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These Four Black Women Just Made History at Harvard University



Claudine Gay, Bridget Terry-Long, Michelle A. Williams, and Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Cambridge, MA — For the first time in Harvard’s 382-year history, four of the university’s academic departments will be led by African-American women. Professor Claudine Gay, the latest appointee, will become the first woman and the first African-American to lead the university’s prestigious Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The Crimson Harvard reports that on August 15, Professor Claudine Gay will be occupying the post as the dean of Harvard’s flagship faculty, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She is hoping it would inspire other women and people of color just like how she was inspired when former University President Drew G. Faust became Harvard’s first female president.

“If my presence in this role affirms someone’s sense of belonging and ownership, the same way Drew’s appointment affirmed my own sense of belonging, then I think that’s great,” Gay said.

Gay will be joining three other Black women who are currently seated as department heads. In 2016, Michelle A. Williams became the first black women to lead the Longwood-based School of Public Health. Tomiko Brown-Nagin and Bridget Terry-Long were also the first Black women who became deans of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Graduate School of Education in April and May, respectively.

Many are saying these appointments sparked a significant turning point at the University that only has underrepresented minorities make up only about 8 percent of its faculty.

“To now be moving into a phase of Harvard’s life where people who don’t meet that profile are now empowered to advance Harvard, it just signals that Harvard is getting ready for a new future for itself and for the country and for the world,” said John S. Wilson, a known advocate for the university’s diversity.

Meanwhile, University President Lawrence S. Bacow said, “Each of these exceptional individuals was selected because they enjoy reputations as distinguished scholars and educators, and because they are widely admired by their colleagues as extremely effective academic leaders”

He continued, “They were selected not because of their race or gender but because they each rose to the top of a rigorous search process.”



City Reports Largest Percent Spend to Small, Minority, and Women-Owned Businesses in 2018




For the last 27 years, the city has been working to increase the amount of city contract dollars paid to small, minority, and women-owned businesses. It finally saw success of its many efforts last year.

San Antonio’s Economic Development Department recently released the Small Business Office Annual Report for fiscal year 2018, which shows $223 million or 53 percent of city contract dollars were paid to local small, minority, and women-owned businesses (S/M/WBEs) on city contracts in which the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy (SBEDA) program was applied.

Of the 53 percent, 44 percent or $186 million was specifically paid to local minority and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs). Both the 53 percent paid to S/M/WBEs and 44 percent to M/WBEs represent the largest percent spend to date since the establishment of the SBEDA in 1992, in which a disparity study found that only 10 percent of city contract dollars were paid to S/M/WBEs.

When comparing the results of the SBEDA program between 2011 and 2018, significant progress has been made, especially for those businesses who are M/WBE. Overall, the city’s percent of dollars paid to M/WBEs has increased from 13 percent in 2011 to 44 percent in 2018, a 31 percent point gain.

Since the establishment of the advocacy program, the city has continuously increased the utilization of S/M/WBEs on city contracts by implementing various initiatives and amendments, most of which were created in 2011. These initiatives and amendments include establishing a goal-setting committee that ensures the SBEDA tools applied to a city contract result in the largest utilization of S/M/WBEs, central vendor registry to identify S/M/WBEs available to work on city contracts while also providing S/M/WBEs automatic notice of bid opportunities, and a mentor-protégé program to build the capacity of S/M/WBEs and help them continue to grow.

In 2016, additional amendments were made to the SBEDA program that expanded the use of successful tools and incentives to all industries, while also establishing new tools to help S/M/WBEs receive more contract opportunities at the prime level and not just as subcontractors.

“The city has continuously improved the SBEDA program through a data-driven process that has positively impacted our local, small, minority, and women-owned business community,” San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “These enhancements have strengthened the city’s overall utilization efforts across all industries, leading to significant increases at both the prime and subcontractor levels.”

The full annual report can be found here

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IRS will Issue Tax Refunds Despite Shutdown




Despite the government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service recently confirmed that it will process tax returns beginning Jan. 28 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.

