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Public service is a crucial part of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) mission all year long. But each spring, the on-campus HKS community focuses on creating change on the ground through Public Service Week.
Through events such as a canned food drive, a blood drive in partnership with Mount Auburn Hospital, and several panel discussions, Public Service Week 2016 inspires HKS students, faculty, and staff to make a difference in their communities.
The Institute of Politics (IOP) kicked off the week with a special HKS Forum event on Monday, Feb. 22, featuring AmeriCorps VISTA director Max Finberg in conversation with HKS' new dean, Douglas W. Elmendorf.
Finberg called AmeriCorps VISTA (which stands for "Volunteers In Service to America") "the national service program that puts human capital in the fight against poverty." AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers commit to spending one year working full-time on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency.
Since President John F. Kennedy introduced the idea for the program to Congress in 1963, VISTA has since mobilized more than 200,000 volunteers around the country.
"The VISTA response to hunger and poverty is to create sustainable solutions," Finberg explained, emphasizing the need for collaboration in public service projects. "Solutions happen when people work together," he said.
Finberg and Elmendorf also discussed the rewards of public service as a career, many of them intangible. "Money was never a motivating factor for me," Finberg noted. "The reward of making a difference" was a powerful impetus for him to pursue a career in public service.
"My hope is that more folks will use national service as the first step to more public service and public policy," Finberg concluded.
HKS Dean Douglas Elmendorf in conversation with AmeriCorps VISTA director Max Finberg
"My hope is that more folks will use national service as the first step to more public service and public policy [in their careers]." --Max Finberg, director of AmeriCorps VISTA