A message from Dean Douglas Elmendorf 

To Students, Faculty, Staff, and Fellows of Harvard Kennedy School,
Welcome—or welcome back—to Cambridge!

It’s exciting to have a full campus again. I enjoyed greeting our new students last Monday and meeting many students last Friday at Quorum Call. I’ve also been pleased to see faculty, staff, and fellows whom I hadn’t seen since the spring. I am so glad that we can all be together on campus (although the pandemic is not fully behind us).

We are here at the Kennedy School at a time of great challenges in the public sphere, but also a time of great opportunity to make a positive difference.

The challenges abound: The pandemic is continuing, with millions of people who have died or lost loved ones or been hurt in other ways. We see so many words and deeds that undermine democracy, in this country and others. The invasion of Ukraine goes on, with horrific and international consequences. We are enduring alarming changes in the climate and environment. Poverty endures and has increased globally during the past few years. And we watch harassment and deadly attacks stemming from hostility based on race, nationality, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

But the opportunity to make a positive difference is clear: By creating and sharing needed knowledge and skills, universities can serve our societies well. At the Kennedy School, achieving excellence in our intertwined combination of teaching, research, and outreach empowers us to take on the biggest public issues of our time. Our campus community and our alumni are helping to protect international security and freedom, strengthen democracy, advance social justice and human rights, increase economic well-being, enhance sustainability, and improve public leadership and management.

To those of you who are new at the Kennedy School this year, I am delighted that you’ve joined us. To those of you who have been at the Kennedy School before, I am grateful for your continuing important role in this community.

Let me highlight a few specific points about the year ahead:

  • COVID: The University encourages mask-wearing; faculty members can require mask-wearing in their classes; and we should all respect those who choose to wear masks. If you have symptoms of COVID, please test yourself before coming to campus, and if you test positive, please report that to Harvard University Health Services via Crimson Clear. Read more here.
  • Empathy, respect, and flexibility: We adopted these watchwords for our interactions with each other when we switched to remote learning and work in 2020. They remain an important summary of the norms for our work environment at the School today. Let us all continue to look out for our own and each other’s wellness, in all its many aspects.
  • Sexual misconduct, discrimination, and bullying: Last spring the University proposed new policies to address these important problems. I wrote at the time about ways to comment, and my chief of staff Sarah Wald will host another session for feedback from 2:00 to 3:00 on September 14 in the Allison Dining Room on the 5th floor of the Taubman Building.
  • Pressing global policy issues: Each semester I organize Dean’s Discussions about topics of current interest. This fall our faculty experts will lead discussions on international relations after the invasion of Ukraine, international finance and trade in the wake of the pandemic, and challenges in economic development. Watch for dates and times in the HKS Daily newsletter.
  • Climate and sustainability: The inaugural physical home for Harvard’s new Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability will be the Kennedy School, complementing our own work on climate change. In addition, we are introducing measures this year to limit the damage caused by our air travel, following the recommendations of our Sustainability Leadership Council.
  • Candid and constructive discourse: We strive at the Kennedy School for a spirited learning and working environment that teaches future public leaders to be principled and effective. Discussing issues about which people disagree—sometimes fundamentally—is key to that goal. Professor Erica Chenoweth will convene faculty, staff, and students to uplift effective practices and suggest initiatives that can help us, building on the efforts of Professor Julia Minson and others. Watch for more information, including how you can get involved.
  • Diversity, inclusion, and belonging: The School’s Diversity Committee of students, staff, and faculty will meet monthly. One topic to be addressed  will be the Kennedy School’s potential actions in response to the University’s spring report on “Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery.”
  • Breakfasts and lunches with me: To give me a chance to talk with and hear from more students and staff colleagues, we’ll schedule group meals throughout the year. If you’re interested, please email my assistant Lisa Cohen or watch for announcements in HKS Daily.

I wish us all a year of growth and excitement in our learning, teaching, research, outreach, and other work.

With best wishes,