HKS Alumni Network Engagement Award

The night after the November 2016 election, Kennedy School alumni in the nation’s capital got together. The HKS Washington, DC Alumni Network (HKSDC) had already planned an event for that night at the National Press Club. But leaders of the network felt that after a divisive and momentous election the community needed something more.

“There was a sense that people wanted to talk,” says Lisa-Joy Zgorski MPP 1993, legislative and public affairs specialist at the National Science Foundation and HKSDC council treasurer. “And people came, of different parties, who just wanted to process what had occurred. People on all sides were stunned.”

HKS Washington, DC Alumni Network leaders
HKS Washington, DC Alumni Network leaders Lisa-Joy Zgorski MPP 1993, Nancy Bearg MC/MPA 1978, Jayme Johnson MC/MPA 2015, and Malik Siraj Akbar MC/MPA 2015 with HKS Dean Doug Elmendorf; far right, at Reunion Weekend in May, Zgorski receives award on behalf of the alumni network from John Haederle MC/MPA 2000, then chair of the HKS Alumni Board of Directors.

The impromptu event was representative of the creative work of the Council leaders. It was an imaginative response to something members of the community needed, it was organized quickly and efficiently, and it was unique in a city where being unique can be challenging, given the countless offerings.

“Just because there’s politics and policy on tap in Washington, doesn’t mean that we have a vibrant community,” says network president Jayme Johnson MC/MPA 2015, director of strategic initiatives at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transport Authority. “A community requires investment and effort.”

“Time and again the council provides that platform.”

Malik Siraj Akbar

That effort has included organizing policy discussions, career events and workshops, public service events, and the occasional happy hour. The network has also partnered with HKS research centers, administrative departments such as the admissions and career offices, and other Harvard schools and organizations. HKSDC has also made a conscious effort to increase diversity among its leadership. For all of that, HKSDC was awarded with the HKS Regional Network Engagement Award at Reunion Weekend in May.

“I remember the day we graduated, Professor David King said, ‘It’s not the end of it, it’s just the beginning of it; once you go out you will still have your friends and confidantes whom you will need,’” says Malik Siraj Akbar MC/MPA 2015, a Washington-based award-winning Pakistani journalist and former vice-president of the council. “Time and again the council provides that platform.”

Johnson agrees. “Putting HKSDC front and center is important, but it’s the focus on policy, and helping one another, and helping others outside the community that’s important,” he says.