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The role of museums in unmasking society’s inequities

By Maria Madison

"Whether through a painting, artifact or object, thoughtful museums and historic sites share stories that can shape society. Annually, thousands of individuals visit our small historic site, The Robbins House, in a quiet corner of the world in Concord, Massachusetts. The house commemorates the legacy of a previously enslaved Revolutionary War veteran and his descendants. Visitors are surprised to learn that there was slavery in the North." (continue reading on the Huffington Post)

Office of the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Maria Madison Profile

Global health researcher, nonprofit founder and scholar Maria Madison joined the Heller School as its first Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in October 2017. Madison has over 20 years of experience in evidence-based research and management, especially in the design and implementation of clinical trials both in the U.S. and globally. Throughout her career, Madison has shown a strong ability to manage multidisciplinary, multicultural teams in various challenging settings and has consistently engaged with social justice issues.

Madison is an educator, and currently holds an adjunct faculty position at the University for Global Health Equity in Kigali, Rwanda. She is also the founder and president of the Robbins House, Inc., a historic home and nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness of African-American history in Concord, Mass. 

Continue reading the press release announcing Madison's arrival. 

Letter to the Community


Dear Heller Community,

In 2017, nearly 80 American Colleges and Universities won the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award created by “Insight into Diversity.” The award measures an institution’s “level of achievement and intensity of commitment in regard to broadening diversity and inclusion on campus through initiatives, programs, and outreach; student recruitment, retention, and completion; and hiring practices for faculty and staff.” One of the goals of the award is to “help institutions assess their diversity efforts in order to build on their success and improve where necessary.” The award also provides avenues for increased community pride, marketing opportunities and quality improvements in education outcomes and careers. Heller will use the HEED award metrics to benchmark progress, based upon national standards. Through this process, Heller seeks to achieve progress within a reasonable period of time. Ultimately Heller would see improvement in recruitment, retention and satisfaction across the community.

The themes by which colleges and universities are judged parallel the list of demands from Heller students: diversity, equity and inclusion (belonging) in pedagogy, faculty, staff, student body, facilitation and training on communication, hiring, curriculum development and classroom communication.  

Various schools across the country have achieved HEED “Champions” status. The 2017 awardees include Columbia University, Indiana University, Kent State University, and the University of Cincinnati, among others. Let’s strive together for Heller to join the list of Champions, as defined within our school (preliminarily independent of the University). This process requires behavioral change rooted first in an awareness of implicit bias.

My proposed process for working toward the HEED Champion status begins with a parallel approach that includes formal and informal approaches. The formal channels include working with colleagues to create pathways towards standards and policies regarding recruitment, retention, and curriculum, for example. Informal channels include one-on-one discussions, coffees and lunches with select students, faculty and staff. 

Through these parallel approaches, I hope to build consensus around a work plan to advance our DEI objectives (objectives which align with HEED metrics). While we can expect some early wins, this process can take many months and years.  Thank you for your patience in rolling out these ideas and plans.  I look forward to speaking with as many individuals and groups as possible to bridge the Heller divide.

Best Regards, 

Maria Madison

Associate Dean, DEI