THE HKS BLACK ALUMNI ASSOCIATION (BAA) is one of the Kennedy School’s many Shared Interest Groups for alumni with specific interests and affinities. Started informally in the 1980s, the organization was revitalized in 2009 and became an officially recognized Harvard Kennedy School SIG in 2016. 

Marvin BentonThe BAA’s mission is “to advance and promote issues affecting HKS’s current students, Black alumni(ae), administration, faculty, staff, and the Black community within the United States and globally via building the alumni network and engaging in public service projects.” Under the leadership of Marvin Benton MC/MPA 1988, the BAA reincorporated as a nonprofit with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and initiated a webinar series for alumni featuring HKS leaders and faculty including Dean Doug Elmendorf and Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Robbin Chapman. 

Says Benton, “One of my goals as president was to send a message to Black students and alumni that you have to take responsibility for HKS—you can’t just graduate, but you must be invested and empowered to be a member of the alumni community. You can’t just criticize HKS, you have to offer suggestions and be willing to help out.” 

He was one of the first voices pushing the School to institute a requirement that students take a course on race, diversity, and public policy. Today, HKS requires all first-year MPP students to take such a course. Says Chapman, “Under Marvin’s leadership, the BAA has really solidified and taken on new initiatives and given us new ideas. They’ve helped us with student recruitment and are now assisting with specific diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. They’ve been doing a great job in pushing us and making sure our conversations lead to actions.” 

Benton is a retired Army colonel who served in Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq from 2008 to 2009. As a veteran, he is proud of the United States—but still sees its weaknesses. “Our country is great; we’ve done a lot of great things, but one of our Achilles heels is institutional discrimination and bigotry,” he says. 

Benton’s term as president of the BAA ended last fall, but he remains a member of both the BAA and the School’s Alumni Board, to which he was elected in 2020. Rudy Brioché MPP 2000, who was recently elected president of the organization, is eager to expand visibility of the BAA and bridge gaps between generations of alumni. 

Rudy BriochéBrioché—himself a former two-term chair of the Alumni Board and recipient of the Julius E. Babbitt Alumni Volunteer Award in 2016—says he plans to focus on engagement among Black alumni. “We hope to increase BAA services and programming specifically tailored to meet the needs, interests, and concerns of Black HKS alumni. The mission of the BAA is more important than ever before as we lend a voice to members and stakeholders in the HKS community—alumni in particular—who share concerns around the Black experience and what that means for America.” 

He is heartened by the actions of School administrators. “Dean Elmendorf, I believe, has demonstrated an abiding willingness to address matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the team he’s built. When you put it all together, we have an opportunity of a lifetime that should not be squandered.” 

Brioché is confident that HKS is a place where persistent problems around race in the United States can be addressed critically and thoughtfully based on facts and driven by data. “I believe that HKS is a special place to address vexing policy issues and to develop effective solutions. It has a special role to play in the global conversation about race. The BAA can serve as one of those places where HKS alumni, students, faculty, staff, and administration can harness their efforts, together, to help HKS fulfill that greater sense of purpose and policy leadership.”


BAA Executive Board (2021–2023)

President: Rudy N. Brioché MPP 2000
Vice President: Keatra Fuller MPP 2007
Secretary: Lora-Ellen McKinney MC/MPA 1997
Treasurer: Oliver Queen Jr. HKSEE 2014
Communications Director: Lena M. Benson MPP 2010
Student Liaison Director: Annette P. Raggette MPP 1994
At Large Director: Rene M. Rambo-Rodgers MC/MPA 1990
At Large Director: Rodas G. Seyoum MC/MPA 2021

This inaugural Black History Month Lecture features Governor Patrick’s observations on leadership.

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To learn about the BAA, visit

Courtesy of Marvin Benton; banner image and Brioché portrait by Martha Stewart