Posts By :

Olivia Sayah

Members Speak Out About Racism in Boston and What Change Looks Like

940 788 Olivia Sayah

Priscilla Douglas says, “It is time to end the illusion that people can lift themselves up by their bootstraps or move easily up an economic ladder just by working hard” and talks about closing the wage gap for the working poor in the Boston Business Journal:


Also in the Boston Business Journal, and the Boston Globe, Colette Phillips talked about her experiences with racism in Boston and how to create an inclusive economy in Massachusetts, saying, “We cannot continue down this road without change.” Read more here:

MWF Higher Education and COVID-19 Blog Post

653 506 Olivia Sayah

By Dr. Wendy Purcell PhD FRSA



The Massachusetts Women’s Forum hosted a virtual roundtable event on May 12th 2020 to explore the ‘Impact of COVID-19 on the Higher Education Sector’, with the session opened up to a global audience through the International Women’s Forum.  Joined by distinguished university and college Presidents1 from seven very different institutions across the Commonwealth, Dr. Wendy Purcell designed and moderated the discussion.  Representing  a diversity of missions and contexts, from community colleges to liberal arts universities, those focused on adult learners, others offering an immersive on-campus experience, women’s colleges, urban and rural locations, public and private sector, it was clear there wasn’t a one-size fits all approach to tackling the challenges now and ahead for higher education.


Kicking off the discussion, Wendy Purcell noted that “The COVID-19 challenge is unprecedented in our lifetime, representing a humanitarian and economic crisis that is re-shaping our world in real-time.”  The discussion went on to explore how the pandemic is impacting on sustainability of the higher education sector, revealing its fragilities and highlighting issues of equity in our system.  Helen Drinan noted that “We entered this threatening period on a lot of weak notes.”  As these seismic shifts re-shape higher education, the panel shared their views on what it will take to re-imagine a ‘new normal’ for the sector.  Commenting on the incredible agility shown in moving online in a matter of weeks, in a sector not known for being fleet-of-foot, Helen said this tells us “If we want to change, we can change.”  As the longer-term implications play out, it was clear these institutional leaders were thinking deeply about the profound disruption in, and to, the sector.  As we move now into the recovery ahead, Wendy asked “When and how we will open?” and went on to explore “Will we open at all?”


Key themes from the discussion are explored here, together with responses to audience comments and questions.


Paula Johnson captured the mood of the discussion, saying “This is a moment of crisis and also of tremendous opportunity”, highlighting how the COVID-19 crisis had laid bare tremendous inequities in society as well as the opportunity to build back better.  Toni Hays developed the theme of equity and called on higher education to be made “more affordable, more accessible, more efficient and more collaborative.”  Deborah Jackson reminded us of the critical role of higher education in opening doors to opportunity, reminding us that in sending students home some of them are “not a child going home to parents, rather they are the parents”.  Going on describe the particular concerns of adult learners at Community Colleges in low-wage, low-benefit frontline and service jobs at risk from the pandemic lock-down, Deborah outlined the targeted support offered from Wi-Fi hotspots to providing access to computer labs.  Highlighting the importance of campus as home and campus as community, Paula emphasized the importance of higher education and diversity as essential to our democracy.  Taking the discussion on, Yves Solomon-Fernandez underlined the special needs of those in rural communities where lack of access to transport and Wi-Fi were major issues.  Yves forecast that “The world to which we will return will be dramatically different.” And she called on us all to “Chart a brighter and better path forward.”


Helen Drinan reminded us all that “Hope is not a strategy” and pointed to the work ahead, representing some of the most difficult leadership decisions any President in the sector will face in a lifetime.  Drawing attention to the tensions between pricing and online/on-campus delivery of teaching, Helen was emphatic that “Tuition must fall”.  Alison Davis-Blake demanded that we “Improve productivity in higher education”, noting the need to both invest and disinvest and learn from other sectors about process improvement.  Alison went on to describe “creative destruction”, reminding us to “find the intersection of mission and market”.  Deborah Jackson agreed, stating it was “Hard to justify the cost of higher education today” calling on the sector to review the way we teach and learn – both the how and the what, noting that online learning is a strategic priority and is not the correspondence course of old.  Valerie Roberson drew attention to the important role of higher education in recovery of the economy, noting that when unemployment is high more people enter education and called on us to “support the new economy after the crisis.”


