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Diversity and Accessibility

students hanging out in Harvard Yard

The 20th century saw substantial efforts to open Harvard’s doors to an increasingly broad range of students. President Pusey led fundraising campaigns that increased student financial aid, and his successor, Derek Curtis Bok, conducted a capital campaign that included a $350 million effort to support policies that encouraged the recruitment and appointment of outstanding women and minority scholars to permanent faculty positions.

Neil L. Rudenstine, Harvard’s 26th president (1991–2001), made substantial efforts to keep Harvard’s doors open to outstanding students from across the economic spectrum. Rudenstine is credited, among other things, with guiding the creation of the new Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. He strongly advocated the educational importance of student diversity and helped raise a record $2.6 billion for student financial aid, professorships, building renovation, and educational and research programs.

In July 2001, Lawrence H. Summers (PhD 1982) became Harvard’s 27th president. In addition to a focus on renewing the undergraduate experience, Summers led efforts to reach out to many more undergraduates from low-income families.

Drew Gilpin Faust took office as Harvard’s 28th president on July 1, 2007. Previously, Faust served as founding dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where she guided the transformation of Radcliffe from a college into a wide-ranging institute for advanced study.

Under her leadership, Radcliffe emerged as one of the nation’s foremost centers of scholarly and creative enterprise.

In January 2015, a report commissioned by President Drew Faust and Edgerley Family Dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Michael D. Smith and drafted by a committee led by Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana found that Harvard’s commitment to student diversity is not a new development,  but rather a long-held belief in the power of being exposed to ideas, beliefs, cultures, and people different from those with which students may be comfortable.