HBS Attracts Washington-Bound

Graduate students set on public service consider HBS alongside KSG

Which of Harvard’s graduate schools was recently described by its former dean as the place “where you actually learn how to change the world”?

It’s not the Law School, or the School of Public Health—or even the Kennedy School of Government, for that matter.

“If you really want to change the world, you should be at the Harvard Business School,” its former chief, Kim B. Clark ’74, told television host Charlie Rose in July.

While the Business School reports that only 2.2 percent of its most recent graduating class took jobs as public employees, many of the school’s alums now hold high-ranking government posts—including President George W. Bush, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, and Massachusetts Gov. W. Mitt Romney.

And their successors may be waiting in the wings on the Business School’s ivy-covered Allston campus.

For decades, a small number of Business School grads have chosen Washington over Wall Street. For instance, Robert S. McNamara, the secretary of defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and the former president of the World Bank, earned an MBA from Harvard in 1939.

And over 80 percent of the school’s alumni hold positions in nonprofit organizations at some point in their lives, according to Business School spokesman James E. Aisner ’68.

But Business School leaders say that more students now have their sights set on public service.

“It’s not something you could see in the early ’90s,” Clark, now the president of Brigham Young University-Idaho, said in a phone interview with The Crimson last month.

The Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative, which prepares MBA candidates for government jobs as well as private and non-profit work, enrolled 70 students in 1994. By 2003, that number had soared to 361.

“There has definitely been a change,” Clark said.


University of Michigan graduate Joshua H. Gray applied to both the Business School and the Kennedy School two years ago.

The Business School boasts a markedly lower acceptance rate than its cross-river peer. Over the past seven years, HBS admitted between 10 and 16 percent of applicants.

The Kennedy School typically admits about one of four applicants to its master of public policy (MPP) program, the most competitive of its master’s degree tracks, according to the school’s website.

Gray beat the odds and snagged a spot in the Business School Class of ’06.

But the Kennedy School first wait-listed him—then rejected him outright.

“The reason for their rejection was they wanted to see more of a commitment to public service,” Gray said.

But for students who hope to one day lead large government bureaucracies, is the natural grad school destination on the north side of the Charles or the south?

It’s an open question.

And the answer, according to experts at both schools, depends on whether students want to focus on administration or policy-making.

Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard ’74, who is both the Baker professor of public sector management at the Kennedy School and a senior faculty member at HBS, said that “if they are interested in policy, if they want to focus on the behavior of organizations that are public organizations, then the Kennedy School might be the right place for them.”

“If their interest in leadership or management is more general, they might also want to look at the Business School,” said Leonard, who is the co-chair of the Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative.


At Harvard Business School—the so-called “West Point of Capitalism”—it pays well to do good.

The Business School charges a hefty $37,500 a year in tuition—nearly $6,000 more than the Kennedy School’s annual price tag.

But while both schools offer financial aid to their alums, the B-School sports deeper pockets.

The Business School’s endowment totalled $2.1 billion as of June 30—the end of the most recent fiscal year. That’s nearly three times the size of the Kennedy School’s endowment—which, according to school spokeswoman Melodie Jackson, amounted to $759 million at the end of June.

And the Business School goes to the bank for its MBAs.

Business School grads who earn under $50,000 a year get a helping hand from their alma mater. Those alums can get up to $10,000 a year in aid from the school’s 13-year-old Non-Profit/Public Interest Loan Assistance Program, according to Laura U. Moon, who directs the school’s Social Enterprise Initiative.

Some recent grads who earn over $50,000 can also obtain partial loan repayment aid from the Business School.

Between a dozen and 15 alums qualify for the program annually, according to Moon.

There is no fixed level of funding for the program, according to Moon. In an e-mail, she noted that the Business School has never had to turn down an aid applicant because of a lack of available funds.

The Business School also launched the Service Leaders Fellowship Program in 2002, which for one or two years subsidizes salaries of grads who take less-lucrative jobs.

Clark said the programs were “designed to help create a little more of a level playing field” between grads who take jobs in government or other low-paying sectors and their classmates who take high-paying for-profit posts.


The historically cash-strapped Kennedy School, by contrast, acknowledges on the front page of its financial aid website that it has “very limited scholarship and fellowship resources.”

In early 2004, the school announced it would scale back its Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), barring alumni from receiving aid for more than three years.

Then-Dean Joseph S. Nye raised enough money to avert the LRAP cuts, but the school’s website still says it “reserves its right to make alterations to the program at any time and at its discretion if necessary due to budgetary constraints.”

But the Kennedy School may be catching up.

This past spring, Catherine B. Reynolds, who made her fortune in the student loan business, donated $10 million to Harvard to provide 20 scholarships this year—and 25 scholarships in each of the next five years—at the Kennedy School, the Graduate School of Education, and the School of Public Health.

One year earlier, real estate and media mogul Mortimer B. Zuckerman donated $10 million to Harvard so that 25 Business, Law, and Medical School students each year could pursue additional degrees at the Kennedy School as well as Harvard’s education and public health institutes.

The director of the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, David R. Gergen, predicted that over the next few years, “joint-ness” will be the catchphrase as record numbers of students seek concurrent degrees.


In the summer after his first year at the Business School, Gray set out for Illinois to work for the state’s Democratic governor, Rod Blagojevich.

When Gray reapplied to the Kennedy School last year, he got in.

That makes him one of the 115 Kennedy School students simultaneously pursuing MBAs at Harvard and other elite business schools across the country.

They compose nearly 64 percent of the 180 total combined-degree candidates at the Kennedy School.

The school’s dean, David T. Ellwood ’75, described himself as “an advocate of expanding our joint program.”

And that expansion has largely come from the MBA-MPP and MBA-Master of Public Administration (MPA) track, the school’s fastest-growing dual-degree options, according to the school’s senior associate dean, Joseph McCarthy.

Students in the program attend the Kennedy School on a full-time basis for one year and then study at both schools for the next two or three years. At the end of their studies, the students receive MBAs in addition to MPA or MPP degrees.

“This gives them a very powerful combination of skills and theory to go into a world which is much more integrated,” McCarthy said.

And the students enrolled in the combined-degree program give it high marks.

For Gray, the dual track offers a “degree of flexibility” as he considers his post-graduate career plans.

“I’m still trying to pinpoint exactly what it is I’m learning, but I do know that I’m loving the experience,” he said.

—Staff writer Javier C. Hernandez can be reached at

—Staff writer Daniel J. T. Schuker can be reached at

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