Center for Politics and Race in America at Rutgers University Newark Renamed for the Late Sheila Oliver

Rutgers University Newark in New Jersey has named its Center for Politics and Race in America after the late Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, the first Black woman to hold a statewide office in New Jersey.

Oliver was elected New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor in 2017, and re-elected in 2021. She also served as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. Throughout her career, she held positions within the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. She was elected to serve the 34th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly in 2003. In 2010, she was named Assembly Speaker, making her the first Black woman in New Jersey and second in the nation to lead a state legislative house.

The newly named Sheila Y. Oliver Center for Politics and Race in America was established at Rutgers University Newark last year. It serves as research hub and a resource for underrepresented students seeking careers in public service. Alongside the name-change announcement, Johnson & Johnson made a donation to fund the Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver Leadership Scholarship. The scholarship will provide four Rutgers University Newark students the opportunity to participate in a public service internship.

“Today, we proudly rename the Center of Politics and Race in America in honor of the late-Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, a trailblazer who fought tirelessly for justice and equality,” said James Jones, the center’s co-director. “Lt. Gov. Oliver’s legacy will continue to inspire our center as we expand access to public service as a profession and promote research and public policy that confronts systemic inequalities.”

Oliver graduated cum laude from Lincoln University, a historically Black university in Pennsylvania. She received a master’s degree in community, organization, planning, and administration from Columbia University. Oliver passed away on August 1, 2023 during her second term as Lieutenant Governor.

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