Summers to Direct Center for Business and Government

The former University president recently returned to Harvard after heading the National Economic Council.

Lawrence H. Summers

As reported, Eliot University Professor Lawrence H. Summers has concluded his service as director of the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama, and has resumed his academic position at the University. He will be based at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). According to a University news release issued today, Summers will become director of the school’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, a hub for research and teaching on policy issues that involve the public and private sectors. HKS executive dean John A. Haigh will join Summers as co-director. 

Excerpts from the news release follow:

Upon his return to Harvard Kennedy School Summers will also lead the Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government (M-RCBG), serving as the Frank and Denie Weil Director. M-RCBG is the school’s hub for academic scholarship, research and teaching focused on critical policy issues that engage both the public and private sectors. Summers will succeed Roger B. Porter, IBM professor of business and government, who has served a second stint as the center’s director with great distinction since July 2008. Serving as center co-director will be HKS Executive Dean John A. Haigh, who will continue managing the operations of the school while also helping Summers set the strategic direction of M-RCBG with a portion of his time.

“We are very pleased to have Larry back at the Kennedy School and that he will lead the Mossavar-Rahmani Center at such a critical time,” said Dean David T. Ellwood. “Nearly all of the most important public challenges and opportunities cross the boundaries between business and government. Larry brings an extraordinary combination of leadership and experience at the heart of the intersection of business, government, and scholarship, having served in critical positions during strong economic times and economic crises, and having played a central role in exploring and determining the relationship between the public and private sectors. We look forward to his many contributions at the center, in the classroom, and to the nation and the world at a vital and still-turbulent time.”

“It has been an enormous privilege to serve in the White House for the last two critical years. Now with the economy stabilizing, I look forward to the opportunity to think, write and teach about some of the critical economic challenges we face taking a longer view than is possible in a position with day-to-day policy responsibility,” said Summers. “The shock of the financial crisis, the shifts in the distribution of global economic power, and the changes being brought about by information technology combine to make this an unusually important moment to reexamine traditional assumptions about economic policy in the United States and beyond. I am especially excited by the prospect of working with some of the most able students in the world at such a critical time.”

Haigh, who is a graduate of HKS, was appointed executive dean in 2005 following a distinguished career in the private sector. Prior to HKS, he served as partner at Mercer Management Consulting, focusing on strategic issues in multiple industries, and more recently at AT&T, where he held a variety of leadership positions including president of AT&T’s International Ventures and later as Senior Vice President for Emerging Initiatives at AT&T Wireless.

“John Haigh is an exceptional leader and manager who has helped the Kennedy School run effectively and smoothly over the past six years,” said Dean Ellwood. “His extensive background in the private sector combined with his understanding of public policy will be a great addition to M-RCBG’s leadership team. I am pleased that he has agreed to take on these additional responsibilities at an important moment for us.”

“We are very pleased with the announcement and excited that M-RCBG is so well positioned to engage both vigorously and rigorously with ideas and people in pursuit of its mission in the years ahead,” said Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani.

Established in 1982, the Center for Business and Government seeks to advance the state of knowledge and policy analysis concerning some of society’s most challenging problems at the interface of the public and private sectors. M-RCBG includes programs on energy policy, environmental economics, global climate change, corporate social responsibility, business and human rights, collaborative governance and education policy. Thirty-five faculty members are affiliated with the center along with 30 research fellows and visitors studying a wide array of policy issues and producing dozens of working papers and reports annually. The center hosted more than 60 seminars and events in 2010. In the months ahead, it will add a new focus on the implications of the rise of emerging markets for traditional relationships between business and government and will serve as a source of additional engagement for students in the joint Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School master’s program.

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