As a school of public policy—where lively debates about approaches to solving the world’s most pressing public problems are encouraged—it’s important that a wide spectrum of political viewpoints are reflected in the student body.
So what is it like to be a conservative student at HKS? Several right-leaning students share their experiences finding community and offer advice for prospective students.
Sebastian Borda MPP 2024: Prior to attending HKS, I spent two years in the U.S. Congress as a national security policy staffer for Senator James Lankford. In 2020, I graduated from Duke University, where I was active in the American Grand Strategy Program and the Center for Christianity and Scholarship. These experiences taught me the importance of integrating faith-based perspectives in U.S. foreign policy decision-making, a passion I have continued to explore through the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. After graduation, I intend to advance America’s global leadership through service in government.
Angelique Talmor MPP 2024: I hold a BA in Political Science and French from the University of Florida and Master In International Public Management from Sciences Po Paris. Prior to coming to HKS, I worked in government and consulting. I am currently pursuing a concurrent MBA with MIT Sloan. Long-term, I hope to be able to work as a political appointee on economic or financial policy.
How would you describe the community of Republican and/or conservative students at HKS?
Angelique Talmor: The centrist-to-right-leaning community at HKS is small (join us and help it grow!); however, this has resulted in me making some meaningful friendships that have helped me succeed and grow. I’ve also found that the right-leaning alumni community is very supportive and happy to connect.
Sebastian Borda: There is a small but hearty group of conservative students at HKS, which has been a source of encouragement to me. We are always eager to engage liberal critiques and hold constructive debates with students across the ideological spectrum.
What is your favorite thing about being a student at HKS?
Angelique Talmor: Everyone here, regardless of political affiliation, hopes to contribute to building a better world in some way. This is a special alignment of motivations that you don’t find many places. I’ve gained a tremendous amount from the opportunity to take classes with some of the preeminent policy practitioners in their fields, such as Jason Furman and Megan O'Sullivan. They enable you to gain a perspective and an inside look into policy that you would not be able to obtain anywhere else.
Sebastian Borda: Being a student at HKS gives you incredible access to world-renowned scholars, government officials, and leading intellectuals. The Kennedy School is unique in its ability to facilitate and deliver these opportunities on a regular basis. The rigor of the intellectual environment also pushes me further in my thinking and has forced me to reconsider my policy assumptions.
What advice do you have for prospective students considering applying to or enrolling at HKS?
Angelique Talmor: HKS offers you access to incredible resources (inside and outside the classroom), professors, and networks to launch a high-level policy career. I’ve personally gotten opportunities that I am not sure would have been open to me had I not been here. When considering whether to come to Harvard or another institution, don’t neglect how much Harvard’s resources and networks can help jumpstart your policy career.
Sebastian Borda: Be sure to chat with current students and alumni prior to applying and have a clear sense of your objectives in continuing your education. Graduate school is a major commitment that should be chosen with introspection and deliberation. I encourage you to come to Harvard with a commitment to use your experience in service to a greater cause.