In the mind of a first responder, protecting New York City’s eight million residents presents a sacred duty and responsibility. Beyond the expected challenges that come with this line of work, emergency personnel now contend with global issues within the city’s borders: Their training requires that they not only save lives but also learn how to fight terrorism.
As Joseph Pfeifer HKSEE 2006, MC/MPA 2008 realized, his responsibilities went from serving a local population as a chief for the New York City Fire Department to acting on a “world stage” after the 9/11 attacks in the role of chief of counterterrorism and emergency preparedness. Pfeifer credits his Harvard Kennedy School education with helping him adjust to this new reality, and it was support from the FDNY and a fellowship through Harvard Kennedy School that allowed him to attend. (Pfeifer is profiled on page 26.)
“HKS gives a student many options for learning,” says Pfeifer, who is now a guest speaker in Executive Education and an affiliate fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. “The struggle after 9/11 was that the Fire Department and New York City had to adapt to this new threat environment. My education at HKS empowered me not to feel constrained by these challenges but to use a broader understanding of leadership and management to get others to join me in facing complex issues in emergency preparedness.”
These sentiments are echoed throughout the FDNY, with support for further training from the highest levels of the organization. “After 9/11, the FDNY undertook a long and difficult rebuilding process, and furthering the education of our senior chiefs became a top priority,” says Salvatore Cassano, commissioner of the FDNY. “As fire commissioner, I expect a more sophisticated level of management for greater operational efficiency and to better position the FDNY for the future. Harvard Kennedy School has already done much for a few key members of the department. We believe that offering this invaluable experience to more of our senior staff will greatly contribute to our mission of public service.”
In 2003, HKS began offering a fellowship created in honor of those who died in the 9/11 attacks. Supported by unrestricted funds, the New York City Firefighters, Police, and Emergency Workers Public Service Fellowship has been awarded so far to seven first responders, including Pfeifer.
In 2009, HKS reached out to the Harvard Club of New York (HCNY) Foundation, seeking its partnership and support for first responder fellowships. “The HCNY Foundation’s Board of Directors realized we had an opportunity to fund a Harvard program that directly impacts public safety in New York City,” says Tanya Ryk Friedman, a Harvard College graduate and the foundation’s president.
Since the foundation was established, in 1954, members of the Harvard Club of New York have contributed more than $3 million to support undergraduate and graduate financial aid awards and programs.
NYPD Sergeant Tim Malin MC/MPA 2010 received the first HCNY Foundation fellowship. “Over the last 10 years, I’ve gained the necessary street experience in the NYPD,” he says. “Now—thanks to the HCNY Foundation and HKS— I have a real grounding in management and leadership within a public organization.” Malin says he’s learned from the experiences of other police officers who have come to HKS from countries with diverse civil service systems — including Pakistan, Australia, and India — but with nonetheless universal challenges. “I can already see how the practical skills I’ve learned here will translate into the ways and means to make me a more effective public leader.” Once he returns to the force, he says, he’ll continue his studies, this time toward a PhD in criminology.
When Pfeifer reflects on the courses he took at HKS, he says that he utilizes his skills in negotiation, organization, leadership, and problem-solving every day. “In struggling with an issue on the job, I often ask, ‘How would they do this at HKS? What case study can I pull out?’ I’m empowered to create new ideas because of this solid underpinning.” As HCNY Foundation fellowship recipients can attest, the need to support these critical public safety roles is evident. “Students who receive this kind of fellowship are committed to their organization for the long term and want to ‘create public value’ not only for their organization, but for the community their organization serves,” says Pfeifer.
To learn more about funding first responders at HKS, contact Beth Kramer, Assistant Dean, Alumni Relations and Resource Development at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-617-494-5323.