Current vice president of Panama Isabel Saint Malo and former United States Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) are among a group of six professionals heading to Harvard this fall as Institute of Politics resident fellows, the IOP announced Thursday morning.
Along with Saint Malo and Flake, the fall 2019 class of fellows includes Black Votes Matter Fund co-founder LaTosha Brown, president of the Atlantic Bob Cohn, former White House Social Secretary Deesha Dyer, and CNN political commentator Alice Stewart. Each fellow will lead a study group, hold office hours, and mentor undergraduate student liaisons while living near Harvard’s campus for the semester.
IOP Fellows and Study Groups student co-chair Elijah C. DeVaughn Jr. ’21 said the diverse group of fellows was selected with a “holistic” curriculum in mind.
“We wanted to have some fellows that talked about international issues while also having fellows that talked about domestic issues,” DeVaughn said. “We too wanted a fellow that was kind of more on the comms side, the press side, provided we have an election coming up.”
Saint Malo, who concludes her term as vice president on July 1, plans to focus her study group on international issues, according to De’vaughn. He said that Saint Malo is interested in a variety of topics, including trade wars with China and U.S.-Russia relations.
“We haven’t had an international figurehead in a long time, especially one from the executive branch,” said Katherine A. Krolicki ‘20, who co-chairs the IOP Fellows and Study Groups with DeVaughn. “I think that’s going to be a really great experience.”
Flake, who visited the IOP in March to speak about bipartisan collaboration, is the only U.S. elected official among the fall residential fellows. Stewart, however, also has political experience — she served as communications director for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) during his 2016 presidential campaign.
DeVaughn said the IOP sought to have fellows with a wide range of backgrounds.
“We’re really trying to push the boundaries as to what it means to be a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics,” DeVaughn said.
Dyer, for one, has followed a nontraditional path in public service. After dropping out of college and then returning to community college, she worked her way up from a White House internship to the role of social secretary in the Obama administration.
On Wednesday, Dyer launched the Black Girl 44, a scholarship for black female college students interning in Washington, D.C. The scholarship is funded by other black women who worked in the Obama White House. Dyer’s study group, entitled “Imposter to Impact,” is slated to address some of the barriers that she herself faced and aims to address with this new scholarship fund.
In addition to leading their study groups, fellows will participate in IOP programming and be available to the broader Harvard community through office hours and other events.
IOP Director Mark D. Gearan ’78 said that it is a priority for fellows to embed themselves in the University during their time as fellows.
“They come to campus and they really want to immerse themselves,” Gearan said in an interview. “To really take advantage of it, some of them audit classes, some of them attend other lectures, but also through the six student liaisons — they really move them around campus so that so many people can have access to them.”
Gearan added that, in turn, the IOP seeks to draw the broader Harvard community to the resident fellows.
“Our hope is that we do it as expansively and inclusively as possible so that they really reach various parts of campus,” he said.
—Staff writer Jania J. Tumey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org