Boston institute names first female president in more than 100 years

Dr. Aisha Francis brings strong leadership experience to Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.
By: | July 14, 2021
Dr. Aisha Francis (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology)

A private non-profit college in Boston has appointed the first female president in its 113-year history, one who was instrumental in helping the institution overcome big challenges during the pandemic.

Dr. Aisha Francis will transition from her role as chief executive to the top position at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, leading a small but rising school that is positioning itself as a leader in affordability, career and technical education and the green economy.

Under Francis’ guidance, BFIT managed to steer through the complexities of COVID-19, including the move to a hybrid model for this largely experiential institution that serves more than 50% of first-generation students and 99% who receive financial aid. Many of them had few virtual options when the pandemic began.

“Dr. Francis has a clear vision for BFIT as a dynamic higher education resource that connects students whose families were left behind during past economic boom times to strong career paths at the leading edges of the regional economy,” said Turahn Dorsey, the college’s recently appointed Board Chair. “The Board is confident that she has all of the experience, leadership and fundraising skill to transform BFIT into an institution that more effectively, more expeditiously and more affordably connects young people to the prosperous futures that they deserve.”

Francis, a graduate of Fisk University who received her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, has more than 20 years of experience in higher ed and working with non-profits. Before arriving at BFIT, she was Managing Director of Development at Harvard Medical School and also was Director of Major Gifts and Donations for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston.

She plans to utilize those collaborative skills to help BFIT build on Boston’s success in a look toward the future.

“BFIT has all of the elements in place to help our students succeed, and to play a role in the continued evolution of Greater Boston’s economy as we experience the fourth industrial revolution,” Francis said. “In particular, we are a leader in the cleantech industry and our graduates will continue to be a key part of that workforce.”

Part of BFIT’s mission will be to empower future leaders and continue to forge corporate partnerships that focus on social justice and equity. The Institute of Technology will do so on a new campus in the city’s Nubian Square (formerly Dudley Square) area of Roxbury.

“Nubian Square is a geographic and cultural hub of our city and it reflects Greater Boston’s rich history of fostering education, entrepreneurism and career opportunities for communities of color,” Francis said. “Building our new campus in this neighborhood signals our investment in the inclusive success of this region by engaging and graduating learners of all types who desire the economic security that our industry-informed training in cleantech and construction trade careers provides.”

Other news: Felician University in Rutherford, N.J., officially named James W. Crawford III as its sixth president. Crawford, a retired Admiral in the U.S. Navy who was Lead Counsel for the principal military advisor to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, had been the interim president at the university, which has a little more than 1,800 enrolled students.