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Former DNC CEO, Former Nevada Congressman To Serve As Fall 2018 IOP Fellows

The Harvard Kennedy School, pictured in 2017.
The Harvard Kennedy School, pictured in 2017. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Alexandra A. Chaidez, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics announced its roster of Fall 2018 residential fellows Monday and launched a new program on local politics led by three former mayors.

Former Democratic National Committee CEO and former EMILY’s List executive director Amy Dacey, former Nevada congressman Joseph J. Heck, and Bloomberg News’ Senior White House Correspondent Margaret Talev will join the IOP as fellows this semester, as well as John Noonan, national security advisor to the presidential campaigns of Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, and Brittany Packnett, vice-president of national community alliances and engagement at Teach for America.

In a press release, the IOP also introduced an “innovative new study group” involving former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, and former Los  Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The mayors will make “regular visits” to campus and focus on topics concerning “mayoral leadership” and “local government.”

These fellows will join Washington Post chief correspondent Dan Balz, the IOP’s first-ever “Senior Fellow.” 

IOP Director Mark D. Gearan ’78 said the new additions will allow Harvard students to have “unique opportunities and access” to the fellows “for conversations on the important issues of our time.”

“Our new class of Fellows joins a rich legacy at the IOP of blending the practitioners of politics with the academy,” Gearan said in the press release. “This year we are also very pleased to have the additional engagement of three outstanding public servants who have led cities in times of immense change who also will be leading a weekly study group.”

Noonan, who is planning to host a national security-focused study group, wrote in an email that his parents were “shocked” that Harvard was letting him “within 500 miles of campus.”

“Aside from the simple fact that it's as prestigious a fellowship as a lousy old political hack and former nuclear weapons guy like me can do, this is all about the students,” Noonan wrote. “We've been blessed to live in a relatively peaceful world for the past 70 years. I want students to learn that it's damn hard work to keep that peace, and encourage them to step up in their careers and forge a new peace that lasts another 70 years.”

Talev — who has covered President Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama — wrote in an email that the fellowship presents a good opportunity to “take stock of her experiences” and share them with others.

“I'm lucky to have had a front-row seat for some of the biggest political events of the last decade,” Talev wrote. “I want to take students behind the scenes and connect them to some of the most interesting people I've met who've been part of those developments.”

But no issue seems as important as the upcoming midterm elections, multiple fellows said, and many said they are already planning discussions about the elections.

Dacey, who is focusing her seminar on women in politics, said the midterms will open the door to many conversations about “what’s at stake” and what trends “mean for politics in general.”

“I do think this midterm election is an incredible time to have that conversation about women in politics and the dynamics of what's going to happen this cycle, what is going to happen in the future, so we're going to use that to look at various different topics and look at it in different ways,” Dacey said.

This class of fellows is the first to come to Cambridge after a new set of standards for fellows took effect, Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf said in a previous interview.

The IOP restructured its fellow system after public outcry over its decision to revoke the fellowship of Chelsea Manning — a former Army soldier who went to prison for leaking classified military documents to WikiLeaks — and grant fellowships to former Trump staffers Corey Lewandowski and Sean Spicer in the last academic year. Kennedy School spokesperson Doug Gavel wrote in an email in Oct. 2017 that the School was “working to better understand our current practices for applying the term 'Fellow', and to establish consistent standards across the School.”

The Kennedy School has also faced criticism from students and alumni in recent months for the lack of racial and gender diversity of its professors, fellows, and guest speakers. Many of the members of the fall class of IOP fellows, however, said they believe this class of fellows reflects many different backgrounds and political beliefs.

“It's a great group of fellows with diverse backgrounds, views, interests and ambitions,” Talev said. “I can't wait to get up there.”

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

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