WOMEN SHAPING HISTORY 2018
President Jennifer J. Raab
1. WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOUR CURRENT CAREER PATH?
When I became the 13th president of Hunter College, I knew I wanted to truly make a difference in the lives of young people and have an impact on the future of our city and country. I felt that my skills and experiences would allow me to become the advocate and leader required to realize Hunter’s potential as a premier 21st-century institution of public higher education. My work as a litigator at two of New York City’s top law firms provided me with advocacy skills I could use to promote the vital mission of public higher education. As Chairman of the New York City Landmarks Commission, I gained experience working with many different constituencies as a problem-solver and negotiator. My educational background also made me well suited for this leadership role. As a graduate of Hunter College High School, I know from direct experience about the profound impact that a quality public education can have on the lives of children whose families cannot afford private schools. The confluence of these factors drew me to the presidency of Hunter as an ideal opportunity to truly make a difference in society.
2. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
To build on Hunter’s reputation for making the American dream possible for countless immigrants, minorities, and children from lower-income families we needed to leverage the talent of its students and faculty and transform the College into a dynamic 21st-century university. Through expanded outreach to alumni and a growing network of donors and also taking advantage of Hunter’s many assets, we’ve been able to grow the campus, add new programs, bring in new faculty and prepare Hunter to meet the needs of the future.
We have improved academic standards, and have invested significantly in the sciences and in the arts. We have also expanded our physical footprint considerably. Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work is now based in East Harlem, our studio arts programs are at 205 Hudson Street, our theater department has relocated to the new Baker Theatre Building, and we purchased a floor in the Belfer Research Building where Hunter scientists work alongside researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in a rare public-private partnership. We restored the beautiful Roosevelt House, the former New York home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, which serves as the home of Hunter’s new Public Policy Institute and now houses our Grove program, connecting engaged public policy scholars with lawmakers and city leaders for projects and internships. We have also begun a new initiative entitled CUNY 2x, funded by a grant from New York City to bolster our Computer Science department and spearhead an impressive new internship initiative. Hunter’s soaring reputation as a top urban public university is reflected in an ever-increasing roster of accolades and distinctions. In 2017 alone, Hunter was named a top Fulbright producer, one of Princeton Review’s “50 Colleges that Create Futures,” a “Best Regional University, North” according to U.S. News and World Report, and among Money Magazine and Kiplinger’s top college lists.
3. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I am proud that I have made a career of public service. I am proud to have made a difference and to continue to make a difference to the people of New York, my lifelong home and the greatest city in the world. And I am proud to have passed on to my children the same love and appreciation of public service. I am particularly delighted to announce that Hunter’s commitment to student success and scholarship in policy and public service has made a difference in the lives of many first generation Americans as well as new immigrants to our country. Last year, our first Marshall Scholar, Faiza Masood, a daughter of Pakistani immigrants, was announced. And this year our first Rhodes scholar, Thamara Jean, a daughter of Haitian immigrants was named.
4. WHO HAVE BEEN THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MENTORS IN YOUR LIFE?
My law professors at Harvard taught me so much about how to think critically and how to approach the questions that really matter. People like Martha Minow, an expert on education equality, and Kathleen Sullivan, one of the nation’s leading scholars of constitutional law, did more than prepare me. They inspired me with their commitment to the pursuit of justice.
5. WHAT WOULD YOU DESCRIBE AS A TURNING POINT IN YOUR LIFE?
Hunter College High School, certainly. As a child from a low-income, one-parent family, and the youngest of four, I did not expect to have much of a chance of going to college. Getting in to Hunter College High School literally changed my life and opened up doors I never could have passed through otherwise. I became the first in my family to graduate from college and also to go on to get two graduate degrees. It instilled a love of learning and a sense of responsibility and hard work that will stay with me forever. In fact, at a recent event at Hunter College, fellow Hunter College High School Alumnus Lin-Manuel Miranda and I welcomed Bill and Melinda Gates to the stage to learn about their philanthropic plans for the year. Lin-Manuel gave voice to my own feelings of gratitude for the excellent education we both received at the High School.
6. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE?
To continue to follow, and inspire others to follow, the spirit of the great Hunter College motto: Mihi Cura Futuri, translated as “The care of the future is mine.” I will care for the future by making sure Hunter remains a place where the American Dream still comes true. #