.
“I’ve always been passionate about a whole range of disciplines,” he said. “It’s why I’m on the humanities and arts committee and why I'm also on the committee for SEAS. Because I want to be that bridge that helps bring things together”
Rodriguez said he hopes to leverage his specialization in problem solving to make Harvard a better place.
“What I specialize in is problem solving, and bringing people together to discover ways of structuring a problem by asking a better question,” he said.
For two-time U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Recipient Tracy K. Smith ’94, Harvard’s literary spaces provided her with a home on campus.
At the College, Smith pursued a joint concentration in English and African and African American studies. She focused on poetry in particular, taking four poetry workshops during her last two years as an undergraduate. In addition to contributing to The Crimson and the Advocate, a campus literary magazine, she became involved with the Dark Room Collective — a group focused on providing a space for black writers to share their work.
“It was really the literary community within the Creative Writing Program and then the Dark Room that gave me a sense of belonging to the University,” she said. “It was made up of young people who were writing poetry and fiction and who felt like they wanted to find ways of connecting with the people we considered to be our literary heroes or forebears.”
Following her graduation from Harvard in 1994, she said she immediately went home to California to live with her mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer.
“Reading and writing poems was one way of managing the anxiety and also the grief that I was dealing with,” she said. “That galvanized me to think about really committing to poetry.”
After her mother passed away, she completed Columbia University’s Master of Fine Arts program in poetry and a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford, which brings together ten artists — five in fiction and five in poetry — to work on their creative writing.
After publishing her first book in 2003, she taught at the University of Pittsburgh before moving to Princeton University, which she described as her “professional home.”
Since she published her second book in 2007, she continues to publish poetry and edit. She became the U.S. Poet Laureate for her first term in 2017.
“You just one day get a phone call from the Librarian of Congress asking if you would like to serve in this position,” she said. “Having been really tuned into the laureateship since my time at Columbia, I was very excited and honored.”
After her laureateship, she said she decided to travel to rural areas and talk about poems as a way of connecting with one another.
“One of the motivations that I had in wanting to take on a project like that had to do with the sense of division that has been characterizing American society for the last several years,” she said. “I feel like the internet and polarized politics have made it so that we are often talking at and about one another without quite listening and I know that poems force us into a different stance, which isn’t debate or even argument, so much as receptive alertness.”
She said her current role at Princeton and serving as the 22nd poet laureate led her to think about how to help students and “create a vibrant, diverse, healthy, and proactive community.”
“I think that my perspective is useful to the work that the Board of Overseers is doing because of those values,” Smith said.
After entering Harvard College, Miki Uchida Tsusaka ’84 concentrated in both Government and East Asian Studies because she hoped to work abroad.
Traveling between continents and cities was not an unfamiliar notion for the then-College-aged Tsusaka.
“I was born in Japan, raised back and forth between New York and Tokyo every four or five years of my life,” she said.
During her time at the College, Tsusaka wanted to work in international nonprofit organizations. As her graduation date neared, she wrote to many professors and professionals in Japan for advice on how to obtain a Master’s degree in the country. These conversations changed her future path.
“They all said, ‘You know, looking at your profile, Miki, I wonder if this pace will be fast enough for you,’” Tsusaka recalled. One of the professors she reached out to introduced her to the world of management consulting. Tsusaka eventually started to work for the Boston Consulting Group, where she served as its executive committee member, chief marketing officer, and now serves as the firm’s chief alumni officer.
Tsusaka is a founding member of the World Assembly for Women — an initiative of Japan’s prime minister — and has spoken at the World Economic Forum. She is also a member of the National University Assessment Committee for Japan’s Ministry of Education.
In her time in the College, Tsusaka served as the third president of the Japanese Cultural Society. She said her predecessor in the organization became her husband, and the next president became the current empress of Japan.
"I am forever grateful to Harvard for providing me an extraordinary educational foundation. Harvard taught me the fundamentals of speaking and listening. I would be honored to help make Harvard even better for generations to come as a unique place of learning and giving, and to ensure that the right questions are asked and firmly addressed," she wrote in her ballot statement.
Ryan M. Wise began his career as an educator in a high school classroom. Now, he currently serves as the director of Iowa Department of Education, overseeing Iowa’s public school districts, educator preparation programs, and community colleges.
He will take over as dean of Drake University’s School of Education in May.
“My career is really grounded in my experience as a teacher, teaching for five years in both rural Mississippi and then in downtown Omaha, Nebraska,” he said. “From that first day in the classroom on, I’ve been committed to ensuring all students have the opportunity for excellent learning experiences.”
After his experience in the classroom, he served as the executive director of Teach for America in South Dakota. Wise was also one of the founding members of Teach for All, a network independent and local organizations working to end inequality in education.
Though he graduated from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education in 2013, Wise said the lessons he learned at the school continue to influence his work today.
“The Harvard Graduate School of Education has a foundational commitment to equity, to really ensuring that we are working collectively as an education system to erase the pernicious opportunity gaps that exist for too many students across the country,” he said. “That was really impactful for me.”
Wise said his career is directly applicable to service on the Board of Overseers.
“We are, as a state agency, really all about providing leadership and support to creating a stronger system of education, and in so many ways, that’s what we’re doing as a Board,” he said. “We’re providing advice and counsel and insight to the University and to its leadership as they continue to strengthen Harvard’s mission.”
He said he ran for the Board of Overseers because it was an opportunity to give back to the University. Wise was elected to serve a one-year term on the Board of Overseers in 2019.
“As a relatively recent alum, I feel like I’ve still got a very fresh perspective and, as I mentioned, with the direct ties to what I do every day, I thought that this would be a good way for me to contribute,” he said.
—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.
—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.