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Interim Harvard Institute of Politics Director Setti Warren Named to Permanent Role

Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf named Setti D. Warren the permanent director of the Institute of Politics Tuesday morning.
Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf named Setti D. Warren the permanent director of the Institute of Politics Tuesday morning. By Claire Yuan
By Thomas J. Mete, Crimson Staff Writer

Setti D. Warren has been named the permanent director of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, removing his interim title effective immediately, HKS Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf announced Tuesday morning.

The unexpected July 2022 departure of former IOP Director Mark D. Gearan ’78 — who returned to Hobart and William Smith Colleges to serve a second shift as president — prompted a national search for a successor.

Warren’s appointment concludes a search that narrowed in on four finalists: former U.S. Representative Val V. Demings, former Transportation Secretary Anthony R. Foxx, former U.S. Representative Stephanie N. Murphy, and Warren. Following student interviews with candidates, Warren was perceived as a viable middle-of-the-pack candidate, before emerging as Elmendorf’s selection.

“I am delighted that Setti Warren has accepted the position of IOP Director,” Elmendorf said in the press release. “With his commitment to Harvard’s students and his dedication to working with them, the future of the IOP is very bright.”

Warren served as mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, from 2010 to 2018, before joining HKS as a senior leader where he was executive director of the IOP and the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Warren was named interim director of the IOP in July 2022, following Gearan’s departure.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this important and storied institution,” Warren said in the press release.

The IOP, one of the largest student organizations for undergraduates, was established in 1966 as a memorial to President John F. Kennedy ’40. The IOP aims to inspire undergraduates to engage with public service and politics through its 15 student programs.

“President Kennedy once said, ‘It is time for a new generation of leadership to cope with the new problems and new opportunities. For there is a new world to be won,’” Warren said in the release. “Building upon the President’s legacy, I look forward to working with students to ensure the IOP inspires young people to get into public service and make a difference in the United States and around the globe.”

Warren’s selection was well received, concluding a selection process that consulted HKS affiliates, IOP student leaders, and the IOP Senior Advisory Committee.

“Our members and student leaders look forward to continuing to work with him and each other in empowering and educating the next generation of public servants through mentorship, accessibility, and collaboration across the Harvard community and beyond,” IOP President Amen H. Gashaw ’24 said in the press release.

IOP Senior Advisory Committee Chair Michael A. Nutter described Warren as the “right leader at the right time” in the release.

“I have known Setti for a long time and continue to admire his leadership,” Nutter said.

Warren also holds a background in military service and politics on the national level. He served as a U.S. Naval intelligence specialist for nine years, White House liaison under the Clinton administration, and deputy state director and communications director for former U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Senator John Kerry.

“Setti’s a public citizen, exceptionally well-suited to work that brings people together, defies partisan labels, and contributes to a stronger social fabric,” Kerry said in the release. “That’s exactly who he has been in and out of uniform, and who he will be in this new responsibility at a storied institution”

Gashaw praised Warren’s nine-month tenure as the program’s interim director.

“Setti Warren has played a large role in shaping the IOP’s student experience and building it into an increasingly inclusive and innovative space,” Gashaw said.

—Staff writer Thomas J. Mete can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @thomasjmete.

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