AS I WRITE THIS MESSAGE, we are nearing the end of a fall semester that brought a wonderful return to in-person teaching, learning, and work on the Harvard Kennedy School campus. Being together again with students and colleagues has put an extra spring in my step, and I have seen the same in the people I pass in the Forum, dining area, and courtyard.

Whether we are interacting remotely or in-person, members of the HKS community take on hard problems. Problems that do not have neat, simple answers, but are instead complex, messy, and sometimes deeply entrenched. With a little elbow grease, training, and tenacity, we strive to make a difference whenever and wherever we can.

The stories in this issue cast light on HKS’s engagement with some of the world’s hard problems.

We feature our faculty, staff, and students who are helping local governments improve people’s lives—from field courses that pair HKS students with city agencies to programs that train mayors in being more effective to digital tools that map economic trajectories for cities. Some of the alumni profiled are also hard at work to solve urban problems—from reimagining one of Bogotá’s most historic thoroughfares to strengthening infrastructure and improving transportation in American cities.

Of course, our students do not stop working on tough problems when they become alumni, as you know from your own experience. This issue tells us about a few of our alumni who are devoted to humanitarian work in Afghanistan now, responding to the crisis in the country. Jean-Martin Bauer MPP 2001, who has spent much of his career with the U.N.’s World Food Program, was recently dispatched there to help address the growing humanitarian needs. And Marina LeGree MPA 2014 became deeply involved with efforts to relocate the young Afghan women who were participating in her unique leadership program.

In another feature, we look at the impact of the coronavirus two years into the pandemic and share lessons that our faculty and staff members have drawn from a world reshaped by COVID-19—from what it has taught us about social priorities to preparing better for the next global shock to unleashing more innovative teaching and learning.

None of the problems these alumni, faculty, students, and staff are addressing are easy. In fact, they are all very hard. But they are also deeply worthwhile. As always, I hope you enjoy the stories in these pages—and I hope you find meaning in the hard, worthwhile problems in your own work.


Dean Doug Elmendorf
Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy

Top image: Last fall, Dean Doug Elmendorf and the HKS community gathered for a Veterans Impact Initiative event to thank Harvard’s veterans and active duty military members for their service. Photo by Martha Stewart.