Harvard Kennedy School

Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), officially the John F. Kennedy School of Government, is the school of public policy and government of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The school offers master's degrees in public policy, public administration, and international development, four doctoral degrees, and various executive education programs. It conducts research in subjects relating to politics, government, international affairs, and economics. As of 2021, HKS had an endowment of $1.7 billion.[3] It is a member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), a global consortium of schools that trains leaders in international affairs.[4]

Harvard Kennedy School
MottoAsk what you can do
TypePrivate nonprofit public policy school
Established1936; 88 years ago (1936)
Parent institution
Harvard University
Endowment$1.7 billion (2021)[1]
DeanDouglas Elmendorf
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States

42°22′17″N 71°07′19″W / 42.37139°N 71.12194°W / 42.37139; -71.12194

The primary campus of Harvard Kennedy School is on John F. Kennedy Street in Cambridge. The main buildings overlook the Charles River and are southwest of Harvard Yard and Harvard Square, on the site of a former MBTA Red Line trainyard. The School is adjacent to the public riverfront John F. Kennedy Memorial Park.

Harvard Kennedy School alumni include 21 heads of state or government from around the world. Alumni also include cabinet officials, military leaders, heads of central banks, and legislators.


The Littauer Center at Harvard University, the original home of Harvard Kennedy School from 1936 to 1978
The new Littauer Center at Harvard Kennedy School, built in 1978, one of several Harvard Kennedy School buildings on the Harvard campus
The Belfer Building at Harvard Kennedy School



Harvard Kennedy School was founded as the Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration in 1936 with a $2 million gift (equivalent to roughly $43 million as of 2023) from Lucius Littauer, an 1878 Harvard College alumnus, businessman, former U.S. Congressman, and the first coach of the Harvard Crimson football team.[5]

Harvard Kennedy School's shield was designed to express the national purpose of the school and was modeled after the U.S. shield.[6] The School drew its initial faculty from Harvard's existing government and economics departments, and welcomed its first students in 1937.

The School's original home was in the Littauer Center, north of Harvard Yard, which is now home to Harvard University's Economics Department. The first students at the Graduate School were called Littauer Fellows, participating in a one-year course listing which later developed into the school's mid-career Master in Public Administration program.[7] In the 1960s, the School began to develop its current public policy degree and course curriculum associated with its Master in Public Policy program.

Renaming and move


In 1966, three years following the assassination of U.S. President and 1940 Harvard College alumnus John F. Kennedy, the school was renamed in his honor.[nb 1]

In 1966, concurrent with the school's renaming,[8] the Harvard Institute of Politics was created with Neustadt as its founding director.[10] Harvard Institute of Politics has been housed on the school campus since 1978, and today sponsors and hosts a series of programs, speeches and study groups for Harvard undergraduates and graduate students. Along with major Harvard Kennedy School events, the Institute of Politics holds the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, named in honor of John F. Kennedy Jr., in Harvard Kennedy School's Littauer Building.[citation needed]

By 1978, the faculty, including presidential scholar and adviser Richard Neustadt, a foreign policy scholar and later dean of the School, Graham Allison, Richard Zeckhauser, and others consolidated the school's programs and research centers at the present Harvard Kennedy School campus. The first new building opened on the southern half of the former Eliot Shops site in October 1978.[11] Under the terms of Littauer's original grant, the current campus also features a building called Littauer.[citation needed]

Rebranding and campus expansion


In late 2007, the Kennedy School of Government announced that while its official name was not being altered, it was rebranding itself as Harvard Kennedy School effective Fall 2008.[12] The goal was to make clearer the school's connection with Harvard.[13] It was also thought that the new branding would reduce confusion with other entities named after Kennedy, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Kennedy Library in Boston.[12] The rebranding had the support of John F. Kennedy's brother, U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and Caroline Kennedy, the former president's daughter.[12]

In 2012, Harvard Kennedy School announced a $500 million fundraising campaign, $120 million of which was to be used to significantly expand the Harvard Kennedy School campus, adding 91,000 square feet of space including six new classrooms, a new kitchen, and dining facility, offices and meeting spaces, a new student lounge and study space, more collaboration and active learning spaces, and a redesigned central courtyard. Groundbreaking commenced on May 7, 2015, and the project was completed in late 2017. The new Harvard Kennedy School campus opened in December 2017.[14][15]

From 2004 to 2015, Harvard Kennedy School's dean was David T. Ellwood, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official in the Clinton administration.[16]

In 2015, Douglas Elmendorf, a former director of the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, was named both dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and the school's Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy.[17] Elmendorf announced in September 2023 that he would step down as dean at the end of the academic year 2023/2024.[18]





Harvard Kennedy School offers four master's degree programs.[19] The two-year Master in Public Policy (MPP) program focuses on policy analysis, economics, management, ethics, statistics and negotiations in the public sector.[20] There are three separate Master in Public Administration (MPA) programs: a one-year Mid-Career Program (MC/MPA) intended for professionals who are more than seven years removed from their college graduation; a two-year MPA program intended for professionals who have an additional graduate degree and are more recently out of school; and a two-year international development track (MPA/ID) focused on development studies with a strong emphasis on economics and quantitative analysis.

Members of the mid-career MPA class also include Mason Fellows, who are public and private executives from developing countries. Mason Fellows typically constitute about 50 percent of the incoming class of Mid-Career MPA candidates. The Mason cohort is the most diverse at Harvard in terms of nationalities and ethnicities represented. It is named after Edward Sagendorph Mason, the former Harvard professor who, from 1947 to 1958, was dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Public Administration, now known as Harvard Kennedy School.

