Student story: Paying a debt and recognizing Black genius in American greatness

Student story: Paying a debt and recognizing Black genius in American greatness

It was during Black History Month, while supporting educational programs in America’s oldest prison, that Vincent Bish Ed.M 2021, MPA 2022 first understood how uniquely powerful a Harvard Kennedy School degree would be in his journey.

“I remember standing in San Quentin in 2019 and thinking

about the thousands of people who share my same skin color, who would have been

doctors, lawyers, Black coders, and whose lives have been derailed,” he

recalled. Bish was at San Quentin State Prison as the director of operations

for Slack, the online workplace platform. “Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s CEO,

had just read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson MPP 1985, and he

asked, ‘What can we in the tech space do for the mass incarcerated in America?’”

said Bish. 

Their answer was a coding pipeline course as part of an

$800,000 pilot program in partnership with the Kellogg Foundation, the

California Department of Corrections, and The Last Mile, an organization

offering incarcerated individuals business and tech training to help as they

re-enter society. As the project manager for Slack’s first social

responsibility pilot, Bish recognized the challenges. “I saw the issues facing

those in prison were multilayered,” he said. “I knew that technology was part

of the answer. I knew that policy was part of the answer. Much like the array

lens an X-ray uses to penetrate deep past what the eye can see, I knew that a

policy degree was a necessary lens to understand the heart of the problem.”

Bish wanted to pursue a multifaceted graduate education to address these

issues, so he set his sights on Harvard’s Graduation School of Education and

the Kennedy School. 

Read Vincent Bish’s story on the HKS website >>

Excerpt from an article by Susan A. Hughes, HKS Office of Communications and Public Affairs