I can’t tell you how thrilled and honored I am to be the CEO of Oliver Scholars. As a long-time advocate for educational equity and college access, Oliver isn’t new to me. Over the years, I’ve orbited within the Oliver universe, and have collaborated with this organization in a number of ways to ensure that promising New York City students have access to the kind of high-quality education that could change the trajectory of their lives. And, while I’ve had the privilege to work on the frontlines of many equity-based issues in this city that I love, most roads have brought me back to one thing – education.
As I think about the Oliver Alumni I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with over the years, I’ve noted a significant quality that stands out about how they show up in the world – Oliver students and Alumni are courageously themselves! Oliver does a fantastic job helping its Scholars to master their independent school and college experiences, while giving them agency to celebrate the best of the communities they come from. They are able to view their intersectional identities as assets they bring to the table, not deficits they need to overcome. I think this fundamental strategy is the singular ingredient that has made what started as a simple idea such a phenomenal success.
When the Board’s search committee first asked me, “Why Oliver?” a lot of things came to mind. I didn’t have the benefit of a program like Oliver, but I did have a mother who was relentless in her pursuit of the best schooling opportunities she could negotiate for me. Independent school helped rouse in me a voracious appetite for learning that had been dormant when I was in a less challenging environment. My love of reading, once discovered, was an asset that served me well. I learned to think critically about history, and how it informs current events in the world. I founded my first organization. I become comfortable with leading. Today, Oliver Scholars have all of that, and more – they have each other, and a community of diverse adults whose sole purpose is to ensure their future success.
After 35 years, the Oliver community has reached an important inflection point. We are standing on proud traditions, but asking ourselves the tough questions. What have we learned – about education, about leadership development, and about community – that’s worth sharing with the world? What needs to happen to help us further institutionalize this organization so that generations to come can benefit from this amazing community? What’s our role in cultivating a diverse leadership pipeline in New York City, and beyond? How do we solidify our base of financial support so that the work is sustainable? How can we widen the circle of Oliver evangelists who can help us tell our amazing story?
As your new CEO, I’ve got all sorts of ideas about what our next act can and should look like. Luckily, I don’t have to imagine the future alone. I’m fired up for this next phase of elevation and growth, and am looking forward to engaging with you in that effort. The truth of the matter is that the work is ongoing, and I’m not starting with a blank slate. Our Staff is creating change every day. Our Alumni are making a difference in education, in business, in science, in the arts, and in multiple fields, every day. We have everything we need to co-create this next phase.
I want us to continue celebrating the unique programmatic and community experiences that have set Oliver apart, while committing to moving forward with bold intention about what’s possible. I want us to lean into our dreams for this organization, while acknowledging the labor of those who came before us - and, we should do so with our eyes fully focused on the young people we haven’t met yet because they are waiting for us. I can’t wait!
Dr. Danielle R. Moss