Campus & Community

Fellowships that encourage careers in public service

3 min read

Whether your thing is studying computer science in Canada or Mayan textiles in Mexico, there’s likely a fellowship to help defray your expenses. Now, a new fellowship offered by the Office of Career Services (OCS) will help you explore homelessness in Houston or work-to-welfare in Walla Walla.

The Elliot and Anne Richardson Fellowships in Public Service, announced today by the OCS, will provide $25,000 grants each to students considering careers in public service. The fellowship is Harvard’s most generous public service grant and surpasses most national awards in this category.

The fellowships support students learning about public service in an experiential rather than academic way, says William Wright-Swadel, director of the OCS. The fellowship encourages applicants to approach public service from a variety of angles, says Wright-Swadel, explaining that a student interested in homelessness might spend time working at a shelter, at a government agency, and in a culture that deals with the issue differently from ours. “The grant provides them with the time and opportunity to get a much broader picture,” Wright-Swadel says.

“It is important for Harvard not only to value the work of public servants, but also to value the fundamental commitment we share to public service itself,” said President Lawrence H. Summers in a statement. “The Richardson Fellowships will help talented Harvard students pursue these values, just as Anne and Elliot Richardson did through their remarkable lives of service.”

Elliot Richardson ’41 and Anne Hazard Richardson ’51, the only husband and wife to have each served on Harvard’s Board of Overseers, devoted their lives to public service. Elliot Richardson held three successive Cabinet posts in the Nixon administration and served as U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain and as secretary of commerce in the Ford administration. Anne Richardson joined Reading Is Fundamental in the organization’s infancy and served as its chair from 1981 to 1996.

The one-year Richardson Fellowships, supported by $1.5 million in endowment funds donated by friends and family of the Richardsons, will go to graduating seniors committed to the public good. Two fellowships will be awarded this spring and three will be awarded in future years.

Wright-Swadel is confident that the Richardson Fellowship will have a significant impact on students and their career choices. “If they’re touched by the spirit of Anne and Elliot Richardson, they can’t help but be motivated toward accomplishments in the public good,” he says.

To apply for a Richardson Fellowship, contact the OCS Fellowships Office at (617) 495-8126.