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Former Trump Administration Official Awarded Kennedy School Fellowship

The Kennedy School of Government, where former Trump administration official Dina H. Powell will be a senior fellow.
The Kennedy School of Government, where former Trump administration official Dina H. Powell will be a senior fellow. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Alexandra A. Chaidez, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: March 2, 2018 at 12:54 a.m.

Former Trump administration official Dina H. Powell will be a senior fellow at the Kennedy School for Government's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the school announced last week.

Powell will serve as a non-resident fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project, a program intended to study diplomacy and negotiation within international politics. She will also spend time with the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School.

Powell will also be joined at the Belfer Center by former UK shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander and former chief of M16 John Sawers. Rounding out the batch are Robert Dann, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Paula J. Dobriansky, chair of the National Board of Directors of the World Affairs Councils of America, Douglas Lute, former U.S. representative to NATO, Peter Ricketts, a life peer at the House of Lords, Radoslaw Sikorski, a “distinguished statesman” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Jake Sullivan, former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

Powell previously served as deputy national security adviser for strategy under President Donald Trump until Jan. 2018. She advised Trump on foreign policy issues, with a particular focus on Middle East policy.

Powell planned to stay in Washington for only one year, unlike other recent administration officials who have departed the White House amid scandal or controversy.

Kennedy School professor David R. Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership, said she is one of the first officials to have benefited from working in the Trump administration.

“Not many people have been coming out of the Trump White House with their reputations enhanced, but Dina Powell is one of the exceptions,” Gergen said in an interview last week.

As founder and faculty director of the Future of Diplomacy Project, Kennedy School Professor R. Nicholas Burns first invited Powell to the Belfer Center. He said his decision to bring Powell to the Kennedy School was motivated by her experience in public service and her unique background.

“We wanted to bring her to Harvard because she's a distinguished person in her own right," Burns said.

Burns said Powell will come to the center once or twice a semester to lead study groups, speak in classes, meet individually with students, and attend public events. Burns said Powell will provide “an in-depth understanding” of what motivated the Trump Administration in its first year.

David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, and Jake Sullivan, a policy adviser in the Obama administration, are current senior fellows at the Belfer Center.

Powell’s appointment comes amidst a debate occuring at the Kennedy School over the inclusion of more conservative voices as fellows and speakers. Students have criticized invitations to prominent conservatives, most notably the Sept. 2017 visit of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and visiting fellowships offered to former Trump Administration officials Sean Spicer and Corey Lewandowski.

Burns said it is important for universities like Harvard to provide students with the opportunity to hear different perspectives on policy issues.

“It's important for any university, but certainly a university like Harvard, that we provide for our speakers, in our fellows, and in our students a full diversity of viewpoints on policy issues that our country has to grapple with,” Burns said. “We wouldn't be, I think, meeting the promise of our university if we only invited one type of person from one political party or from the left or from the right.”

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez

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