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Yasser Baki grew up just outside of London, England, but spent his childhood making regular trips to visit with extended family in Egypt. At an early age, Baki was affected by the stark contrast between the levels of wealth and opportunity in the two countries. “I got very interested in the idea of government, the idea of politics,” Baki says, “and how public service could improve the lives of people.”
After completing his studies in political science at Cambridge University and working with the British Civil Service, Baki received a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue his Masters in Public Administration at Harvard Kennedy School.
Baki’s work with the British Civil Service built upon his early interest and observations about government. Working for the Department of International Development, which manages the UK’s overseas aid budget, Baki was based in Bagdad for two years and visited places like Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territory. “One of the things I learned was that no country can act on its own,” he says.
Baki sees direct connections between his civil service experience – trying to understand cooperation and influence and how other countries work – and his first semester at the Kennedy School.
“Being in the classroom at the Kennedy School is just a microcosm of that,” says Baki. “So much work is done in teams and in groups, so being able to negotiate with people from different backgrounds, being able to persuade and influence people who come from different countries and different cultures, is in itself a fantastic part of the education here.”
Outside the classroom, Baki takes advantage of the abundant activities and speakers on campus, citing Forum visits by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft as particular highlights. For balance, he’s joined the Boston Track Club. “It’s been a great outlet for my work, but also just a great way, as a Brit, to understand and enjoy America.”
Having worked in the public sector previously, Baki feels that the Kennedy School is inspiring him to continue in that direction.
“I think that by working in Iraq I realized that the challenges facing the international community are changing, and sometimes we’re not dealing with them as effectively and professionally as maybe we could,” he says. “I thought coming to the Kennedy School would be a fantastic opportunity to learn from the best in the field, and to understand better exactly what those challenges are and the best ways the world can work together to try and solve these problems.”