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Every year the Mid-Career/MPA Mason Fellows are the first to arrive on campus for a two-week summer seminar program. This year, several of them have volunteered to introduce themselves through the Harvard Kennedy School School (HKS) admissions blog with a self-authored post.
Below is a selected portion of the blog recently written by Anna Naupa:
I come from the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. I started out my career in research in the early 2000s and then moved into development, where I have been working for the past decade.
I’ve spent the last seven years with the Australian government’s aid program working in both Vanuatu and regionally in the Pacific on land reform, advancing gender equality, and democratic governance. In 2009 I also started a community-based organization to protect cultural heritage, which is one of my many passions.
A year ago I realized I needed more exposure to new ideas and global lessons so that I could be better at what I love to do – supporting people in my part of the world to change things for the better. When a colleague told me about the MC/MPA Mason program, I thought, “Why not?”
I never thought I would be accepted, and still cannot believe I am now sitting in classes at Harvard Kennedy School, surrounded by people from all over the world who have amazing life experiences and achievements.
On our first day of the Mason summer seminar, Suzanne Shende, director of the Mason Program, told us that 30 percent of the 89 fellows were women. This surprised me. Achieving a gender balance is an ongoing challenge for the Mason Program, as well as the broader MC/MPA program. So many factors affect each person’s choice to participate in a mid-career program; family situation, finances, global geography, stage of life, level of interest in returning to studies, self-doubt. As a mother of young children these factors influenced my initial reaction – “it’s not possible.” Without my husband’s encouragement and openness to turning our life on its head, my employer’s support, and the HKS Mason Program staff’s patience with my numerous questions, I would not be sitting here today living a dream.
I especially want to encourage women to apply to what I am beginning to see is a truly enriching and unique program. Yes, international relocation and logistics are challenging. Yes, there will be brief moments when the costs appear to outweigh the benefits (an important concept in the mandatory summer program Introduction to Microeconomics class). However, the experience is bigger than the individual. The collective learning, the bonds that are being built with fellow students and the genuine support of the MC/MPA and Mason Program staff make it all worthwhile.
Pick up a pen, open your laptop and apply. There is so much to gain from this simple first step. What have you got to lose?
Anna Naupa, Mason Fellow
"[I] still cannot believe I am now sitting in classes at Harvard Kennedy School, surrounded by people from all over the world who have amazing life experiences and achievements," says Naupa.