So, while it’s said that ‘Forecasting is hard – especially the future!’, one thing is sure, the only certainty for higher education is more uncertainty.  But, if the far-sightedness and determination of the assembled Presidents is any guide to the high caliber of leadership in the sector, we can feel confident we are in good hands.  Closing the session, Dr. Purcell offered a quote to guide us on our way:

“Start by doing what’s necessary. 

Then do what’s possible. 

And, suddenly you’re doing the impossible.”    

Francis of Assisi


COVID-19 is challenging everything we do in universities and college, from teaching and learning, research and innovation, the students’ experience, faculty and staffing levels, investments in technology and student support, infrastructure projects, fund-raising, internationalization efforts and so much more.  The discussion on Higher Education and the COVID-19 Crisis can be viewed here.


1College and University Presidents interviewed by Wendy Purcell were: Helen Drinan, Simmons University; Paula Johnson, Wellesley College; Toni Hays, Regis College; Deborah Jackson, Cambridge College; Yves Solomon-Fernandez, Greenfield Community College; Valerie Roberson, Roxbury Community College; Alison Davis-Blake, Bentley University.

Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership Announces New Helen G. Drinan Visionary Leadership Award

360 360 Olivia Sayah

The Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership today announced the new Helen G. Drinan Visionary Leadership Award.

Named in honor of member and Simmons University President, Helen G. Drinan, the award will recognize distinguished women leaders who demonstrate exceptional commitment, compassion and vision. Read more here.

Cambridge College Acquires the New England College of Business and Finance

220 220 Olivia Sayah

Cambridge College will acquire the New England College of Business and Finance in a recent merger. Board member Deborah Jackson, President of Cambridge College, is quoted as saying, “NECB’s combination of affordability, innovation, and business integration are the very attributes we value at Cambridge College for our student community of working adults.” Click here to read more.



Tara Levine Joins Inari as Chief Growth Officer

320 320 Olivia Sayah

Inari today announced that member Tara Levine has joined its leadership team in the newly created role of chief growth officer. Read more about how Tara will drive efforts to deliver strategic commercial expansion and further develop the brand of the agriculture technology business in the press release.

New Member Spotlight: Elaine Zecher

729 486 Olivia Sayah

Elaine became Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Boston in 2016 and is the first female rabbi in the history of Temple Israel. She has touched the lives of Temple Israel’s congregants – from the very youngest to their most senior members in many significant and meaningful ways and has been instrumental in adding to the spiritual richness of the congregation.

New Member Spotlight: Pramila Yadav

300 375 Olivia Sayah

Pramila is one of Boston’s leading Obstetrical and Gynecology physicians, a clinical faculty member at Harvard’s Medical school, an investor and advisor in Boston’s growing medical and technology start up community, and a committed public policy advocate. Pramila started her own practice in Brookline in 2004, while actively teaching on the faculty of Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She focuses on high risk and multiple pregnancies, as well as minimally invasive gynecological surgery, and abnormal pap smear management.

New Member Spotlight: Eileen Sivolella

256 256 Olivia Sayah

Eileen serves as chief financial officer at Advent International, a leading private equity firm that seeks to invest in well-positioned companies and partner with management teams to create value through sustained revenue and earnings growth. She brought vast experience in private equity to this role, previously working as CFO of Bain Capital and as a partner at Deloitte.

New Member Spotlight: Carolyn Sidor

259 194 Olivia Sayah

Carolyn Sidor is the Managing Principal of Cushman & Wakefield’s New England offices. She oversees all lines of business and leads a team of more than 180 professionals in Boston, Hartford, CT and Manchester, NH who develop creative and holistic real estate solutions for the firm’s investor and occupier clients across the region.

New Member Spotlight: Wendy Sherman

400 400 Olivia Sayah
Wendy is a professor of the practice of public leadership and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she prepares students to exercise leadership in a world that faces an array of social, political, and economic challenges. As former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, she led the U.S. negotiating team and was a central player in concluding the Iran nuclear agreement, for which, among other diplomatic accomplishments, she was awarded the National Security Medal by President Barack Obama.