In addition to the master's programs, Harvard Kennedy School administers three doctoral programs.[21] Ph.D. degrees are awarded in public policy, in social policy in conjunction with Harvard's departments of government and sociology, and in health policy in conjunction with FAS and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Joint and concurrent degrees


Harvard Kennedy School has a number of joint and concurrent degree programs within Harvard and with other leading universities, which allow students to receive multiple degrees in a reduced period of time. Joint and current students spend at least one year in residence in Cambridge taking courses. Harvard Kennedy School joint degree programs are run with Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Graduate School of Design, and concurrent programs are offered with Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Medical School.

Beyond Harvard, HKS has concurrent degree arrangements with other law, business, and medical schools, including the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Law School, Duke University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, New York University School of Law, Northwestern University School of Law, Stanford Law School, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, University of Michigan Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Yale Law School, and UCSF School of Medicine.[22]

Abroad, Harvard Kennedy School offers a dual degree with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.[23][24]

HKS courses


Harvard Kennedy School maintains six academic divisions each headed by a faculty chair. In addition to offerings in the Harvard Kennedy School course listing, students are eligible to cross-register for courses at the other graduate and professional schools at Harvard and at the MIT Sloan School of Management, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. MPP coursework is focused on one of five areas, called a Policy Area of Concentration (PAC),[25] and includes a year-long research seminar in their second year, which includes a master's thesis called a Policy Analysis Exercise.[26][27]



Harvard Kennedy School has routinely ranked as the best, or among the best, of the world's public policy graduate schools. U.S. News & World Report ranks it the best graduate school for social policy, the best for health policy, and second best for public policy analysis.[28] In 2015 rankings, Kennedy School is ranked first in the subcategory of health policy and second in the category of public policy analysis and social policy.[29][30]

Kennedy's School's foreign affairs programs have consistently ranked at the top or near the top of Foreign Policy magazine's Inside the Ivory Tower survey, which lists the world's top twenty academic international relations programs at the undergraduate, Master's, and Ph.D. levels.[31] In 2012, for example, the survey ranked Kennedy School first overall for doctoral and undergraduate programs and third overall in the Master's category.[32]

Student organizations

Harvard Kennedy School's women's rowing team at the Weld Boathouse in the Head of the Charles Regatta rowing race on Charles River in 2006

Harvard Kennedy School maintains a range of student activities, including interest-driven student caucuses, the student government (Kennedy School Student Government, known as KSSG), student-edited policy journals including Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, Kennedy School Review,[33] the Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy,[34] a student newspaper (The Citizen), and a number of student athletic groups.

Students can join the Harvard Graduate Council, which is the centralized student government for the twelve graduate and professional schools of Harvard University. The Harvard Graduate Council is responsible for advocating student concerns to central administrators, including the president of Harvard University, provost, deans of students, and deans for the nearly 15,000 graduate and professional students across the twelve schools, organizing large university-wide initiatives and events, administering and providing funding for university-wide student groups,[35][36] and representing the Harvard graduate student population to other universities and external organizations.[37] Harvard Graduate Council is known for spearheading the "One Harvard" movement, which aims to bring all of Harvard's graduate schools together through closer collaboration and social interaction.[38]



Harvard Kennedy School is home to 14 centers, including:[39][15]

The majority of centers offer research and academic fellowships through which fellows can engage in research projects, lead study groups into specific topics and share their experiences with industry and government with the student body.



Under Dean Elmendorf, the school has tried to focus its engagement across the political spectrum, which has caused controversy at times. The school came under criticism for offering a fellowship to Chelsea Manning on September 13, 2017.[54][55] It then publicly rescinded the offer on September 15, 2017, after CIA director Mike Pompeo canceled a speaking engagement at Harvard and sent a letter condemning the university for awarding the fellowship.[55][56]

A 2021 investigative report by student group Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard found that many of the centers' climate initiatives were funded in part by fossil fuel companies, and that some of the centers had allegedly taken several steps to cover up that fact.[57][58]

The Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy in 2022 invited Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, a leading global human rights organizations, to join it as a senior fellow. The Kennedy School eventually rescinded the invitation to Roth because Human Rights Watch had investigated the State of Israel's treatment of Palestinians and concluded in 2021 that it meets the threshold for the "crime of apartheid".[59] After condemnation by faculty, students, The American Civil Liberties Union and others, the dean of the school reversed this decision.[60]

Weeks Footbridge crossing the Charles River at sunset with Harvard Business School on the left and Harvard Kennedy School on the right



The Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Public Service is awarded to "a graduating student whose commitment, activities, and contributions to public service are extraordinary". Several other awards are also awarded on Class Day annually at the end of May.[61]

Notable faculty


Notable alumni


Harvard Kennedy School has over 63,000 alumni, many of whom have gone on to notable careers around the world in government, business, public policy, and other fields. Its alumni include 20 heads of state and dozens of leaders of government department and agencies, non-profit public policy organizations, the military, thought leadership and advocacy, academia, and other fields:[2]

Government and politics


Heads of government and state


Government administrators and officials


Elected federal officials


Elected state and municipal officials












Non-profit organizations






See also



  1. ^ The full name of the upon the change was the John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government.[8] It was subsequently usually referred to as the John F. Kennedy School of Government or, in shorter form, as the Kennedy School of Government.[9]


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