Diversifying the Academy

As part of Teach It Forward, the Williams Black Alumni Network (WBAN) challenged its members to raise $500,000 to provide support for the Bolin Fellowship; 771 individual donors blew past that goal, raising more than $707,000 for the TIF: WBAN Initiative. 

The Bolin Fellowship was established in 1985 in honor of Williams’ first Black graduate, Gaius Charles Bolin, Class of 1889. A stepping stone into the academy for gifted students from underrepresented groups, the fellowship provides graduate students with two years at Williams to complete their dissertations, teach and be mentored by faculty. 

Kamla Prasad ’82 remembers being at Williams when no professor looked like him. While a student, he met his future wife, Hiroko Imamura ’82, and the couple has generously supported the Bolin Fellowship. “Throughout my education, I lacked a mentor of color,” Kamla says. “At Williams 35 years ago, there was no educator whose experiences resonated with mine. The value of the Bolin Fellowship in creating a more diverse faculty that mentors and supports underrepresented groups is immense. My passion is fueled by personal experience and an appreciation that a mentor can have an enormous impact.”

Associate Professor of Africana Studies Rhon Manigault-Bryant, who first came to Williams as a Bolin Fellow, returned a few years later in a tenure-track position. “I simply cannot imagine the trajectory of my professional life without the Bolin Fellowship, as it gave me the skills to navigate a small, liberal arts college,” she says. “More than that, being a Bolin Fellow and now a tenured faculty member at Williams has opened up so many possibilities. In all, these experiences have allowed me to fully embrace my inherent interdisciplinarity.”