Last Updated on October 5, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes
Dr. Melissa Gilliam, the executive vice president and provost at The Ohio State University, has been chosen as the next president of Boston University. This historic appointment marks Gilliam as the first woman and the first Black leader of the city’s largest university. Gilliam, who will assume her new role on July 1, brings with her a wealth of experience as a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist and higher education administrator.
Gilliam’s appointment comes at a critical time for Boston University amidst public skepticism surrounding higher education. The university also faces challenges such as fostering a stronger sense of community and ensuring that the population of underrepresented students does not decline following the Supreme Court’s decision to end the use of affirmative action in college admissions. Gilliam has identified reaching out to prospective students and improving the BU experience for underrepresented students as key strategies to address these concerns.
Affordability and increasing graduation rates to reduce student debt are also areas Gilliam intends to focus on. She aims to build stronger relationships with a broader range of high schools and create an inclusive environment where students feel a sense of belonging.
Gilliam’s appointment comes after an extensive year-long search process that considered nearly 400 candidates. The appointment has received praise from Mayor Michelle Wu, who applauds Gilliam’s dedication to promoting equity and inclusion.
Students at Boston University have high hopes for Gilliam’s presidency. They want to see a stronger community, increased transparency, cultural attunement, and accessibility. Gilliam has expressed her commitment to working closely with students and engaging the campus community at all levels to foster loyalty and a positive culture.
Gilliam’s impressive background includes authoring numerous peer-reviewed articles and serving on the board of Argonne National Laboratory. She is known for advocating for students and staff while upholding freedom of inquiry and expression.
While Gilliam refrained from commenting on recent staff cuts in BU’s Center for Antiracist Research, she emphasized her commitment to carefully listening to any concerns that may arise.
Gilliam, a graduate of Oxford University and the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health, is excited to return to New England where she studied English literature as an undergraduate at Yale University and received her medical training at Harvard Medical School. She plans to collaborate with other schools in the area.
Gilliam will be relocating to Boston with her husband, Dr. William Grobman, who specializes in high-risk pregnancy, and their two children. She firmly believes that talent is evenly distributed but opportunities are not, and her goal is to provide equal opportunities to all students.