Interview with Dean Hara

In an effort to keep our constituents informed during our strategic planning process, we will be posting information to this section of our website. Please check back for updates.

Our first post is an interview with BCAE’s Board Chair, Dean Hara. Below he will tell you a little bit about himself, how he came to be on the BCAE Board, and the thought process behind undergoing a strategic plan.

Tell us about yourself.

My career was varied with work in the private, non-profit and government sectors. I am fortunate to have experience in finance, public relations and human resources.

How long you have been on the BCAE Board of Directors?

Richard Milstein and Bob Volante, two long-serving Board Members, invited me to join BCAE in September 2013 to fill the remaining term of Jordan Ruboy. I am finishing my second three-year term next June 2020.

Do you do any other volunteer work?

In addition to serving on the BCAE Board of Directors, I also work with the Mount Auburn Cemetery Board of Trustees, the Boston Harbor Now Board of Advisors, and the Equality Fund Board at the Boston Foundation.

Why did the BCAE Board decide to embark on a strategic plan?

The alignment of several factors led the Board to move forward with the strategic planning process this past July. First of all, the Board’s composition had changed in the past six months. Second, after the significant fraudulent misappropriation of funds by former management was discovered and peeled away from our core operation finances, we uncovered a long history of increasing budget deficits. A subsequent analysis led to troubling sustainability concerns.

It was a critical juncture that created an important opportunity to step back and look at BCAE’s core mission. How can BCAE have the greatest impact on adult education across the more diverse Boston of today? My goal is that we focus on the core mission and think outside our current four walls.

We have a dual commitment as a Board to both BCAE’s mission of supporting adult education, but also to make sure that all the assets we are entrusted with are being best used toward that goal.

BCAE benefits from the foresight of the Board ten years ago when they bought and renovated the building we now use. They were responding to evolving student interests and moved from Commonwealth Avenue to Arlington Street. Our neighborhood is now also experiencing rapid change. Unexpectedly, this past June BCAE was approached by developers interested in purchasing our building and offering to help us relocate. While we made no decisions then, because real estate is BCAE’s greatest asset, it is our responsibility as Board members to be fiscal stewards and to investigate all our options.

Decision and Process

Our strategic planning process has two separate tracks operating in tandem. One track is working with organizational consultants from TDC to evaluate all our strategic options on how we can advance our mission. TDC has decades of experience in working with non-profits and is widely recognized as a valuable partner in times of change. The second track is working with JLL, a real estate firm with extensive history in working with non-profits and the City of Boston, to evaluate our real estate asset and advise the Board. All options are on the table, including the possible sale of the building.

What would you like to see happen with the strategic planning process?

After the Board works through all the options and scenarios presented by both TDC and JLL, I hope that there will be a consensus on BCAE’s future direction. It’s going to take a lot of work but I am optimistic about the Board’s energy and creativity. I am very confident of BCAE’s future, and that it will have a meaningful impact for the next 85 years.

What is your goal for BCAE?

My personal goal is that BCAE continues to meet the evolving needs of adult education across a more diverse Boston.

What is BCAE’s legacy?

The legacy of BCAE is different for each student. Overall, I believe BCAE has been a positive experience for people in many ways. It’s always fascinating to hear the stories people tell as they remember their first experience of BCAE. Maybe it was learning to ballroom dance for their wedding to learning QuickBooks so they could get a raise advance at work. Or maybe just a fun night in the kitchen. BCAE has always been a place to grow and learn new things.