The HKS Black Alumni Association (BAA) has flourished through the leadership, dedication, and teamwork of its executive board. Expanded programming, including joint events with students, enhanced communications, and more opportunities for alumni to connect with each other and the school led the HKS Alumni Board to choose the BAA as this year’s recipient of the Alumni Network Engagement Award.
The BAA aims to raise awareness of policies and strategies that will make societies more fair, just, and equitable; to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; to strengthen connections among alumni and between alumni and HKS; to deepen understanding of social, economic, justice, health, and civic issues facing Black communities in the United States and around the world; and to advance the School’s mission.
Being part of a larger community with common interests is what motivates alumni to become involved. Says Rudy Brioché MPP 2000, president of the BAA’s executive board, “Essentially, it is about shared needs and shared values. Although we focus on providing meaningful engagement for all Black alumni, not only in the United States but in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and around the world, we are not a race-based organization but a values-based organization. Our common values include public service, engagement, and diversity and inclusion—and when we focus on values, we maximize our potential.”
Last year, the BAA’s five events drew more than 300 participants. Its first “State of Leadership” event—an annual series during Black History Month—featured former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who had recently been appointed as co-director of the Center for Public Leadership and joined the HKS faculty as professor of the practice of public leadership.
Brioché attributes the network’s success to the executive board’s commitment. For example, members of the board regularly attend events organized by HKS’s Black Student Union and Harvard’s Black Alumni Society; they support and attend the annual, student-organized Black Policy Conference; and they partner with the Harvard Alumni Association on events and other initiatives. Board member Orondaam Otto MC/MPA 2022, who lives in Nigeria, says, “The board meets every two weeks, which is rare for people with so many other commitments. This level of devotion is inspiring.”
On the communications front, board member Kia Coleman MPP 1999 spearheaded an improved website, an expanded social media presence, and the launch of a biweekly newsletter including a “Spotlight” series, which highlights the work of alumni and staff. Rodas Seyoum MC/MPA 2021, Oliver Queen Jr. HKSEE 2014, and Otto improved the accuracy of membership lists; Queen and Brioché finalized the BAA’s application for federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status; Annette Raggette MPP 1994 developed programming with groups across HKS; and René Rambo-Rodgers MC/MPA 1990 led efforts to revise the BAA’s bylaws.
The BAA also collaborates with the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid to offer virtual discussions for applicants who have been admitted but have not yet decided to attend HKS. Says Brioché, “We reflect on our experiences at HKS and we share a bit about the HKS and Harvard community and answer questions about where they want to go in their careers.”
“One of the most rewarding things about attending HKS is the rich and wonderful relationships we form with faculty, staff, and classmates,” Raggette says. “The BAA is committed to furthering those relationships by connecting alums with each other and the HKS community through programming and communications. Together, we seek to educate and uplift Black people everywhere.”
Photography provided by the HKS Black Alumni Association.