A message from Dean Douglas Elmendorf

Dear Members of the HKS Community,

Fostering a diverse and welcoming Harvard Kennedy School community where everyone can thrive is essential for us to fulfill our values and to achieve excellence in our mission of improving public policy and leadership.

With that aim in mind, I am writing to share this year’s report on aspects of the School’s demographic diversity. This is the sixth of a series of annual reports that were spurred by a recommendation from a student-faculty-staff task force on diversity and inclusion that I convened when I started as dean. The reports are crucial in our efforts to understand demographic diversity at the Kennedy School and to see where we need to improve.

While I encourage you to read the full report—which covers statistics on race and ethnicity, gender, and nationality for our faculty, students, and staff—I will share a few numbers here. Among our U.S. faculty, we have greater percentages who are Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, or multiracial than in prior years, rising from 17 percent in 2018 to 25 percent in 2023. I am encouraged by the increased demographic diversity of our faculty. Among our students, roughly half come from countries outside the United States. Within our U.S. student population, the share who are Asian has increased over the past several years, while the shares who are Black and Hispanic/Latinx show little change, on balance. We must redouble our efforts to recruit a diverse domestic student body.

Accordingly, I am pleased that Professor Sandra Susan Smith and our new Assistant Dean for Enrollment Services Meredith Siegel have agreed to lead a new task force with the goal of increasing student diversity at the Kennedy School while complying with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. Faculty, staff, and students will be part of this group.

Other new and ongoing efforts at the Kennedy School include:

  • implicit bias training for degree program admissions readers;
  • renewed recruiting outreach by our admissions and financial aid staff;
  • increased use of unrestricted funds for financial aid;
  • a greater focus on financial need in determining aid awards;
  • reduced barriers to applying, including a more generous application fee waiver, workshops for applicants, and a virtual campus tour so prospective students can avoid the expense of travel;
  • hosting a Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute, along with our long-standing Public Policy Leadership Conference, to build a pipeline for students interested in public policy; and
  • targeted outreach efforts by some faculty members.

Over the past few years, we have undertaken significant work to create a more diverse and welcoming community—including developing an MPP core course on race and public policy; establishing an Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging; and creating a Culture Ambassador program for staff. We also have a robust and active faculty group doing teaching and research on race and public policy and have recently launched an external newsletter in this area. You can read about more of our efforts related to diversity, equity, and antiracism on our website, where we share our annual demographic reports.

Please join me and your classmates and colleagues to make the Kennedy School a place where we are collectively strengthened by our varied backgrounds and perspectives. If you have specific suggestions for the new task force, please send your thoughts to diversityrecruiting@hks.harvard.edu.