“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in a news release.

Congress directed the payment of all tax refunds through a permanent, indefinite appropriation (31 U.S.C. 1324), and the IRS has consistently been of the view that it has authority to pay refunds despite a lapse in annual appropriations. Although in 2011 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed the IRS not to pay refunds during a lapse, OMB has reviewed the relevant law at Treasury’s request and concluded that IRS may pay tax refunds during a lapse.

The IRS will be recalling a significant portion of its workforce, currently furloughed as part of the government shutdown, to work. Additional details for the IRS filing season will be included in an updated FY2019 Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan to be released publicly in the coming days.

“IRS employees have been hard at work over the past year to implement the biggest tax law changes the nation has seen in more than 30 years,” said Rettig.

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing individual tax returns once the filing season begins. For taxpayers who usually file early in the year and have all of the needed documentation, there is no need to wait to file. They should file when they are ready to submit a complete and accurate tax return.

The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15 for most taxpayers. Because of the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17 to file their returns.

Software companies and tax professionals will be accepting and preparing tax returns before Jan. 28 and then will submit the returns when the IRS systems open later this month. The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and for faster refunds.

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Considering a Home Loan?




By Lisa Harrison Rivas

If you’re thinking of buying a home soon, now is a good time to get your financial house in order.  But where do you start?

Understanding what is required to obtain a mortgage can be confusing and overwhelming, especially with so much information available on the internet.

Maurice Matthews, a loan officer with Gold Financial Services at 2822 N. Loop 1604 in San Antonio, suggests prospective homebuyers sit down with a lender before house hunting.

Matthews, who has been a loan officer for 14 years, discussed his job and what people should know about the mortgage process.

Q: When people find out you’re a loan officer, what are some of the first things they ask?

A: The first thing they ask is what is the interest rate. And the interest rate is determined by a lot of different things. A lot of times, people just don’t understand the depth of what the interest rate is determined by. It’s determined by the credit score and the loan amount size. People also ask what their payment might be.

Q: Do you specialize in a certain type of loan?

A: Being prior military (Air Force), I specialize in VA loans. I can do all loans, but I guess I’m sort of partial to military loans. This is a military town. I love my veterans. The VA is probably the best loan out there because it requires no down payment and there is no mortgage insurance on the loan.

Q: What should people know before applying for a home loan?

A: Before you have your Realtor run you around, you need to know where you stand with your credit score and with your debt ratio.  You need to know if you qualify, if you’re a qualified buyer, that’s what a Realtor wants.

Q: How long does it generally take for an applicant to find out how much he or she is qualified for?

A: I can tell them the same day. Once I see where their income is, I can have a really good idea of if they’re qualified or not.

Q: Which type of home loan do most people get?

A: In San Antonio, most of them are VA. But people are hedging toward FHA loans. An FHA loan allows them to get a bit more buying power as compared to a conventional loan. FHA allows them to put 3.5 percent down and the debt to income ratios are not as stringent which again allows people to have more buying power. (FHA guidelines recently changed allowing some applicants to borrow more.)

Q: What do you consider a low credit score?

A: The low on the FHA is about 580. Now if you do what we call a non-qualified loan, which is anything outside of your standard loans such as FHA, VA or USDA, lenders can go a little bit lower than a 580 credit score. But with that there are a few more hurdles that borrowers might have to climb. They might have to put more money down. It’s a case by case basis.

Q: What are some of the financial mistakes prospective homebuyers make during the loan process?

A: Going out shopping. I tell clients not to spend or look at anything until you close.

Q: Can you share an unusual scenario you’ve come across in your career as a loan officer?

A: Man, I’ve seen it all. But when it’s all said and done my objective is to help people. For some it might be immediately, some a year from now. My goal is to help in every single scenario, regardless of what it is.

Lisa Harrison Rivas is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Don Johnson, Realtors. Contact Lisa at 210-380-9006 or

Maurice Matthews is a loan officer with Gold Financial Services, a full-service mortgage banker. He can be reached at 210-366-1070 or







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