Maria Madison Appointed Interim Dean of the Heller School

Madison, the school’s associate dean for equity, inclusion and diversity and director of the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity, will succeed Dean David Weil on July 1, 2022.

April 15, 2022

composite image of David Weil and Maria Madison

On April 15, Brandeis University Provost Carol Fierke announced that David Weil will step down as dean of the Heller School at the completion of his five-year appointment and go on sabbatical leave. Provost Fierke then announced that Maria Madison will succeed Weil as the school’s interim dean, starting on July 1. Madison is currently the associate dean for equity, inclusion and diversity and director of the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity (IERE). 

Fierke noted that during his five years at Heller, Dean Weil integrated and strengthened Heller’s academic programs, enhanced the student experience, and oversaw significant growth in research funding and cross-institute research collaboration. He also bolstered efforts to embed principles of equity, inclusion and diversity into all aspects of the school’s operations. Finally, he served as a strong contributor to the Brandeis leadership team, particularly in the university’s efforts to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“As a result of these changes,” says Fierke, “Dean Weil leaves the Heller School strengthened financially and invigorated internally and externally.”

Maria Madison originally joined Brandeis in 2017 as Heller’s first associate dean for equity, inclusion and diversity, a new leadership position created in response to student-led activism during Ford Hall 2015. In her announcement, Provost Fierke noted that as associate dean, Madison “developed and implemented a targeted, evidence-based approach to improving DEI for all members of the Heller community, and forged innovative and effective partnerships across the school and the university as well as with policymakers and various organizations.” 

Colleagues at Heller and Brandeis reinforced this assertion. University Professor Anita Hill says, “In less than five years, Dr. Madison has managed to collaborate with an unparalleled number of teams across the school and campus, seeding and supporting DEI initiatives at every level of the organization and that advance the Heller mission. This philosophy, which she termed ‘diffusion innovation,’ has proven exceptionally effective in engaging all stakeholders to contribute to common goals for improved DEI in our teaching, research and engagement.”

In August 2020, Madison became director of Heller’s Institute on Economic and Racial Equity (formerly the Institute on Assets and Social Policy). Under her leadership, the institute adopted a new name, expanded its team and deepened its focus on policy-driven racial disparities. In December 2021, IERE secured a landmark $1 million gift from the Kapor Center to support a new initiative on racial justice and tech policy. As in her DEI work, this new initiative is designed to be cross-cutting, incorporating participation from research, the academy, and students at the graduate and undergraduate level.

Dean Weil says, “From day one, Dr. Madison has been instrumental in designing and implementing a strategic direction on equity, inclusion and diversity for the Heller School that is responsive to community members’ needs while drawing on our unique expertise in studying and responding to social inequalities and disparities, especially racial disparities. 

“In her capacity as associate dean of DEI and more recently as director of IERE, she has been intimately involved in every aspect of the school’s operations and will not only be able to hit the ground running, but will continue pushing Heller forward along a positive path in our academic program, research, and organizational missions that she has helped identify. I have total confidence in her leadership of Heller at this critical moment in time and know she will bring the school to new levels of impact and success.”

A trained global public health researcher, Madison holds an ScD in population and international health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She joined Brandeis with over two decades of experience designing, implementing and managing various projects and studies including clinical drug trials and registries, where she oversaw large, complex, multinational teams. She is also president and founder of The Robbins House, a historic building and nonprofit organization focused on preserving Concord, Massachusetts’ Black history. She is also a trustee of Tufts University, from which she holds bachelor's and master’s degrees, and is an associate editor of the journal Health Equity

“I am honored and excited to take on this new role,” says Madison. “The Heller School has become dear to my heart and I am thrilled at the opportunity to lead this powerful community of scholars and to advance the many important initiatives Dean Weil cultivated during his tenure. Together with my colleagues and our campus partners, I am confident that Heller will continue to grow and flourish as a singular institution in endless pursuit of its aspirational motto: Knowledge advancing social justice.”

In her announcement, Provost Fierke thanked Weil for his service and welcomed Madison as incoming interim dean, noting that work is already underway to ensure a smooth transition and to assure coverage from within Heller to oversee her current roles as director of IERE and associate dean for DEI.