Following the tradition of Wellesley alums as leaders in the world, Lisa Lynch ’78 has been appointed as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Brandeis University. Before her promotion last month, Lynch served as Dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at the university. She remains the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy.
Besides her active role in the Brandeis administration and faculty, Lynch has enjoyed a fruitful career in economics. Upon earning a double major in economics and political science at Wellesley, Lynch earned her M.S. and PhD. at the London School of Economics. Lynch later served the federal government as a chief economist for the Clinton administration’s Department of Labor and Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Board of Directors. Lynch has also held faculty positions at Tufts University, MIT, Ohio State University and the University of Bristol. Her presentations and publications focus on the influence of technological change and practices like training on productivity and wages, causes of youth unemployment and the mechanics behind the shift from school to work.
Lynch’s experience at Wellesley led to her resounding success in the field of economics, especially through the internships and work experience she gained during her college summers. Lynch worked at the Women’s Lobby, where her projects enabled her to help advance legislation improving women’s working conditions. She also worked for one of the few female representatives in the Massachusetts legislature, State Representative Genevra Counihan, and spent a summer in the Dukakis administration’s Office of State working on environmental issues.
“All of these experiences were very helpful when I worked in Washington D.C. in the 1990s as Chief Economist in the U.S. Department of Labor,” Lynch said.
Lynch’s study abroad experience particularly inspired her to eventually pursue further studies in economics.
“The most transformative experience was the time I spent during my junior year at the London School of Economics,” Lynch said. “I realized that I had a passion and skill in economics. I had pretty much been a stealth economics major up to that point. This resulted in my decision to apply to graduate school in economics. It changed the course of my life professionally and personally.”
While at Wellesley, Lynch was taught by some professors that helped her and inspired her along the way. Describing herself as a “rather shy, introverted person” at the start of college, Lynch found her voice by the end. She attributes this change in personality to the steadfast support and high expectations her professors had of her and her fellow Wellesley students.
Lynch emphasized this unceasing support when naming her favorite Wellesley professors.
“After graduation, I became very close to Professor Carolyn Shaw Bell (in the economics department) who somehow seemed to know when to send me a letter of encouragement during graduate school and my years as an untenured professor at MIT,” Lynch said. “Professor Chip Case (in the economics department) has become a good friend and is so supportive of all of the Wellesley graduates, especially in economics,” Lynch added.
Besides her academic and work-related commitments, Lynch also played cello at Wellesley. Some of her favorite moments at the college were when she played chamber music in various residence halls with her friends on Sundays.
Lynch attended Wellesley during the 1970s, a tumultuous period for many colleges. During her time at the college, her class took part in the desegregation of school buses and anti-apartheid movements. When asked about how this generation of Wellesley students will fare in workplaces that often discriminated against women, Lynch had an optimistic response.
“We have been told we must lean in and close the confidence gap to advance in leadership positions and overcome discrimination. It has been my personal experience that in the face of discrimination and bias, one cannot simply sit on the sidelines and wait for people to change their behavior,” Lynch said. “But it has also been my experience that leaning in alone will never be enough to address social inequities. I believe an approach that relies on pulling together is a much better strategy, and this is something that a Wellesley education provides.”