By Sharon Bourne-Clarke
In this intellectual candy store called the Harvard Kennedy School one has to struggle to identify the over arching or predominant culture that prevails. The Kennedy School is composed of 1,013 students from over 92 countries in four degree programs yet it is difficult to identify a prevailing culture. By virtue of its geographic location one would assume that the predominant culture would be American or western. But with so many students from so many different countries does one country predominate? The experiences are so varied that within a classroom setting many different perspectives may be shared on a single issue just by virtue of geographic origin of the students and the political climate of their countries.
As a result, the education that one receives at the Kennedy School comes not only from intellectual discourse within the classroom but also from the interaction with classmates with rich diverse experiences. In essence, I have found that a considerable portion of the educational experience here is derived from the culture within the school.
We are fortunate to attend classes with Ministers of foreign countries and successful businesspeople. Some of those experiences this year have come from my Mid-Career classmates such as Seeye Hagos, a former Minister of Defense for Ethiopia, Francis Kamanzi, Manager of Banking Operations at the National bank of Rwanda who witnessed the genocide that existed within his country, Ali Abu Kumail from the Gaza strip who lived and worked within a war zone; Kirsti Samuels who spent a considerable portion of her professional career working in conflict zones; Paul Elung, Director General of the Treasury from Cameroon; Paul Kwengwere, Minister of Irrigation and Water Development in Malawi and Arthur Fumbah, Deputy Minister of Expenditure and Debt Management from Liberia.
On the business side, we have people such as Newton Haynes whose accounting firm was noted as one of the best small business owners in Washington DC for 2011 along with Preeti Sriratana owner of an architectural firm in New York City and Chad Troutwine owner of Veritas, a college placement prep program, These are just a few of the amazing accomplished people who comprise the 2012 Mid-career class, who contribute to the HKS culture and will eventually be a part of the HKS diaspora.
What is astounding is the humility with which these people who have changed countries and implemented policies that have impacted upon millions of lives go about the regular course of their day at the Kennedy school. They blend seamlessly into the fabric of the school, neither seeking attention nor losing the common touch. Such is the culture that I appreciate here at HKS: A combination of zeal for the pubic good, diversity in thought and humility.
Much can be said for the culture of an entity that has been able to accomplish such as almost insurmountable goal. To be able to bring residents of warring nations together in a classroom to engage in discourse that may eventually lead to peace resolutions in the not so distant future is unparalleled. Yet for the time spent here, everyone melds to the point where there is almost amalgamation on some issues.
This tenuous frangible cohesion, I conclude, is the overarching culture of the Kennedy School of Government. The ultimate goal is to solidify these relationships to ensure world peace, build better infrastructure in developing countries, provide clean water, ensure reproductive health for women, provide equal opportunity and hopefully cure all of societies ills through the relationships created at HKS.