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Elmendorf Assumes Role As Kennedy School Dean

The Kennedy School has raised $470 million of its $500 million goal as of Jan. 12

By Nathaniel J. Hiatt, Crimson Staff Writer

As the Kennedy School undergoes a years long construction project while inching closer to its $500 million capital campaign goal, a top leadership change—not uncommon in recent years—could slow down the school’s plans. But Douglas W. Elmendorf, who became dean of the Kennedy School on Jan. 1, said he has not seen a slowdown in donations, and after over six months of preparation for his new post, plans to continue pre-existing initiatives.

While he hasn’t nailed down the specifics of his primary focuses, Elmendorf emphasized the importance of helping the school adopt modern teaching methods, fundraising for the capital campaign, seeing the construction on the HKS campus through to its completion, and keeping the cost of the Kennedy School— priced at over $70,000 yearly for some programs—low.

Elmendorf is a Princeton alumnus who received a master’s and Ph.D. in economics at Harvard. He then became an assistant professor of economics; two decades after leaving Cambridge, Elmendorf succeeds David T. Ellwood as dean, who stepped down in June .

He is taking over in the midst of the University’s $6.5 billion capital campaign. The Kennedy School has raised $470 million of its $500 million goal as of Jan. 12, according to Kennedy School spokesperson Doug Gavel. Ellwood had predicted that donations would “inevitably slow down” after he stepped down as dean, but Elmendorf said he hasn’t seen “much of a lull” so far.

“The most important thing I’ve been doing is meeting people and learning what they do. There’s a tremendous array of people here,” Elmendorf said. “I’m trying to understand better what the school has accomplished so far and what direction we should go in.”

Elmendorf said he has been preparing for his deanship for the last six months by meeting with faculty, students, and potential donors to figure out down which path he will lead HKS.

“I was writing papers in economics, meeting people at the Kennedy School and around the University, and meeting supporters of the Kennedy School outside the University,” he said. “And I did some resting up.”

For the last two decades, Elmendorf has been in Washington, D.C. at the center of the economic policy-making world. First, he served as a researcher at the Federal Reserve, and most recently as the director of the Congressional Budget Office, where he assessed bills and provided economic information to Congress.

Elmendorf will oversee construction on the Kennedy School’s campus, which will add over 70,000 square feet of new buildings. He emphasized the importance of evolving teaching methods away from traditional lectures to a more collaborative and interactive classroom.

“There has been significant changes in pedagogy across the country in how teachers use classroom times, and have less lecture and more interactive activities,” Elmendorf said. “The Kennedy School needs to make sure it is keeping pace with how people think it’s best to teach and best to learn.”

—Staff writer Nathaniel J. Hiatt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nathaniel_hiatt.

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Central AdministrationPoliticsHarvard Kennedy SchoolEconomicsCapital CampaignUniversity News