2014 Summer Student Series — Post 10: Carol Tan, MPP ‘15 

imageCarol Tan is a Master in Public Policy student focusing on conflict management and humanitarian affairs strategy. At HKS, she supervises pro-bono projects for non-profits, international organizations and government clients with the Harvard Law and International Development Society (LIDS). In keeping with her roots, she is also the co-President of the Southeast Asia Caucus. Born in sunny Singapore, Carol was previously a management consultant with The Boston Consulting Group and worked primarily with Southeast Asian public sector clients on economic development, infrastructure, transport, planning etc. She is also devoted to SEA community development and anti-human trafficking issues. Carol graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with honors in Economics and Political Science.

HKS can be an overwhelming world to step into. Hundreds of students mill around chatting vivaciously about current affairs, star-studded faculty members eat lunch next to you and speeches, seminars, conferences, panels, study groups, projects seem to go on all at once. For me, FOMO (fear of missing out) rears its head everyday, but we all have to choose what to spend time on and how; once the Harvard engine rumbles to life, the year hurtles ahead at full speed.

Therefore, know with crystal clarity what you came to HKS for, then go for it.

I started at HKS thinking I would be deepening my experience giving policy advise through studying complexity economics, infrastructure development, social entrepreneurship etc. So imagine my surprise when most of the classes I wanted to do were on global governance, human rights, humanitarian policy etc. and the most appealing events were on anti-trafficking, human security and refugee issues. If this happens to you, it’s ok! Apparently, graduate school provides fertile ground for deep-seated passions from the past to emerge. Allow those to percolate up, then make a choice. And pursue your chosen path with laser-like focus because the first year flies by in the blink of an eye.

Don’t allow fear (of anything) to prevent you from trying.

The highlight of my first year, by far, was the field study course in Jordan to assess the Syrian Refugee Crisis that Claude Bruderlein and Anaide Nahikian led. Refer to our posts at the Middle East Initiative for a summary of our experiences in Jordan, but here’s a picture!


Yet, I almost gave that experience of a lifetime a miss because it was so expensive to spend a whole month in Jordan. Thankfully, with my husband’s encouragement, I decided to accept the field study position and kept my fingers and toes crossed for funding to come through. It did. Thanks to the generous grant of the Middle East Initiative, I found myself in Amman in January. With my fingers and toes still crossed, I spoke with refugees and Ministers, figured out how to put a field mission together, learnt to conduct incisive interviews in delicate situations, soaked in the warmth of the Jordanians, listened to the heartbreak in their music, rode camels, chilled out in the Dead Sea and found my dream summer internship. And let’s not forget the impressive, intimidating team I went there with that ultimately became family.

So put in that application for the role you feel under-qualified for, invest in the experience that seems unaffordable, speak to the professor about the opportunity that seems ridiculously out of reach. Then brace yourself for a jaw-dropping ride.

The people you meet along the way are indeed awe-inspiring.

Not just for academic and professional credentials, but also for the genuine desire to make the world a better place. At HKS, a community that hears the cries of the voiceless and makes every effort to change the status quo lives and breathes. My classmates care profoundly about righting injustice. While we may not always agree about what justice entails, the fact is we have a community of fellow change-makers to bounce ideas off and commiserate with. This is a priceless gift.

The people I have been most touched by, however, are the indomitable spirits who do not move within Harvard’s ivy-covered walls. During a ‘trek’ organized by students to the West Bank to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during spring break, we met Israelis who use their bodies to shield Palestinians, mothers who weekly protect their children valiantly from harassment, courageous individuals who seek to document evidence of human rights violations at all cost. The beauty of human kindness is also found nearer home, where many volunteer at odd hours to keep homeless shelters and food kitchens running, coach underprivileged students etc. People come in all shapes, sizes and packages but they never fail to inspire.

Finally, leading smart people can be immensely frustrating, though exhilarating.

In autumn, I led a consulting project on spoiler management strategies during constitutional drafting for a post-conflict African nation. I had the privilege and nightmare of coordinating 8 HKS, HLS, GSAS and Fletcher students. Our clients were ultimately blown away, but that experience forced me to face hard truths about my leadership style and seek change. It also opened my eyes to both the successes and pitfalls of the student pro-bono consulting model. Therefore, my co-VP of Projects and I are dedicated to professionalizing the delivery of LIDS advice these few months in order to create even higher impact projects.

Over summer, I am working in the Office of the President at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. I will share about this experience in a few weeks! For now, it has been a real privilege spending the last year at HKS and I am eager to see what’s round the bend in Fall.

2014 Summer Series Links

Post 1Post 2Post 3Post 4Post 5Post 6Post 7Post 8, Post 9

Tags: MPP internship

Additional Student-led Information Sessions – Serbia and England

Student-led Information Sessions

We are happy to announce some additional opportunities to learn about HKS from current students. The hosts will discuss HKS degree programs, curriculum, and student life.

Belgrade, Serbia
Thursday, July 17, 2014 from 5:30–7:00 PM

Supermarket Concept Store
Visnjiceva 10

Please click here to register.

London, England
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 from 5:00–8:00 PM

5th View
203-205 Piccadilly
United Kingdom

Please click here to register.


Other upcoming information sessions:

Tirane, Albania - July 9

Vienna, Austria - July 9

Edinburgh, Scotland - July 9

Brasilia, Brazil - July 11

Washington DC - July 22

Washington DC - July 24

Seattle, Washington - July 26 

2014 Summer Student Series — Post 9: Sebastián Parot, MPP ‘15

Sebastián Parot is an HKS/HBS joint degree student, pursuing a Master in Public Policy and a Master in Business Administration. He is from Chile, where he initially worked in Investment Banking and then for the Chilean Government as Chief of Staff and Head of Advisors for the Public Works Minister and then in the same position for the Mining Minister. He also is co-founder and Past President of IdeaPais, a Chilean NGO aimed at training young leaders for politics. 


One year goes really fast, and especially at HKS—an amazing experience that enhances your vision of world and politics, and strengthens your leadership skills. I want to share the four things that impressed me the most of this first year in the MPP. As an engineer don’t expect fancy and long explanations: I will get straight to the point.

1. A dynamic and diverse classroom.

I never imagined such a rich environment inside the classroom. Having people from different backgrounds, countries and political positions, with an impressive track record and experience, takes the class discussion to another level. You can really notice how positions change in different directions, creating a dynamic system that you probably won’t find anywhere else. I was, and still am, really impressed.

2. Inspiring stories with every classmate.

I am still surprised with the stories and experiences of my classmates. HKS offers such a diverse environment with extraordinary people that have done great projects to pursue social change, that they become your teachers. I discovered inspiring backgrounds in every single one of my classmates and friends that enhanced my view of social challenges.

3. Activities for every interest.

Here, the learning experience goes beyond the classroom experience. There are activities and projects for every interest that you might have: and if not, you can create it. I have always been passionate about politics, with great interest for Latin America. At the beginning of my MPP I joined a new study group: Latin American Politics. Every Friday I met with 25 extraordinary people to discuss and debate the main political issues and challenges of our region. The possibility of doing so with a group of leaders of incredible diverse political backgrounds, political positions and countries, has been one of my best experiences of this year. A unique opportunity to share and grow, enriching my own perspective and strengthening my network with future political partners who share a common vision: how to confront the social and political challenges of Latin America.

4. Get to know the world: there are treks everywhere!

These are student-organized trips to different countries with a specific agenda: culture, politics, businesses or leadership. And if a specific region is not “available”, you can create it. This January I had the opportunity to organize one, where I took 15 classmates from my Joint Degree Cohort to my home country Chile. We spend 15 days deeply involved with local politics, businesses and also, funny places. This was a rich experience where I could show my culture and create bonds to my country.

This first year at HKS has been a unique experience. After this year I feel much more prepared to confront the future and to collaborate in solving social challenges in my home country. This way, cooperating with others in making Chile and Latin America a region of freedom, justice, prosperity and equal opportunities.

2014 Summer Series Links

Post 1Post 2Post 3Post 4Post 5Post 6Post 7, Post 8

Tags: MPP internship

Recruitment in Washington, DC

An Evening with W3D - Women in Defense, Diplomacy and Development

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 from 7:00–9:00 PM

Meze Restaurant
2347 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC
United States

  • Learn about HKS degree programs and admissions procedures
  • Hear from alumnae working in these dynamic fields
  • Network with DC professionals

Please click here to register.


Harvard Graduate School Outreach Event: Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School, and HBX

Thursday, July 24, 2014 from 6:30–8:30 PM

1776 DC
1133 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
United States

This event is designed for college students who are currently interning in the Washington, DC area. The event will include the opportunity to speak with Admissions Officers from Harvard Kennedy SchoolHarvard Law School and Harvard Business School and HBX. This event is sponsored by National Education Week. Registration will begin at 6:30 PM.

Please click here to register.

By the Numbers

HKS is currently engaged in a fund raising campaign and here a few numbers of note from the campaign website.


Tags: alumni

2015 Application Long-Term Planning Series - Post 3

This is the third post in our long-term application planning series. Post 2 provided general recommendation letter advice and questions at some recent recruitment sessions focused on who should write the letters.

There is no specific requirement as far as who should write recommendation letters, but we do have general guidance applicants should consider. Letters generally come from either academic or professional sources. There is only one combination of letters that should be avoided and that is three academic letters. Because the degrees offered by HKS are professional degrees, we prefer to see at least one professional letter of recommendation.

Applicants who have recently graduated (within one or two years) are encouraged to submit two academic letters of recommendation and one professional letter. The reason for this is that we like to see letters from those who know the applicant the best, and it is likely that faculty members in this case will be able to write more effective letters. For less experienced applicants, a letter from an internship supervisor is considered a professional letter. 

Recent graduates or applicants still in college who have strong internship experience(s) may submit a second professional letter if they feel it will best reflect their skills and abilities, but the letter writer should be someone who has spent a great deal of time supervising your work.

Applicants who have been out of school for some time are welcome to seek out an academic letter of recommendation, however it is not required.  We want to read letters from those who know you the best and who can effectively access your skills and abilities.  If you have been out of school for some time and feel like contacting a previous faculty member would be a stretch, there is no need to request an academic letter of recommendation.

Series Links: Post 1, Post 2

Joe Hsueh - MPA/ID 2005 

The following post was written by Jenny Li Fowler, HKS Communications:

Creating and Coordinating Change from Within

Joe Hsueh MPA/ID 2005 had initially planned to spend a week volunteering with Buddhists in his native country, Taiwan. That week turned into a year. He tells The Guardian his time with the Buddhists made him realize that something was missing from his work life: “Direct human touch. That human touch is key to unlocking systems change,” says Hsueh.

Hsueh helps organizations with the process of changing large-scale systems from the bottom-up.

For example, Mexican fisherman had been maximizing their catch and depleting stocks of fish known as corvine off the coast of Mexico for many years. This drove down the price of fish, which led fisherman to feel the need to catch more fish – creating a vicious cycle.

Hsueh and his colleagues worked with a Mexican NGO and the Environmental Defense Fund to help create “catch shares,” a way of limiting overfishing used in other fishing communities.

Hsueh recently became a partner at SecondMuse, and is a founding partner of the Academy for Systemic Change.

SecondMuse defines itself as an innovation and collaboration agency, “we co-create prosperity by applying the art and science of collaboration to solve complex problems.”

Click here
for the original story.

Access to YouTube is required to watch these videos and email subscribers may need to visit the blog directly to watch.

Tags: alumni MPAID

Upcoming Admissions Events

An Evening with W3D - Women in Defense, Diplomacy and Development

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 from 7:00–9:00 PM

Meze Restaurant
2347 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC
United States

  • Learn about HKS degree programs and admissions procedures
  • Hear from alumnae working in these dynamic fields
  • Network with DC professionals

Please click here to register.

Student-led Information Sessions

We are happy to announce some additional  opportunities to learn about HKS from current students. The hosts will discuss HKS degree programs, curriculum, and student life.

