Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow has announced that Maya L. Harris, a leader in civil and human rights law, advocacy and philanthropy, has been named a Visiting Scholar beginning 2014. Ms. Harris is currently a Vice President overseeing several domestic and global initiatives at the Ford Foundation, the second-largest philanthropy in the nation.

“Maya Harris is a remarkable leader, thinker, educator and advocate with a rare combination of expertise in law, civil rights, and global and national development. Through her visionary approach, she has been at the cutting edge of improving the lives of people—especially women. I am delighted that she will join us as a Visiting Scholar in 2014, and I am excited that our students and faculty will be able to learn with her as she pursues research into gender and justice.”

As a Visiting Scholar, Ms. Harris will explore a variety of topics related to fostering greater gender and racial inclusion in the U.S. economy and democracy, at a time when women are becoming an increasing share of the workforce and people of color will soon become the majority in the U.S.

“It is an honor to join the Harvard Law School community,” said Maya Harris.  “I am grateful to Dean Minow for the opportunity to engage with HLS faculty and students on these critical questions of how we strengthen our economy and our democracy by promoting the full participation of women and people of color.”

As Vice President of the Ford Foundation’s Democracy, Rights and Justice program, Ms. Harris oversees a global effort that invests over $150 million annually to promote effective governance, increase democratic participation, and advance human rights worldwide.  Under her leadership, Ford launched its first LGBT rights initiative; funded nationwide efforts to protect voting rights; supported emerging human rights organizations in the Global South; and invested in expanding economic and political opportunities for women around the world.

Over the last two decades, Ms. Harris has built a career as a public policy advocate, a legal educator, an attorney and published commentator. She is a contributing author to the No. 1 New York Times best-seller, “The Covenant with Black America” (Third World Press, 2006). Ms. Harris is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Ms. Harris received her law degree With Distinction from Stanford Law School, where she served as an editor of the Stanford Law Review.  After practicing law as a civil litigator and teaching law as an adjunct professor, Ms. Harris was selected to be Dean and Chief Executive Officer of Lincoln Law School of San Jose, and, at age 29, was reportedly one of the country’s youngest law school deans.  Immediately prior to joining Ford, Ms. Harris was the Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California, where she led the litigation, public education, advocacy and organizing efforts of the nation’s largest ACLU affiliate.

Ms. Harris is married to Tony West (AB ’87), the Associate Attorney General of the United States. They have one daughter, Meena (JD ’12).