The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University will allocate an additional $10 million to an innovative program that trains emerging leaders from developing nations with the help of funds from the Ford Foundation. The announcement was made at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Edward S. Mason Program, which was held at the Ford Foundation in New York Nov. 5 and hosted by the foundation, Harvard Kennedy School, and Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the 35th president of the United States, for whom the School is named.
Each year, the Mason Program brings talented midcareer professionals from some of the poorest nations in the world to Harvard Kennedy School for an intensive one-year master’s degree program in public administration. The Ford Foundation has been a longtime supporter of the Mason Program, funding the very first fellowships for the program’s inaugural class. This latest commitment, made possible by the redirection of existing Ford Foundation funds to the University, will allow the Kennedy School to create the Ford Foundation Mason Fellows, ensuring that the most gifted individuals are able to attend the program, regardless of their financial circumstances.
Since 1958, the Mason Program has graduated some 2,000 emerging leaders from 130 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Eastern and Central Europe, and the former Soviet Union. Its alumni include Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, and four sitting heads of government: Felipe Calderón, president of Mexico; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia; Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister of Singapore; and Sir Donald Tsang, chief executive of Hong Kong.
“Throughout the Kennedy School’s history, the Ford Foundation has been a tremendous supporter and partner of the School, and for that we are deeply grateful,” said Harvard Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood.
“The stunning events in the world today, ranging from financial crises to climate change and violent conflicts, illustrate how vital it is that the best and the brightest engage in public service around the globe,” Ellwood added. “These important fellowships will have a tremendous domino effect — first making it possible for the most talented leaders from poorer nations to receive a Harvard Kennedy School education and then, as they return home, enhancing the leadership capacity in some of the most underserved corners of the globe.”
“The Mason program is emblematic of the foundation’s commitment to strengthening democratic values and increasing international cooperation,” said Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation. “The program offers a unique opportunity for leaders from the world’s most marginalized and underserved communities to further their skills and education and ultimately to address the threats and challenges that affect their people and countries. Many of the crises the world faces now are driven by a failure of leadership. The Mason Program builds leadership.”
In a tape-recorded message for the 50th anniversary celebration, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first democratically elected female president in Africa’s history, said, “The global record is clear that a large number of leaders throughout the world came out of the Kennedy School programs. I can say unequivocally that the speed of my professional climb culminating in the current position of president of my country is in large measure due to the knowledge and experience gained through the Mason Program.”