Seattle, Washington
Saturday, July 26, 2014 from 3:00–4:00 PM

Roy Street Coffee
700 Broadway E.
Seattle, WA
United States

Please click here to register.

Other upcoming student-led information sessions:

Nairobi, Kenya - July 4

Phnom Penh - July 5

Kyiv, Ukraine - July 8

Tirane, Albania - July 9

Vienna, Austria - July 9

Edinburgh, Scotland - July 9

Brasilia, Brazil - July 11

One Idea Video Series - Post 2

The May 2014 Ideasphere conference at Harvard Kennedy school celebrated ideas of all kinds that come out of HKS – from our alumni, our professors, from research centers, programs, and our students. The “One Idea” series spotlights student ideas and their connection to the HKS mission of making the world a better place.

Second in this series is recent MC/MPA Mason graduate Dorothy Tuma, who talks about micro-enterprise in Africa.

Access to YouTube is required to watch these videos and email subscribers may need to visit the blog directly to watch.

Series Links: Post 1

Ash Center Convenes Harvard Kennedy School’s Growing #Tech4Democracy Community

At a recent event a prospective student asked about opportunities to mix technology and policy at HKS and I was reminded of an HKS news story from a while back. The story was written by By Maisie O’Brien in the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation communications department.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation shined a spotlight on a unique corner of the tech world with an event April 30th to discuss the potential for digital technology to revolutionize democratic engagement.

Presented in partnership with Tech4Change and the Harvard innovation-lab, the #Tech4Democracy Movement event showcased tech entrepreneurs from the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) community and highlighted their civic technology start-ups with a panel discussion and digital demonstrations.


Panelists (From L TO R) Seth Flaxman MPP 2011, TurboVote; Cristina Garmendia MPP 2013, OpportunitySpace; Mat Morgan MPP 2013, Shout About; and Gaurav Keerthi MC/MPA 2014, Dialectic.

Panelist Seth Flaxman MPP 2011 founder of TurboVote, a platform that assists users to register and vote in upcoming elections, described his initial interest in civic tech saying, “I was very motivated by the ideal of democracy where everyone votes in every election, and I wanted to create a tool to make voting easy and seamless like everything else on the internet.”

What began as a modest start-up founded in 2010 while Flaxman was earning his MPP at HKS has grown into a sizable nonprofit organization. Today, TurboVote has a two million dollar annual budget, a staff of eighteen, and a new partnership with county governments to streamline the voting process.

Panel moderator Archon Fung, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship, described the growing field of civic tech saying, “Promising start-ups are out there, but none of them stand out as the Facebook or Twitter of democratic reform. That groundbreaking innovation could be present in this room.”

Panelists represented diverse organizations in various stages of development. They discussed challenges related to financing and branding their ventures, and each expressed an ardent enthusiasm for improving government and democratic processes.

“It strikes me that the panelists –wisely– don’t aim to effect sweeping institutional change,” said Fung. “Instead they’re taking the existing system and building a little measure on top of it, which is making things much, much better and contributing to the health of democracy.”

Following the panel discussion, attendees participated in interactive demonstrations and spoke one-on-one with other innovators and interested colleagues from the Harvard community.

Joint MPP 2013/MBA student Else Sze demonstrated Agora, the platform she cofounded that serves as an online town hall offering communities new ways to share ideas. “It’s amazing that HKS is hosting digital events,” says Sze. “It’s great that they’re getting in on the action and inspiring people with an interest in civic tech.”


Joint MPP 2013/MBA student Else Sze demonstrates Agora.

The event was complimented by a day-long tweetchat featuring the hashtag #tech4democracy. Online participants had the opportunity to direct questions about civic engagement and democracy to event panelists and attendees.

Panelists included Seth Flaxman MPP 2011, TurboVote; Cristina Garmendina MPP 2013, OpportunitySpace; Gaurav Keerthi MC/MPA 2014, Dialectic; and Mat Morgan MPP 2013, Shout About. They were joined for the interactive session by Phillip Harding MPP 2014, Connected Congress; Michael Mackenzie, Participedia; and Elsa Sze MPP 2013, Agora.

Tags: centers