ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS during the past few years I have spoken about how economic, social, and political changes have eroded people’s trust in governments and in leaders. Of course, I have also reflected on what we at Harvard Kennedy School can do to respond to these challenges. As Harvard’s new president, Larry Bacow, said at his installation ceremony this past fall, “We have a responsibility to use the immense resources entrusted to us—our assets, ideas, and people—to address difficult problems and painful divisions.”
Some of the problems we see in the world have exacerbated divisions between people and fostered a breakdown in productive dialogue. Therefore it has been one of our aims this year at the Kennedy School to bolster civil discourse in our community. In this issue of the magazine, you can read about some of the ways that we are teaching and modeling civil discourse on campus.
Often when people with different backgrounds and views come together, the results of these connections are powerful—and the Kennedy School aims to foster those sorts of connections. Some of the wonderful connections occur between alumni: For example, you can read in this issue about two alumni with very different backgrounds who met as Kennedy School students and have since established a university in Niger.
Other important connections are formed between our faculty members and government leaders and policymakers. For instance, one of our professors is working with the Chief of U.S. Naval Operations to help teach the science of decision making to members of the Navy in order to improve outcomes in high-stakes scenarios. And faculty affiliated with our Center for International Development are working with government officials in dozens of countries to conduct research and develop policy approaches for solving thorny problems in economic development.
Many important connections take place between our faculty and our students and alumni, and you can read about some of these connections in the following pages. For example, one alumna worked with Kennedy School professors to develop a significant new program on the Arctic. An alumnus drew on faculty guidance to launch a bipartisan organization for veterans seeking office. Yet another alumna was so inspired by her study of gender inequity while at the Kennedy School that she changed careers to focus on this issue for the City of Boston.
These are just a few of the stories in this magazine. There are many more that demonstrate how the Kennedy School community is advancing the public interest in powerful ways.
Among all of our efforts to improve lives around the world, we also stop to mourn the loss of Devah Pager, who was the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy. She was a pioneering scholar who illuminated the effects of discrimination in the labor market and exemplified the commitment to the common good that distinguishes the Kennedy School. Devah remains an inspiring model for our community, and we miss her very much.
Dean Doug Elmendorf
Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy