With ongoing and growing economic challenges across racial, socioeconomic, and geographic lines, economic development continues to be top priority for state and local leaders. At the Taubman Center, we connect Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) students with a passion for and interest in learning about economic development with leading economic development thinkers and doers from around the country to engage on best practices and shared challenges. 

Economic Development Seminar

The Taubman Center’s monthly non-credit Economic Development Seminar provides HKS students the opportunity to connect with leading state and local economic development practitioners from across the country, learn about economic development strategies, and gain a deeper understanding of which economic development strategies are working, which aren’t, and why. Students gain a better understanding of the competitive, complex, and changing field of economic development in a thoughtful, fun, and inspiring community of diverse students and speakers.

The yearlong seminar brings a different leading economic development practitioner or thought leader to HKS each month to speak with students about their personal journeys to this work during a Thursday evening social, to dive into substantive issues during a Friday morning breakfast session, and to meet one-on-one during optional office hours. The seminar is grounded by a common thread of equitable economic development, and topics covered include the role of government, private sector, and philanthropic entities in providing economic development support and funding, the strategies they employ, how to measure impact, and more.

As part of the seminar, the cohort of approximately 30 students will also embark on a 3-day rural economic development trek to Maine to meet with and learn first-hand from people doing this important work on the ground.

Application Process

The application for the 2023-2024 Economic Development Seminar is now closed. Please subscribe to our newsletter for future updates.

The seminar will take place over the course of six sessions spread throughout the academic year. Each session will have a pre-reading of approximately 30-60 minutes to inform and spark discussion between students and speakers. See below for a typical session schedule: 

  • Social with seminar speakers and students: Held the evening prior to the seminar session from 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., this Thursday evening social allows students to meet with speakers in a fun and informal setting.
  • Breakfast seminar session: Students meet for a 90-minute session with speakers held Friday mornings, 9:00 - 10:30 a.m. Speakers will share brief remarks to complement the pre-reading, leaving the majority of the time for discussion facilitated by Taubman Center Executive Director Rafael Carbonell. 
  • Speaker Office Hours + Mentoring: After each breakfast session, students have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with seminar speakers to discuss career advice and connections.  

This format is intended to foster dynamic discussion, the sharing of different perspectives, and active participation by all students. 

This  seminar is for HKS students from all degree programs (MPP, MPA, MPA/ID, MC/MPA, Joint & Concurrent) who have an interest in economic development. Students need not be experts on the topic, but they should have an interest in applying what they learn to positively influence state and local government economic development policy and decision making, either by serving as or in collaboration with public sector leaders.    

The application for the 2023-2024 Economic Development Seminar is now closed. Please subscribe to our newsletter for future updates.

Information Sessions:

  • September 6 at 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. - Wexner - W-G02 Seminar Room
  • September 12 at 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. - Littauer - L-324 Fainsod Room

Important Dates:

  • September 1: Application opens 
  • September 20: Applications due at 9:00 a.m. 
  • September 26: Seminar participants selected 
  • October 12 at 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Cohort meet and greet and session 1 + October 13 at 9:00 am – 10:30 am: Econ 101
  • October 26: Prep for Maine Rural Trek at 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
  • November 2-November 5: Rural Trek to Maine, depart 11/2 evening and Return 11/5 evening (Potential for MPP 1 students with class obligations to join 11/3 afternoon)
  • November 16 at 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm + November 17 at 9:00 am – 10:30 am: Session 2
  • January 25 at 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm + January 26 at 9:00 am – 10:30 am: Session 3
  • February 29 at 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm + March 1 at 9:00 am – 10:30 am: Session 4
  • March 28 at 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm + March 29 at 9:00 am – 10:30 am: Session 5
  • April 25 at 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm + April 26 at 9:00 am – 10:30 am: Session 6

The focus of this seminar is on domestic U.S.  economic development.  Topics include economic development theory and practice, with specific examples and case studies from across the country. Common themes may include: 

  • The role government, private sector, and philanthropic entities in providing economic development assistance and funding,
  • The economic development strategies these entities employ, 
  • The scale at which economic development work happens, whether at the state, regional, or city level, 
  • How to measure the impact of these efforts, and 
  • How equitable economic development practices are employed. 

Speakers will include thought leaders and practitioners with diverse backgrounds from different regions of the U.S. Past speakers include: 

  • Stephen Moret, President & CEO of Strada Education, and former President & CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, which led the successful recruitment of Amazon’s HQ2
  • Alejandra Lopez, City of San Antonio’s Director of Economic Development
  • Celina Barrios-Millner, City of Boston’s Director of Equity & Inclusion
  • Rod Miller, CEO of Invest Puerto Rico

Approximately 30 students will be selected to participate for the series.   

Students are expected to attend  all monthly sessions, including the social activities the evening prior to each session. Students are also expected to do the pre-reading (approximately one hour) prior to each session. Additionally, students will be required to attend the Rural Economic Development Trek.

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