IOP Focuses on the Presidency in 2012 Fall Fellows Lineup

A former presidential campaign strategist and two former presidential administration staffers headline the slate of Institute Of Politics fellows for the semester leading up to the 2012 presidential election.

Michele Bachmann campaign strategist Brett O’Donnell, George W. Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon, and Barack Obama deputy assistant Sonal R. Shah will be joined by former Wisconsin governor James E. Doyle, Fortune magazine senior editor and Washington columnist Nina J. Easton, and John Carr, a director for justice, peace, and human development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“For a presidential semester, all of them bring something unique to the discussions we’re going to have about that race,” IOP director C. M. “Trey” Grayson ’94 said.

Many of the fellows, who will all lead weekly not-for-credit study groups for the community, expressed their excitement about interacting with students after their selection was announced Tuesday.

“My experience with Harvard students,” O’Donnell said, “has been that while we may disagree politically, we certainly have much in common, and [we] certainly share the desire to have an open and free-flowing sharing of ideas.”

Shah, the former Obama staffer who Grayson said is notable for her expertise on technology, said she is looking forward to conversing with people who are farther to the political right.

“I think it’s going to be interesting to me because when I was in the administration, I didn’t get to engage much with such a conservative element,” she said.

Carr said he stepped down from his role in the Catholic bishops conference in part due to the opportunity presented by the IOP. He said he plans to focus his study group on the role of religion in politics.

“I think these are interesting times for religion in politics for those who want to think about it—both its potential and its dangers,” Carr said. “I can’t think of a better place than the Institute of Politics or a better time than in the middle of this campaign.”

Easton, who also relates to politics from an observer’s perspective, said she plans to focus on examining the economic landscape in her study group. She said she hopes to use her study groups to bring “great thinkers” to discuss the economy and its intersection with politics during the election cycle.

George Papandreou, former prime minister of Greece, was named a visiting fellow. Papandreou will visit the campus briefly in the fall for intensive programming.

—Staff writer Maya Jonas-Silver can be reached at mayajonas-silver@college.harvard.edu.

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