Investing in a Vision to Engage the World

Flexible funding is advancing the interdisciplinary mission of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and serving as a new model for philanthropic support

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Investing in a Vision to Engage the World

Interdisciplinary Education

In 2019, Harvard Radcliffe Institute (HRI) Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin announced Radcliffe Engaged, a five-year strategic plan that builds on the Institute’s legacy of promoting inclusion and opportunity—particularly for those who have been historically underrepresented—and leverages its power as a center for interdisciplinary research and exploration. Since then, Radcliffe Engaged has enhanced core programs, expanded dynamic learning opportunities for students, and forged and fortified diverse collaborations and community partnerships that have real-world impact.

The Kim and Judy Davis Catalyst Fund—established with a gift from longtime supporters Kim AB ’76, MBA ’78 and Judy Davis—is bolstering the work of Radcliffe Engaged. Designated for use at the dean’s discretion to advance Radcliffe Engaged objectives, this current-use fund provides HRI with flexible resources to drive the implementation of its strategic plan and helps the dean advance immediate priorities, including several thematic focus areas that address some of society’s most critical issues.

“It’s easy to support an institution that has a great mission; it’s even easier when that institution is in the care of a great leader. The Harvard Radcliffe Institute under Tomiko’s leadership is such a place. Judy and I are honored to help realize the ambitions of Radcliffe Engaged and are excited to play a role in expanding the impact of the Institute’s work,” says Kim, who is the co-chair of the HRI Dean’s Advisory Council and, along with his wife, Judy, a dedicated supporter of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School.

One initiative of Radcliffe Engaged is the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), a youth mentorship program focused on gender and leadership that brings together Harvard undergraduates and local high school students. Drawing on the Institute’s history—and the vast holdings of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America—the ELP curriculum focuses on influential female-identifying leaders, social movements (both past and present), and the practical skills necessary for community and civic engagement, encouraging youth to view themselves as future leaders in their communities.

The Institute has also launched a multiyear focus area on law, education, and justice, which examines the crisis of mass incarceration in America—through research and programming on its historic causes and current consequences—and seeks solutions to address the racial, gendered, and economic inequities at its root. As part of the focus area, HRI provides opportunities for students across Harvard to explore this complex issue in extracurricular working groups and through research grants, and it supports educational programs in carceral spaces through partnerships with Boston-area organizations.

The Catalyst Fund will help deepen and expand the impact of both these initiatives, as well as provide seed funding for a new HRI focus area on climate change launching in academic year 2022–23. This includes supporting new and enhanced offerings for Harvard students to engage in experiential, interdisciplinary learning through service and internship opportunities. It also serves as a model for how philanthropy can provide leadership with a flexible runway to strategically allocate resources to strengthen existing programs, ramp up new initiatives, and realize institutional ambitions.

“Kim and Judy are leaders in the Radcliffe community, and I am deeply grateful for their vote of confidence in the Institute’s strategic direction,” says Brown-Nagin, who is also Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Their generosity is enabling us to act ambitiously in tackling some of the most complex and timely issues in our society."


Dharma Seda González ’23

Dharma Seda Gonzales '23

HRI’s Law, Education, and Justice (LEJ) working groups bring students at Harvard and in carceral spaces together to build community and explore important topics. The working groups are led by Kaia Stern MTS ’99—practitioner in residence at HRI, cofounder and director of the Prison Studies Project at Harvard, and lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education—and Brandeis University lecturer Aaron Bray JD ’16.

Dharma Seda González, Harvard College Class of 2023, cofacilitated the fall 2021 LEJ group “Telling Our Stories: A Writing Workshop Focused on Letters” and the spring 2022 group “The War on Drugs.”

Q: How did you get involved with the LEJ working groups?

A: During my gap year, I participated in “Gender, Race, and Punishment” with students from Nashua Street Jail in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. When I returned to campus, I worked with Kaia Stern to craft “Telling Our Stories,” a writing workshop with the women’s jail at the South Bay House of Corrections, which revolved around letter writing both as a professional skill and a means for creative outlet. With the help of Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library, we explored the Angela Davis archive, looked at letters from civil rights activist and writer Audre Lorde, talked about the power of letters as an act of connection, and workshopped our writing together.

“The War on Drugs,” led primarily by Aaron Bray, brought us together with students from Nashua Street’s men’s jail. We looked at various legal cases and legislation, explored the impact of U.S. government policies on communities, and engaged in conversations about the criminal legal system.

Q: What has inspired you most in these LEJ working groups?

A: We’re focused on sharing our personal stories and worldviews in a genuine and vulnerable way. Everyone speaks, everyone is respectful, and everyone is present. I’ve met some of the smartest people within these carceral settings, and the opportunity to share space and have conversations about issues of punishment, religion, gender, race, law, and education is very special.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: We’re preparing a new LEJ working group with MCI-Framingham for spring 2023 that centers the voices of women of color throughout history.

Q: What do you hope future LEJ participants will take away from the experience?

A: Kaia always says, “Within carceral spaces, human connection is contraband.” To be in a space where your very existence and togetherness are supposedly wrong—to exist in a way where education becomes liberatory and serves as an act of resistance—is both radical and powerful.

Changing Carceral Systems Through Compassion, Practice, and Research

Sandra Susan Smith—Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice and faculty director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School—joins Greg Boyle, Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries, to discuss the key challenges of racial inequity in carceral systems along with potential solutions that could help realize justice.