It is a good thing Theodora Skeadas MPP 2016 is an organizer at heart. From running political campaigns in Massachusetts to working as a consultant for the U.S. government on cybersecurity and geopolitical issues, Skeadas has established herself as someone who gets things done. It is no surprise, then, that Skeadas has significantly advanced the work of not one, but three HKS alumni groups. For her extraordinary contributions to the HKS community, she is the 2020 recipient of the Julius E. Babbitt Memorial Alumni Volunteer Award.
Her first interaction with the HKS alumni network came before she had even graduated, while working on a human trafficking detection project during her summer internship. Through Courtney Walsh MPP 2013, who was working at an anti-human trafficking organization, she became involved with W3D, the Harvard Women in Defense, Diplomacy, and Development Shared Interest Group, a network of HKS alumnae working to achieve sustainable peace. Skeadas became membership chair while still at HKS, started a Boston chapter after graduating, and eventually became president.
She says that W3D helps alumnae learn from each other. “From the alumna working at an NGO in Nairobi to one working at a think tank in D.C.—we’re really tackling the same issues.... The network helps alumnae grow their professional experience and skills so they can have more impact in their fields.”
A resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Skeadas also became involved with the HKS New England Alumni Association through a connection she had with one of its board members, Christina Marin MPP 2014. She soon was the network’s treasurer and, in June 2019, was unanimously voted president. “It’s been a lot of fun,” she says. “We organize a ton of events, including ones that teach technical skills and ones for content knowledge.”
As co-chair of the HKS Women’s Network (HKSWN), another geographically dispersed network of which she became co-chair in 2019, she has built on her experience as a city ambassador to Casablanca, Morocco, for the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA)—she graduated from the College in 2012. Skeadas has helped HKSWN build out its board and transform to a chapter model, as with the HAA. “We started with seven chapters. We now have 50 chapters and 75 ambassadors organizing dozens of events globally.”
Skeadas, who first became interested in public policy when she volunteered in middle school to build homes in Tijuana, Mexico, focused on international trade, finance, and econometrics at HKS. She also participated in the Women and Public Policy Program’s From Harvard Square to the Oval Office program. “This changed my relationship to the concept of running for office,” she says. She flirted with a run for Cambridge city councillor but decided to manage the campaign of political newcomer Sumbul Siddiqui, who then became the first South Asian and first Muslim to be elected to the council and is now the Cambridge mayor. Skeadas also served as operations manager for the unsuccessful campaign of fellow HKS alumnus Jimmy Tingle MC/MPA 2010, who ran for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 2018.
Skeadas, an avid traveler, is a staunch advocate of the value of the HKS alumni network. “I feel very connected globally. If I go anywhere, I can reach out to alumni,” she says. Thanks to her work with three HKS alumni networks, many graduates already feel more connected with each other and with the School.
Photo courtesy of Theodora Skeadas