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One Year Into My Role as President and CEO

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

“My work as a journalist seeks to connect silenced histories to our present day,” says Dara T. Mathis, one of two recipients of the Heising-Simons Foundation’s 2024 American Mosaic Journalism Prize. The Prize is awarded to freelance journalists for excellence in long-form, narrative, or deep reporting about underrepresented communities in the U.S. landscape. Mathis’ work to connect the dots between past and present, leading to a more hopeful and inclusive future, is emblematic of the work across many of our programs and grantees.

My listening and learning journey continues one year into this role as President and CEO of the Heising-Simons Foundation, where I’ve had the privilege to listen to and learn from talented, creative, and forward-looking leaders. Leaders like Raj Jayadev, co-founder of Silicon Valley De-Bug, who has launched participatory defense community models and campaigns to transform the landscape of power in the criminal court system. Leaders like Peggy Shepard, founder and executive director of WE-ACT in Harlem who got her start in environmental activism in Harlem almost 35 years ago. And philanthropic leaders like Judy Belk, former CEO of The California Wellness Foundation and Crystal Hayling, CEO of the Libra Foundation who joined us at our staff retreat last year to reflect on their own philanthropic leadership journeys.

In addition to deepening my knowledge of the transformational leaders and organizations we support, I have observed great potential for progress in bringing together people seeking shared solutions and approaches. Ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is perhaps the most uncertain source of future sea-level rise. The Foundation is supporting the convening of a community of modelers who can help reduce this uncertainty and who don’t otherwise interact with each other. Similarly, funding for the launch of the Science, Technology, and Social Values Lab led by Dr. Alondra Nelson at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton will help convene scholars and practitioners focused on the study of platform society and the risks and benefits of artificial intelligence. And the voices and perspectives of low-income parents—including immigrants and refugees, people of color, and English learners—are strengthened through our support of Families Leads’ programming, coalition building, and leadership development to improve early childhood education outcomes.

“Our long-standing work on systems and policy change will continue to be of critical importance in the coming year.”

– Sushma Raman

Our long-standing work on systems and policy change will continue to be of critical importance in the coming year—to ensure climate change is curbed as fast and as soon as possible to minimize widespread human suffering, to foster the enabling conditions that enable all children to thrive as learners, and to challenge the punitive systems of mass incarceration and immigrant detention and reimagine approaches to justice, safety, and accountability.

None of this work would be possible without the talent and commitment of our board, staff, and grantees. I am so grateful for the intellectual leadership and vision of Liz Simons, Mark Heising, and Caitlin Heising. Their invitation to me to join as President in February 2023 and then as a board member in August 2023 has reinforced for me their spirit of generosity and inclusion.

I look forward to our shared journey ahead as we seek to unlock knowledge, opportunity, and possibilities, and I am excited to be in touch with you in the coming months.

With gratitude,

Sushma Raman
President and CEO
Heising-Simons Foundation

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