Cambridge, Mass.— Setti D. Warren, distinguished public leader, Iraq War veteran, and former two-term Mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, has been named the next Director of the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School, Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced today.
Warren has served as the IOP’s Interim Director since July 2022, and his appointment as Director takes effect immediately. He succeeds former IOP director Mark Gearan, who left his position last summer to return to Hobart and William Smith Colleges for a second presidency. Warren served as the IOP’s Executive Director alongside Gearan from 2021 to 2022. Warren’s public service includes appointments in the White House, US Senate and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Institute of Politics is an integral part of Harvard Kennedy School and one of the largest student organizations for undergraduates at Harvard College. Established in 1966 as a memorial to President John F. Kennedy, the IOP’s mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis, with the goal of inspiring students to public service.
“I am delighted that Setti Warren has accepted the position of IOP Director,” said Dean Elmendorf. “He has had an accomplished career in public service, including both civilian and military service at the national level as well as extensive service in local government. With his commitment to Harvard’s students and his dedication to working with them, the future of the IOP is very bright.”
“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this important and storied institution,” said Warren. “President Kennedy once said, ‘It is time for a new generation of leadership to cope with the new problems and new opportunities. For there is a new world to be won.’ Building upon the President’s legacy, I look forward to working with students to ensure the IOP inspires young people to get into public service and make a difference in the United States and around the globe.”
Warren has been a respected senior leader at Harvard Kennedy School since 2018. Prior to his leadership role at the IOP, Warren was the Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy. His appointment as IOP Director concludes a nationwide search, in which HKS faculty and school leadership, IOP student leaders, and IOP senior advisory committee members participated.
“Setti Warren has played a large role in shaping the IOP’s student experience and building it into an increasingly inclusive and innovative space,” said Amen Gashaw, Harvard College ’24, Student President of the IOP. “Our members and student leaders look forward to continuing to work with him and each other in empowering and educating the next generation of public servants through mentorship, accessibility, and collaboration across the Harvard community and beyond.”
“Setti Warren is the right leader at the right time,” said Michael A. Nutter, Chair of the IOP Senior Advisory Committee and former Mayor of Philadelphia. “I have known Setti for a long time and continue to admire his leadership. More importantly, his commitment to strengthening democracy, to public service and to students will serve the IOP tremendously well in the years to come.”
Warren has had an accomplished career in politics and public service. Between 2010 and 2018, Warren was the Mayor of the City of Newton, where he was the first African American to be popularly elected mayor in Massachusetts. He led the reinvigoration of Newton’s innovation-based economy, slashing the city’s carbon footprint while investing in housing, transportation, and infrastructure projects to reduce inequality and strengthen the community.
Prior to being elected Mayor, Warren’s 9-year-long military service as a U.S. Naval intelligence specialist included a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq in 2008.
Warren was appointed by President Bill Clinton as the New England Regional Director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). From 1997 to 2000, Warren held multiple roles under President Clinton, including Special Assistant to the Cabinet Secretary. He served as White House liaison to six cabinet agencies, including the Departments of the Treasury, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development.
In addition, Warren worked for U.S. Senator John Kerry as the point person for economic development and small businesses in Massachusetts, serving as Kerry’s Deputy State Director and Communications Director from 2004 to 2008. He also worked on Senator Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
Former Massachusetts senior senator, 68th US Secretary of State, and current Special Presidential Envoy for climate, John Kerry said, “Setti Warren is a remarkable public servant who has demonstrated character and commitment to cause, whether it’s serving the people of Massachusetts on our Senate leadership team, the people of his hometown as Mayor, or his fellow men and women in uniform when duty to country pulled him to service in Iraq. He is energy, intellect, heart, and empathy combined.”
Kerry continued, “Setti’s a public citizen, exceptionally well-suited to work that brings people together, defies partisan labels, and contributes to a stronger social fabric. That’s exactly who he has been in and out of uniform, and who he will be in this new responsibility at a storied institution.”
Warren holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a juris doctor degree from Suffolk University.
James F. Smith