Campus & Community

Former diplomat Burns gets HKS appointment

3 min read

R. Nicholas Burns, the highest-ranking career diplomat at the U.S. Department of State until his retirement in April, has been appointed professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Burns officially joined the faculty on Sept. 1. He will also serve on the board of directors at the School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Burns has an extensive background in diplomacy and international affairs, having served most recently as U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs (2005-08). In that position he served as the third-ranking official in the State Department as a lead member of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s senior management team. Among other accomplishments, Burns shepherded successful negotiations to achieve new agreements with India in civil nuclear energy; negotiated a $30 billion long-term military assistance agreement with Israel; and served as the chief U.S. negotiator on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Prior to his appointment at the state department, Burns served as U.S. ambassador to NATO (2001-05); U.S. ambassador to Greece (1997-2001); and spokesperson for the U.S. State Department (1995-97). Burns also served for five years at the White House as director for Soviet Affairs for President Bush (1990-92), and then as special assistant to President Clinton and senior director for Russian affairs (1993-95). Burns earned his bachelor’s degree at Boston College, and his master’s degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He also holds honorary doctorates from 10 American universities.

“Nick Burns is considered one of the most effective and thoughtful diplomats of his generation. His impressive record of public service across five presidential administrations over 27 years attests to his strengths as a leader, negotiator, and communicator,” said HKS Dean David T. Ellwood. “The broad range of experience Nick brings to the Kennedy School and the Belfer Center will inform our research and shape our classroom discussions for years to come.”

Graham T. Allison, director of the Belfer Center, said, “Harvard Kennedy School is fortunate to have someone of Nick Burns’ stature and insight joining our community. His firsthand experience in grappling with the central challenges of foreign policy will enrich faculty, researchers, and students alike.”

“It’s an outstanding appointment,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. “Nick Burns is a brilliant and highly respected diplomat. Kennedy School students will benefit immensely from his extensive hands-on experience in foreign policy. I know President Kennedy would be proud of this appointment.”

“I am honored to join the Harvard faculty and look forward to working with the students and my new colleagues at the Kennedy School,” said Burns. “I intend to teach and write about contemporary American foreign policy and the leadership role our country must play in an increasingly globalized world.”