Calvin Hadley

MPA in Public & Nonprofit Management & Policy

Dr. Calvin Hadley's headshot


I’m the incoming assistant provost for academic partnerships and student engagement at Howard University, which is a historically black university. This new role is a transition from my earlier position of senior advisor to the president for strategic initiatives, which I’ve held for eight years, while also completing my PhD degree in sociology with a focus on academic and professional success for Black males. My new role combines two portfolios: academic partnerships and student engagement. These allow me to build upon the foundation that I laid during my tenure as senior advisor to the president, but at a higher, systems-wide level. In my advisor role, I developed, coordinated, and executed strategic initiatives to further Howard University’s mission of supporting students’ academic and professional excellence. Many of those partnerships are with industry leaders like Google and Marriott, with the goal of building unique workforce development projects that address the systemic barriers to success that our graduates typically face, especially when it comes to advancing to managerial and executive roles in industry. Unfortunately, like most higher education institutions in the United States, we do not have a large percentage of Black males among our students. So a part of my second portfolio in student engagement is to channel the resources necessary for academic and professional success for our Black male students and graduates, drawing on my PhD research to identify what larger institutions need in order to increase their male student enrollment and to pave the way for successful career pathways after graduation. Data show that before the pandemic, only 59% of Black males graduated high school nationally, and this number has only declined since then. So the problem starts long before we get to college. A big part of my role as assistant provost is to incubate and operationalize programs and tools for our students and future graduates, from recruitment all the way to alumni engagement.


Before NYU Wagner, I graduated from Howard University with an undergraduate degree in political science and a focus on Africana studies, determined to go to law school as the first stop on a career that would lead to becoming the President of the United States of America. This goal was fueled by my mission to make life as best as possible for the people in my community, specifically for people of color. Growing up with loving parents who provided me with every opportunity possible, I witnessed peers in my community who were potentially smarter than me and who should have been excelling ten times more than me, but who didn’t. They didn’t have the same support from their parents and ended up being beaten down by what I call the “belief gap” in our society, especially in our  K-12 education system. Simply put, the “belief gap” is the gap between what teachers, professors, counselors, and others believe a student can achieve, and what the student can actually achieve. This belief gap has been the largest for Black males. So, at an early age, I decided to work on policy transformation so that the policies that are coming from the executive branch are egalitarian and are set up more for traditionally marginalized and oppressed groups to excel in society. This drove me to get an internship with Congresswoman Diane Watson  in DC, followed by a fellowship with the Institute of Responsible Citizenship . These opportunities placed me very close to the White House and politics on a federal level, where I was able to connect with stalwarts such as the late Congressman John Lewis. Those interactions changed my life. They made me realize that politics may not be the way that I want to change the world. After a small stint teaching in Senegal at the Senegalese American Bilingual School, I felt drawn towards education within the African diaspora. While I remain dedicated to a life of service, my path changed from policy to education. Hence, to gain the understanding of public and nonprofit management, I chose NYU Wagner. 


NYU Wagner helped me understand how I could bring forth my radical authenticity to the world, and it gave me freedom to dream about a future position without the shackles of needing a big title, or needing to see a direct path on how to get there. I joined Wagner in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008, so I think we had an unusually large cohort at that time. My first emotion looking at my cohort was disappointment as I didn’t notice many Black men. I recall feeling disheartened seeing the lack of diversity, so I took this up with Wagner’s leadership, who were supportive of my thoughts. They were on-board with the idea of working together to make Wagner a more inclusive and diverse institution than it already was. I became the president of the Black Student Alliance and worked very closely with Wagner’s dean and the central NYU campus. I advocated on behalf of Black people to increase enrollment, and I reinvigorated the Black Student Union, while working closely with the Center of Multicultural Education and Programs (CMEP). I’m proud to say that we created safe spaces for undergraduate Black students on campus and charted the way towards more inclusive recruitment and retention of Black students. In that process, I built key relationships with folks on campus that I still maintain in my role at Howard University today. Additionally, to continue my vigor for international exchange, I got a chance to travel to Ghana for my Capstone project at Wagner. But this time with my soon-to-be wife, who I met while we were both students. I cherish my time at Wagner as I learned about myself as well as about my ability to impact the world. It helped me understand that the biggest position that I could ever have would be the right one for me, the one that allowed me to bring forward my authentic self in service of the highest good, especially for my people.