Healey Appoints New Members, Reappoints Chair of Department of Higher Education

Governor Maura T. Healey appointed Harneen Chernow, Danielle Allen and Dr. Christina Royal to serve on the Board of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Governor Healey also reappointed Beacon Hill resident Chris Gabrieli as Chair of the Board. These new appointments will help advance the Board’s mission of ensuring students can access high quality, affordable, and diverse post-secondary learning experiences at the state’s public and private higher education colleges and universities.   

“Equity is at the center of our administration. I’m proud to be appointing members of the Board of Higher Education who share this commitment and will work to expand access to affordable, high quality higher education for every student,” said Governor Healey. “Massachusetts has long been a leader in higher education, and I’m confident that under the leadership of Chair Gabrieli and the other board members, we will continue to lengthen our lead and deliver results for the people of Massachusetts.”

“Chair Gabrieli has served the Board of Higher Education with distinction, and we are confident that with the addition of Harneen Chernow, Danielle Allen and Dr. Christina Royal, the Board will continue their excellent work on behalf of the people of Massachusetts,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “Every single one of our learners should have the opportunity to excel here in Massachusetts and as we expand other pathways to success, we must strengthen this path to higher education as well.” 

“I am thrilled that so many members of the Board of Higher Education will share our administration’s commitment to uplifting students historically underserved and underrepresented in our institutions of higher learning,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Patrick Tutwiler. “I am glad to continue working with Chair Gabrieli and I’m looking forward to the fresh perspectives brough by new members Harneen Chernow, Danielle Allen, and Dr. Christina Royal.” 

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education aims to improve the quality of higher education throughout the state and ensure that Massachusetts residents have the opportunity to benefit from a higher education that enriches their lives and advances their contributions to the civic life and economic development of the state. The high standard held for the state’s institutions of higher education allows for a concerte focus on equity, accountability, empowerment, and much more. The 13-member Board is responsible for defining and maintaining the mission of the Department of Education.

“For the last eight years, I have had the privilege of serving on the board and am grateful to continue because our work is not finished,” said Chairman Gabrieli. “I am delighted to work with our terrific cohort of fellow Board members, our Secretary and Commissioner and our higher ed leaders and stakeholders who also all believe in making sure our colleges and universities have the tools and innovations they need to serve our students, educate our workforce and build more equitable communities. I look forward to working with my new colleagues and am excited to see what we will accomplish together.”

Chris Gabrieli was first appointed to the Board of Higher Education in March 2015. He has been the co-founder of several non-profit education innovation and reform initiatives and a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.  He is also the Chairman of the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, a groundbreaking partnership between the state, district and teacher’s union aimed at accelerating innovation and success for students.  

Harneen Chernow is a Director of the 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds (TEF), a multi-state healthcare workforce intermediary providing education and training opportunities to over 300,000 members in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington DC and Florida. Of central importance in her work is TEF’s partnership with the public postsecondary education system, where members complete their degrees and obtain necessary credentials. Chernow’s focus and experience is in expanding career advancement and educational opportunities to workers who have been systemically excluded from succeeding in postsecondary education, helping them access family-sustaining jobs and careers.

Danielle Allen is James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, where she is a professor of political philosophy, ethics, and public policy. She is a seasoned nonprofit leader, advocate for democracy, and was a leading national voice on the pandemic response. She’s also a distinguished author and a mom. A past chair of the Mellon Foundation and Pulitzer Prize Boards, and former Dean of Humanities at the University of Chicago, Allen continues to serve as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Philosophical Society. 

Dr. Christina Royal is the president of Infinite Unlearning, LLC, and recently wrapped up her tenure as the fourth president of Holyoke Community College (HCC), and the first woman, multi-racial, and queer leader to lead the institution from 2017 to 2023. She has served in progressively responsible roles in both higher education, with experience with community college and private four-year institutions, as well as in corporate environments. In her presidency at HCC, she led the creation of the college’s first strategic plan, which prioritized equity by removing barriers for historically marginalized learners, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, first generation, adult learners, and students living in poverty. Dr. Royal also established the President’s Student Emergency Fund, collaboratively transformed the institution’s shared governance model, launched El Centro to support Latinx students as a Hispanic Serving Institution, expanded mental health services, and secured the largest philanthropic gift to a community college in Massachusetts, among other notable accomplishments.  

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