Kathryn Finney to receive honorary degree

By Keely Savoie

Kathryn Finney, entrepreneur, social media visionary, advocate for women, investor, writer and television correspondent, will receive an honorary doctorate in humane letters at Mount Holyoke College’s 180th Commencement on May 21. The honor recognizes her lifelong commitment to advocacy, diversity and the empowerment of women and minorities.

A tireless advocate for women in technology, Finney founded Digitalundivided, a social enterprise that finds, supports and trains black and Latina women tech entrepreneurs. The enterprise has raised $25 million in investments — and has fundamentally changed the pipeline of women of color entrepreneurs — since 2013.

Finney is also a general partner in the Harriet Fund and a co-founder of Harriet Angels, both of which provide early investment to exceptional black and Latina women entrepreneurs.  

In 2016, her pioneering research #ProjectDiane drew widespread attention for upending prevailing beliefs about women of color and technology entrepreneurship.

Finney’s numerous honors and awards include the Grace Hopper Conference ABIE Award, an Echoing Green Global Fellowship, an Eisenhower Fellowship and Spelman College’s Game Changer Award. She has been named to several lists, including Marie Claire’s “10 Women to Watch in 2016,” Entrepreneur magazine’s “Woman to Watch in 2016,” the Ebony Power 100 and Black Enterprise’s “40 under 40” list. In 2013 Finney was named a White House Champion of Change and she has served on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

She received her undergraduate degree in women’s studies and politics from Rutgers University and a master’s degree in public health from Yale University. Prior to starting her media company, Finney worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development and various nonprofits in Africa. She received Yale’s Weinerman Fellowship for her work as an international epidemiologist in the South African region.

Along with Finney, this year’s honorary degree recipients are Commencement keynote speaker and renowned labor activist Dolores Huerta and ground-breaking filmmaker Joan Biren ’66.

Previous Mount Holyoke honorary degree recipients include poet Maya Angelou, actress Glenn Close, activist Rosa Parks, reformer Frances Perkins of the class of 1902, and President William McKinley. Mount Holyoke's tradition of awarding honorary degrees to extraordinary individuals dates back to 1894.