Four Harvard MBAs Win 2012 Dean’s Award

Tiffany Niver
Photo: Michael Fein
Tiffany Niver: Leading the Way for Women

Long before she arrived at Harvard Business School, Tiffany Niver wanted to expand the opportunities available to women. That aspiration began early in her life, growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of a working mother who walked the tightrope between a fast-track career and family commitments. During her two years at HBS, she has pursued that goal with extraordinary energy and success.

Niver, who graduated from Harvard College with a degree in psychology and economics, was “one of the School’s strongest advocates for women’s’ interests,” wrote a Dean’s Award nominator. As co-president of the Women’s Student Association (WSA), she shared responsibility for the leadership of an organization with more than 650 members, taking an active role in professional, developmental, social, and philanthropic events. As one classmate put it, “Tiffany oversaw outreach efforts to prospective and admitted students, facilitated a smooth transition for first-year students, and opened a dialogue on campus regarding women in business and the challenges they face.”

Under the leadership of Niver and other WSA officers, the club instituted a number of initiatives that “have made women at HBS feel part of a supported, empowered, and accomplished community, both while they are on campus and after they graduate and move forward in their lives and careers,” noted an HBS faculty member. She played an important role, for example, in the School’s and the WSA’s efforts to improve the equity between men and women’s academic performance in the MBA program in the face of statistics that had shown women lagging behind their male counterparts in earning honors and high-honors designations.

To help, the WSA generated greater awareness of the issues involved, took steps to help provide more academic and professional support, and encouraged a greater sense of “belonging” and community focus among the members to create an environment where women knew they could thrive. “Our board this year focused on celebrating women, our differences, our challenges, and our successes,” Niver said recently. “I think these sorts of activities, as well as building a dialogue with the faculty and administration, enabled us to move forward and effect real change.” Current data show that the grade gap has now disappeared. “This achievement is due in good part to the efforts of WSA leaders like Tiffany over the last few years,” said a professor who nominated her for the Award.

Niver’s analytical skills, energy, and perseverance were also evident in her work on a field study during her second-year focusing on the academic achievements of women in MBA programs at other top business schools. The study focused on several initiatives, including the creation of an MBA Women’s Coalition from these institutions. So far, student representatives from twelve sister schools have met to share their views on more than 40 topics.

Niver has also been involved in the initial planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the admission of women to the two-year MBA program – a series of events that will take place during the next academic year.

“Tiffany has built a real sense of community at HBS and beyond,” concluded a Dean’s Award nominator. “She is supportive and positive to all, while simultaneously making the tough calls to make sure the right things get done at the right time by the right people. She stands out in a group of incredible students in an incredible way.”

She will work next year at Amazon.