Jieun Baek, a second-year master of public policy student from California, was elected president of the student government last week with 56 percent of the vote. Her opponent, Shashank Shukla, a mid-career master of public affairs student, received 44 percent of the vote.
Baek will serve with executive vice president-elect Maggie Williams, also an MPP2, who played an active role in student government the previous year.
In an interview with The Citizen, Baek said she was “extremely excited and humbled.”
“I am deeply appreciative of my classmates and friends who have been supportive and instructive along the way,” she added. “I look forward to working with as many colleagues as possible to make this a rich year for the HKS community.”
Sixty-five percent of Kennedy School students voted in the election. Given the other commitments students face, the turnout was impressive, said Karly Schledwitz, an MPP2 who serves on the Student Government Elections Committee.
“We’re glad so many people engaged in the process and we hope more continue to be involved this year and next year. The student government is a great way to give back to the school,” Schledwitz said.
“While Jieun is both passionate and a visionary, she also has the capacity to boil these qualities down to work,” fellow MPP2 Tim McDonald said of Baek’s election. “She knows how to move things, to make progress.”
Last year, Baek co-chaired several active student groups, including the Diplomacy Professional Interest Council and the North Korea Study Group, and served as an IGA Fellow for the Belfer Center. Williams served as vice president of student activities and interim student government president.
The MPP2 duo ran on a platform of creating a more cohesive community where relationships go beyond the “resume pitch” and become lasting friendships and networks.
“HKS students are each other’s biggest asset, and we want to strengthen the HKS community to make your experience at Harvard and our network after graduation as rich and meaningful as possible,” Baek and Williams wrote in their candidate statements.
“We have seen what has worked and what has failed, and have figured out ways in which we can realistically improve our collective experience both this year at HKS, and after we all move onto bigger things,” they added. “We want to implement a real vision for how meaningful we can make this coming year.”
Despite a technical glitch in the poll on Monday night, the student government election was free of the errors that plagued prior HKS elections. In 2011, the entire election had to be recast after one student recognized there were more votes than students enrolled. And, in 2012, a miscommunication on campaign finance threatened to cut short a run-off election.
Asked what the Student Government Elections Committee did this year to ensure a successful election, Schledwitz said they held information sessions for candidates and met with the HKS administration to learn “best practices.”
Though the Kennedy School had four contested races in this year’s student government election, there are still eight vacant spaces (see sidebar).
Those still interested in serving on the student government can contact Baek at firstname.lastname@example.org.