From Somerville to Harvard: Mayor Joseph Curtatone Scales the Wall

May 9, 2011
by Doug Gavel

As a child growing up in nearby Somerville, Joe Curtatone would often visit Harvard Square with his friends, yet he always felt like an outsider. “There was this invisible wall,” he says, “and we thought, how could we ever get to the other side of that wall?”

Now the mayor of Somerville, Curtatone has knocked the wall right down, as he completes his Mid-Career Master in Public Administration (MC/MPA) degree from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), midway through his fourth term in office.

“I wanted to broaden my perspective,” he says. “I wanted to learn more. I wanted to understand how I could do my job, execute my responsibilities better as a human being and as a leader.”

But it wasn’t just the academic challenges that Curtatone sought out at HKS; it was also the opportunity to learn alongside other committed public servants from all over the world.

“The personal relationships have had a greater impact on me than I could ever imagine,” he says recalling the enriching classroom discussions with “someone who is building homes in rural Burma or operating an NGO in another part of the world just to improve people’s lives.”

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