Maria Madison Appointed Director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy

August 13, 2020

Heller School Dean David Weil has appointed Maria Madison to the role of director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, effective September 1, 2020. Dr. Madison, who joined the Heller School in 2017, will assume this role in addition to her current position as associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She succeeds Thomas Shapiro who in 2019 announced his plans to step down after 14 years as IASP director. 

Over the last three years, Associate Dean Madison established a variety of school-wide DEI initiatives, community event series and other pathbreaking partnerships. In addition to this critical work, Madison is a public health researcher with extensive experience in clinical trials and population health disparities research. She holds an ScD in population and international health from the Harvard School of Public Health and is also the founder and president of the Robbins House, Inc., a historic home and award-winning nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness of African-American history in Concord, Mass. and its local, regional and national relevance.

With this new appointment, Madison will maintain strategic oversight of Heller’s overall DEI efforts including a new staff member, while also bringing this work into the day-to-day operations of one of the school’s preeminent research institutes. Dean Weil says, “This step represents an important inflection point in our approach to DEI work at Heller, which is to de-silo it. It’s important to take these critical initiatives out of a DEI office and into the offices of individual faculty, researchers and staff members. Instead of one DEI ‘leader’ at Heller, we must have many.”

Under Shapiro’s leadership, IASP developed a strong emphasis on economic racial inequity, becoming well-known for its research on the racial wealth gap and its many policy drivers, including homeownership, student debt, and occupational segregation, as well as designing policy solutions to close the gap.

Shapiro has voiced his strong support for this next step, saying, "We are thrilled that Dr. Madison is taking the reins of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy." He will remain an active researcher at IASP, and he will continue to advise and mentor students. Madison will become chair of the PhD concentration in assets and inequalities, and will continue to teach courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. 

Madison’s goal is for IASP to build on its expertise and develop a stronger emphasis on economic and health inequity by race. She says, “This approach recognizes that throughout U.S. history, economic growth has benefited white populations most while contributing to increased othering and oppression of people of color.” To acknowledge this renewed focus, IASP staff are currently co-creating a new name for the institute that centers the racial wealth and health gap, a process she hopes to finalize in August. 

“Racial wealth, health and justice are inextricably linked—we have seen this throughout the concurrent crises of COVID-19, its economic fallout and current protest movements for Black lives,” says Madison. “As these disparities grow, IASP is well positioned to address inequity as it is rooted in workplace policy, education policy, housing policy, savings, baby bonds, and reparations.” 

She intends to leverage her expertise in public health to build critical interdisciplinary partnerships for IASP with other centers and institutes at Heller, as well as with experts—and Black scholars in particular—elsewhere at Brandeis and at other institutions. This includes thinking of health more broadly than in the past, as well as embracing intersectional issues. 

University Professor Anita Hill says, “Dr. Madison's singular command of scholarship, research and public engagement will strengthen IASP's commitment to individuals, families, and communities of color. Her intellectual energy and vision make her the ideal person to lead IASP into an exciting and excellent future.”

Media Contact

The Heller School welcomes media inquiries on this and all other news items. Email Bethany Romano or call 781-736-3961.

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