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John Harvard's Journal

Kennedy School Looks Ahead

January-February 2006

“When you think about events like Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Pakistan and other parts of South Asia, climate change, global poverty, advancing democracy, and international security, it’s really striking that these are all problems that clearly require coordinated action in the public interest,” says David Ellwood, dean of the Kennedy School of Government (KSG). “It’s clear that the government and large institutions are not doing the job as well as we had hoped.”

Beginning his second year at KSG’s helm, Ellwood is acting on the results of a yearlong, comprehensive review of the school’s activities by four committees that he appointed in 2004. The new initiatives and changes range from academic organization to teaching and outreach.

David Ellwood
Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell / Harvard News Office

For openers, Ellwood last fall has put into practice the committee recommendation to organize the school’s work into five broad academic areas. (The KSG has never had academic departments, instead organizing its research around 12 “centers,” which remain in place.) “Each area chair is charged with thinking about intellectual issues, faculty, and courses,” Ellwood says. “Part of the goal is to be sure we don’t have 140 faculty members all reporting to one academic dean.” The new areas and their faculty chairs are: democratic institutions and politics (Alex Keyssar, Stirling professor of history and social policy); social policy (Jeffrey Liebman, professor of public policy); international relations, science, and security (Ashton Carter, Ford Foundation professor of science and international affairs); markets and methods (Dani Rodrik, Hariri professor of international political economy); and management and leadership (Mary Jo Bane, Bradshaw professor of public policy and management).

Regarding teaching programs, the KSG’s connection to the College has thus far largely meant noncredit seminars at the Institute of Politics. But now the school “will expect to involve its faculty more directly in undergraduate teaching,” says Ellwood. That could mean KSG professors teaching courses offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as well as undergraduates enrolling in KSG courses—as rarely happens now. Opportunities for College students may be especially promising in the environmental area, where the KSG offers some unique courses.

The school also intends to create a joint curriculum with Harvard Business School. “The B-School increasingly talks about how important the public sector is,” says Ellwood, adding that the private sector has always figured heavily in the Kennedy School’s programs. “We already have a sizable number of students doing activities with the business, law, and medical schools,” he points out. “We offer concurrent degrees with the law and business faculties—you can get an M.B.A. and M.P.P. [master’s in public policy] in less time than doing both separately. But there aren’t many courses asking you to think about business and government together. We’d like to move toward a true joint degree, with a more integrated curriculum.”

The KSG also aims to create smaller, in-depth concentrations within the M.P.P. program in a few years. This would mean a smaller common core of courses, as well as a more formal set of specializations. “There’ll be a lot of enthusiasm for this kind of thing,” Ellwood predicts. “We already have an M.P.A./ID program, specifically for people who want to do international development.” Another opportunity for new pedagogy, he adds, comes in executive education: “One of our greatest opportunities, a critical element and one I hope to expand.”

In general, says Ellwood, “We need to have a more internationalized curriculum and to take more advantage of the fact that we are the most international school at Harvard, with 43 percent of our students coming from abroad, from 80 different countries.” He mentions a trip he took to China, Japan, Taipei, and Hong Kong last summer. In each, he says, “I met or talked with someone who is a national leader, or is considered a strong possibility to become one, and each of those people either has a Kennedy School degree or has taken an executive program here.”

The overall conclusion? “We need to provide spectacular training to people who are going to make a difference,” Ellwood declares. “This is a moment when we need to be outstanding.”