Another Competitive Overseers’ Election Takes Shape

Nominating committee slate announced, as Harvard Forward slate seeks petition signatures.

Photographic portraits of HAA nominating committee nominees for Harvard Board of Overseers: Top row, left to right: Christiana Goh Bardon, Mark J. Carney, Kimberly Nicole Dowdell, Christopher B. Howard. Bottom row, left to right: María Teresa Kumar, Raymond J. Lohier Jr., Terah Evaleen Lyons, Sheryl WuDunn
Top row, left to right: Christiana Goh Bardon, Mark J. Carney, Kimberly Nicole Dowdell, Christopher B. Howard. Bottom row, left to right: María Teresa Kumar, Raymond J. Lohier Jr., Terah Evaleen Lyons, Sheryl WuDunnPhotographs courtesy of Harvard Alumni Association

With the announcement today of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) nominating committee’s candidates for the Board of Overseers, a second consecutive, competitive campaign for election to the governing board appears to be shaping up. Harvard Forward (HF) last year succeeded in qualifying five candidates for the ballot by securing signatures on nominating petitions, and three were elected. Their success was significant—and set in motion developments that will shape this spring’s voting (which begins April 1):

• The HF candidates advocated an issues-focused platform of divestment from fossil-fuel investments, other changes in endowment investment policy, and changes in governance—a view of the Overseers’ role at odds with the University’s model of governance, which vests fiduciary responsibilities in the Corporation, and assigns academic oversight and general advisory responsibilities to the Board of Overseers.
• Their electoral success reflected both alumni-voters’ embrace of that platform, and HF’s vigorous and effective campaign.
• In early autumn, when the governing boards convened at the beginning of the academic year, they adopted changes in governance, aimed at reinforcing the Overseers’ traditional role, and limiting petitioner representation on the Board to one-fifth of members (six Overseers) serving at any one time.

The Nominating Committee’s Slate

The HAA-organized nominating committee (its role and processes are described here) is charged with assembling a broadly experienced, diverse group of candidates, whose expertise is judged relevant to the University’s current academic opportunities, aspirations, and challenges. (Harvard’s elections websiteprovides background; the nominating committee, including current members, is described here.)

This year’s nominees are:

• Christiana Goh Bardon, M.D. ’98, M.B.A. ’03, a biotechnology and health-care fund-manager at Burrage Capital (she was co-founder of the firm). She serves on the Harvard Medical School board of fellows. Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
 • Mark J. Carney ’87, Governor of the Bank of Canada (2008-2013) and Governor of the Bank of England (2013-2020); United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance. He previously worked in several capacities at Goldman Sachs, before entering public service in his native Canada. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
 • Kimberly Nicole Dowdell, M.P.A. ’15, director of business development for HOK, the international architectural firm. A Cornell architecture graduate, she was 2019-2020 president of the National Organization of Minority Architects. Chicago.
 Christopher B. Howard, M.B.A. ’03, president, Robert Morris University. A graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and a Rhodes Scholar, he was previously president of Hampden-Sydney College and vice president of the University of Oklahoma; earlier in his career, he worked in corporate management. Pittsburgh.
 María Teresa Kumar, M.P.P. ’01, founding president and CEO, Voto Latino, a civic-engagement and voter-mobilization organization. Washington, D.C.
 Raymond J. Lohier Jr.  ’88, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since 2010. He was previously Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, senior trial attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and in private practice. Brooklyn, N.Y. 
 Terah Evaleen Lyons ’14, founding executive director, The Partnership on AI. San Francisco.
• Sheryl WuDunn, M.B.A. ’86, an investment banker, writer, and former New York Times reporter. She is coauthor, with her husband Nicholas Kristof ’82 (a Times columnist and former Overseer), of Half the Sky and Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope. Westchester, N.Y.

The slate appears to be highly diverse—reflecting the times, the University’s heightened emphasis on diversity and inclusion, the success of the deliberately diverse HF slate last year, and the recommendation stemming from the governing boards’ policy adopted last fall that younger candidates be included among the nominees.

The Harvard Forward Candidates

In the meantime, as previously reported, Harvard Forward is seeking to qualify three candidates for the ballot by petition. [Updated February 1, 2021, 11:25 a.m.: Harvard Forward announced that its slate of candidates has officially qualified for the ballot. Read more here.] Given the new six-person limit on Overseers nominated by petition who can serve on the board at any one time, HF would risk diluting its vote if it were to advance more than three candidates to join those elected last summer. This year’s aspirants are:

• Yvette Efevbera, S.D. ’18, of Seattle, who earned master’s and doctoral degrees in public health and is an adviser on gender-based violence and child marriage and gender equality at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
• Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, Ed.M. ’17, who earned a master's degree from the Graduate School of Education and is director of native student services at the University of South Dakota.
• Natalie Unterstell, M.P.A. ’16, of Rio de Janeiro, who earned an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School and works on Brazilian climate policy.

Their platform includes the prior focus on divestment and related climate-change initiatives and changes in governance, plus new plans on racial justice (divesting any investments in private prisons, creating an ethnic-studies department, and so on).

Alumni Association Elected Director Candidates

The HAA nominating committee also identifies candidates for HAA elected director. The nine nominees standing for election to the six openings are:

• Whitney S. F. Baxter ’07, M.B.A. ’11, vice president, head of strategy and group enterprises, MTV Entertainment Group. Brooklyn, N.Y.
• Benjamin Taylor Faw, M.B.A. ’14, Co-founder and CEO, AdVon Commerce, Las Vegas.
• Jane Labanowski ’17, lead, spaceport development, SpaceX, Brownsville, Texas.
• Hannah Park ’13, human resources business partner, Curriculum Associates, Everett, Massachusetts.
• Tenzin Priyadarshi, M.T.S. ’03, director, The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, Cambridge.
• Rebecca Chamian Ribaudo ’93, author and freelance writer, Chicago.  
• Íñigo Sánchez-Asiaín, M.B.A. ’90, founding partner, Portobello Capital, Madrid, Spain.
• George Abraham Thampy ’10, senior director, CareDx, San Francisco.
• Maiya Williams Verrone ’84, television writer/producer and author, Pacific Palisades, California.  

On Deck

If all Overseer aspirants qualify for the ballot (those seeking a place on the ballot by petition have until February 3 to submit signatures), voters will have 11 candidates contending for five Overseer positions when they receive their voting instructions this spring.

Given the heightened interest in the elections—turnout soared during the competitive, pandemic-delayed balloting last summer—Harvard Magazine will provide more detailed coverage of the candidates’ views (including their answers to a brief questionnaire) in future reports.

Read the nominating committee announcement here.

Read more articles by: John S. Rosenberg

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