Denise Herd head shot

Renowned Public Health scholar Denise Herd began serving as the Haas Institute's new associate director this month, pledging to bolster collaboration among the Institute's faculty clusters to make the impact of their work towards equity more potent.

“My initial plans are to dialogue with faculty cluster members to create a shared vision of possibilities to move us closer to our goals of achieving greater justice and equity,” Herd said, adding that her priority is to follow in the footsteps of her predecessors in building community among the Institute’s clusters and affiliates, as well as working to increase the impact of the clusters on the surrounding campus and local communities.

Herd, a professor of Health and Social Behavior at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and a longtime member of the Haas Institute’s Diversity and Health Disparities research cluster, is the Institute's third associate director. She took over from Taeku Lee, a professor of Political Science and Law who had held the position since 2015. Michael Omi, an associate professor of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley, had served as the Institute's founding associate director.

Herd’s scholarship centers on racialized disparities in health outcomes, spanning topics as varied as images of drugs and violence in rap music, drinking and drug use patterns, social movements, and the impact of corporate targeting and marketing on popular culture among African American youth.

She has also developed new multidisciplinary models to understand how the social position of minorities of color in the US affects their health status and behavior.

“Denise has been an instrumental faculty participant and leader in the Haas Institute initiative from its inception,” said Lee. "Her commitments to multi-disciplinarity, policy relevance, and building a community for scholars working on equity and inclusion run deep, and we are very excited to have her take on the associate director role."

In addition to her extensive scholarship in public health, Herd has served as associate dean at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health for seven years, where she led initiatives to improve internal operations and staff morale, strengthen collaboration with community partners, improve student services, and foster closer collaboration between students, faculty and staff. 

There, and in other administrative positions on campus, Herd helped lead a number of critical diversity-related initiatives to improve inclusion and belonging on campus.

As associate dean of Student Affairs, she expanded efforts to recruit students of color from underrepresented backgrounds to the School of Public Health and helped create a full time director of diversity position at the school. She was also part of efforts to create a plan for diversity and inclusion that was part of the school’s overall strategic plan—and which went on to become a model for other campus departments’ diversity efforts.

“I believe that leading by listening and creating a shared vision for change can be very powerful,” Herd said. “There is strength in working collaboratively with groups of faculty, students, and staff across the campus and community members who share the Haas Institute’s goals related to inclusivity and social justice.”

Herd has actively taken efforts to promote scholars and scholarship at the School of Public Health focused on social and health equity. After joining the UC Berkeley faculty, for example, she developed one of the first courses taught on multicultural health.

Herd has played an engaged role at the Haas Institute since its inception, including serving on the Institute’s executive committee and leading its Diversity and Health Disparities faculty cluster for more than five years.

“Scholarship in public health is strongly related to the larger goals of the Haas Institute because health equity is directly related to social equity and justice,” Herd said. “The field of public health is also interdisciplinary and policy-oriented—both qualities that are central to the the Institute’s mission.”