Press Release

Taking a Deep Look at Its Past, Vassar Announces New Inclusive History Initiative

Vassar College President Elizabeth H. Bradley today announced the Vassar Inclusive History initiative to explore the College’s past. The College will work to engage the college community broadly to research, document, and make publicly accessible the history of Vassar with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The initiative will begin with a focus on Blackness and African American experiences and Native American Indigeneity at Vassar. Additional areas of inquiry will be included over time.

A special Commission to implement this inquiry will be led by five Vassar scholars: Director of Engaged Pluralism and Professor of Religion Jonathon Kahn; Director of Africana Studies and Professor of Sociology Diane Harriford; Chair and Professor of History Mita Choudhury; Dean of the College and Associate Professor of Sociology Carlos Alamo-Pastrana; and Head of Special Collections and Adjunct Associate Professor of History (and College Historian, as of July 1, 2023) Ron Patkus. The Commission will also have representatives from the student body, the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College, and additional academic programs and departments. About the initiative, Choudhury said, “We cannot aspire to be inclusive without acknowledging ways in which we failed in the past.” Patkus added, “We plan to dig deeper into primary source collections and other materials, and look forward to making novel educational opportunities part of this initiative.”

The Commission will convene listening sessions with the broader Vassar community, including alums, faculty (including emeriti), students, administrators, staff, community-based organizations, and community members in the Hudson Valley region and will identify a set of specific areas to research in the first two years of its existence. Bradley noted that “multiple courses, research projects, internships, community partnerships, and other events will likely emerge from this work, as, collectively, we learn about and integrate Vassar’s institutional past into our current work for a better, more equitable and inclusive future for Vassar.”

“I am grateful,” said Bradley “for being guided by a strong External Advisory Committee including Andrew Delbanco, President of the Teagle Foundation; Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University; Sarah Barringer Gordon (Vassar Class of 1982), Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania; Bill Jeffway, Executive Director of the Dutchess County Historical Society; and Mike Kelly, Head of Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College.”

“I am delighted that Vassar, a historic American institution in higher education, is undertaking this important work in such a thoughtful manner,” said Gates, “and I look forward to helping where I can!”

“My history courses at Vassar taught me the great value of primary documents, which almost always show a bigger, more complex past than we might expect,” said Gordon. “I am proud to be involved as Vassar turns this dedication to fearless research to an important new endeavor—its own past.”

For more on the Vassar Inclusive History initiative, visit the Vassar website to read the full announcement.

Contact Larry Hertz,, 845-518-3098, 845-437-7938 (Vassar College)

About Vassar College

Vassar College-based in Poughkeepsie, NY, is a coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college where perspectives cross, ideas intersect, and passion burns bright. Originally founded to provide women an education equal to that once available only to men, Vassar was the first all-women’s college in the nation to become coeducational when it opened its doors to men in 1969. Vassar fosters an intellectual openness and independence in students, who meet each other as equals, and are encouraged to absorb diverse thought and impassioned dialogue that give them the insight and confidence they will need in a complex world where they will make important contributions. Consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country, Vassar is renowned for pioneering achievements in education, for its long history of curricular innovation, and for the beauty of its campus.

The Vassar campus is located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY.

February 7, 2023
Inclusive History