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‘Fresh Perspective’: Harvard Kennedy School Students, Faculty Hopeful About New HKS Dean Jeremy Weinstein

Harvard Kennedy School students said they were hopeful for Jeremy M. Weinstein's upcoming deanship and urged him to rebuilt trust with HKS affiliates in interviews with The Crimson.
Harvard Kennedy School students said they were hopeful for Jeremy M. Weinstein's upcoming deanship and urged him to rebuilt trust with HKS affiliates in interviews with The Crimson. By Lara R. Berliner
By William C. Mao and Dhruv T. Patel, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Kennedy School students and faculty members expressed hope for Stanford political scientist Jeremy M. Weinstein’s upcoming tenure as the dean of HKS, praising his professional record and urging him to rebuild trust at the school.

Weinstein’s selection — first reported by The Crimson in early April — concludes a seven-month search for the Kennedy School’s next leader. Weinstein will assume the post on July 1, succeeding outgoing Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf.

Several Kennedy School faculty members praised Weinstein’s experience serving in government and working in academia as an accomplished scholar of ethnic politics, democracy, and governance.

“For me, the three most important things are academic excellence, public policy experience, and academic institution-building,” said Jason Furman ’92, an economics professor who served on the search committee.

“We got someone with three out of three, and that’s really exciting,” he added.

In an email to HKS affiliates, Elmendorf called Weinstein a “natural choice” to serve as the next dean.

“I know that we will all welcome him warmly to the Kennedy School, and I look forward to working with him as a member of our faculty in the future,” Elmendorf, who previously said he plans to remain at the Kennedy School as a faculty member, said.

Weinstein — who earned his Ph.D. at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2003 — has taught at Stanford since 2004 and received tenure in 2009. Weinstein also served as the chief of staff to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power from 2014 to 2015.

In a post on X, Power called Weinstein “a wise, bold choice” for the next dean of the Kennedy School.

“Jeremy Weinstein is a legendary teacher, groundbreaking university innovator, world class scholar & one of the most impactful gov officials I ever worked with,” Power wrote.

Weinstein is set to take charge of the Kennedy School following several controversies during Elmendorf’s tenure as HKS dean. In 2023, Elmendorf faced intense backlash from faculty and students over his decision to deny former Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth C. Roth a fellowship at the school over Roth’s criticism of Israeli human rights abuses.

Pallavi Deshpande, a master’s in public policy student at HKS, said “building trust and repairing student relations” will “be the biggest task for the new dean.”

Others voiced similar sentiments, qualifying Weinstein’s impressive academic record with the need to build strong relationships with HKS affiliates.

“He has a really remarkable background — it’s hard to deny that,” said HKS student David Friedman. “But I think what really will matter is his first 30 to 100 days in the dean’s position.”

“How does he take that time to interact with students, build that trust?” he said. “Regardless of what’s on his resume — what he’s done in the past — I feel like building that relationship is important.”

Though Weinstein is not a stranger to Harvard, his status as an outsider to the Kennedy School means he will need to spend some time gaining familiarity with its people and how it functions. But several students and faculty said this new perspective can help address long-standing challenges at HKS.

“My initial reaction was really positive considering the fact that he is somebody who has initiated and led many initiatives at Stanford,” said Pranay Patil, an MPP student. “It will be nice to have fresh perspective, fresh thought into the functioning of the school.”

Marshall L. Ganz ’64, a lecturer in public policy at HKS, also expressed hope for the “fresh perspective, fresh energy” that Weinstein will bring.

“When an institution is struggling, it’s very hard for it to reform itself from within,” he said, adding that a new approach “can be of enormous value.”

In the months leading up to Weinstein’s selection, some faculty and students called for the Kennedy School to break its streak of having white men and economists at its top post — a hope that Weinstein, as a political scientist, partially fulfills.

“Bringing a political scientist — a political perspective, not simply an economic perspective — to what is supposed to be a school of governance,” Ganz said, “can only be helpful, very helpful in balancing things.”

Robert N. Stavins, an HKS Economics professor, also said Weinstein’s disciplinary background could prove to be a different and valuable perspective.

“I have nothing against economists, as I am one myself,” Stavins said. “But having a political scientist, which is the other big constituency in the school, is likely to be healthy.”

Weinstein also inherits an increasingly international Kennedy School, with 56 percent of students hailing from abroad, according to the school’s November 2023 Diversity Report.

Alex Green, an adjunct lecturer in public policy at HKS, said that though Weinstein is not international himself, the fact that his research focuses on Africa could prove valuable during his tenure.

“Just because someone is American doesn’t mean that they don’t necessarily have that worldview and that worldliness,” Green said. “It certainly seems like his professional expertise — and especially his work on African affairs — is really, really exciting and promising.”

“I’m just very excited at the prospect of someone like this coming in at a time when we really need that kind of vigorous, creative, interdisciplinary and collaborative leadership,” Green added.

—Staff writer William C. Mao can be reached at Follow him on X @williamcmao.

—Staff writer Dhruv T. Patel can be reached at Follow him on X @dhruvtkpatel.

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