Dukakis Fellows Learn Governing from Governors

September 6, 2011
by Mari Megias, Alumni Relations & Naniette Coleman MPA 2010

As a Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Michael S. Dukakis Governors’ Summer Fellow, Jon Hollander is on a mission. His personal passions—antipoverty work and human services—came together during his summer-long fellowship as a policy analyst in Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s office, where he worked on the issue of human trafficking.

One of just three states that do not have a statue with specific criminal penalties for this form of modern-day slavery, the Massachusetts legislature is now on track to rectify this situation.

“I bring together stakeholders such as public health officials, the attorney general’s office, and the state police,” said Hollander. “So we’ll be ready to hit the ground running” when the bill passes (at this writing, the legislation is in conference committee). He has also been using the skills he’s learning at HKS to analyze policy.

“Being in the governor’s office has given me experience in and exposure to how policy is made and the skills I need to succeed,” Hollander said. “Every day I learn something new about policy and state government.”

This is music to the ears of Calvin Gross AB 1956, who established the Dukakis Fellows program during his 50th Harvard College reunion to honor his Brookline High School friend, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Both Gross and Dukakis wanted to focus specifically on providing HKS students with experience in state executive offices.

“There’s an absolute need for high-caliber individuals to serve in the states, and Mike and I felt these fellowships would allow students to learn while providing valuable input to the governors,” said Gross.

Dukakis concurs, “Our hope is that this fellowship will lead to a long-term professional involvement in state governments. It whets [the fellows’] appetite for more.”

That was certainly true for Mary Ellen Smith MPP 10, who completed her fellowship in Colorado under Governor Bill Ritter in 2009. She now works as a policy adviser to current Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

“I was drawn to governors’ offices in particular because I’d worked in politics before coming to the Kennedy School,” Smith said. “I wanted to use the political skills I’d developed with policy goals as the end game. That’s something I really like about the governor’s office—being the policy person who also has to figure out how to get items through the legislature and bring the advocacy community together.” Colorado has been particularly fertile ground for the program, the governor’s office is currently working with its third fellow.

Mary Beaulieu, assistant dean and director of HKS’s Office of Career Advancement, administers the program. Each year, she and her team reach out to new states with the goal of providing a good mix of Republican and Democratic administration. Students may also initiate their own application with a state that interests them.

Since the program started, 25 Dukakis Fellows have learned from and provided 14 states with their expertise. Maryland has had six fellows and Colorado, Hawaii, and Massachusetts have each had three over the past five years (one year Maryland had two fellows).

“We’re expecting the students to network with each other and those whom they meet during their fellowships, and that many of them remain in state government,” said Gross. “We hope this program helps them become better citizens, allows them to assist the community, and gives them an appreciation of what’s involved in government at the state level.”

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Dukakis Governors' Summer Fellow Jon Hollander poses in front of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s office.

Jon Hollander MPP 2012

“From Day One, I have felt that I’m really having an impact on policy,” said Jon Hollander MPP 2012.

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