Campus & Community

New Harvard fellowship puts public service in spotlight

5 min read

Harvard Presidential City of Boston Fellowship has plans for growth

A new fellowship will allow recent graduates of Harvard College to gain experience in city government.

The Harvard Presidential City of Boston Fellowship is designed to create paths to meaningful public service opportunities in Boston City Hall. The fellowship springs from Harvard and the city of Boston’s collaborative history, diverse portfolio of community partnerships, and shared ideals of public service.

Recognizing the importance of creating a pipeline to civic-oriented career development opportunities, the three-year pilot program will provide funding for a recent Harvard College graduate to spend one year working as the mayor of Boston’s public-service fellow. The full-time position will report directly to the mayor’s chief of staff and will be responsible for managing and executing projects in a wide variety of issue areas; working closely with cabinet chiefs, department heads, and city officials; designing policy initiatives created to improve the lives of citizens throughout Boston; and engaging with city residents through a range of community-based efforts.

The first recipient of the fellowship is Jackie Lender ’16, who began working at Boston City Hall this summer.

“Encouraging Harvard students to make a difference in the lives of others through public service is among our highest aspirations,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “This fellowship and collaboration with the city of Boston will enable graduates to put theory learned in the classroom into practice and to connect policy with on-the-ground issues.”

“One of our greatest strengths in the city of Boston is our wealth of talent and innovative thinkers, and I am excited to partner with Harvard College on a new fellowship program for those who are interested in making a difference in the lives of the people of Boston,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “The new Harvard Presidential City of Boston Fellowship provides an excellent opportunity for the fellow to help create and shape important city programs, while bringing a fresh perspective and new ideas that will help us continue to make Boston a thriving city now and in the future.”

Lender, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s of arts in government, has spent time in Washington, D.C., as a congressional page, worked on two congressional campaigns, and was a U.S. State Department, National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program scholarship recipient in Russia.

Despite the international and national experience, cities are where her true interests lie, said Lender.

“Cities have the most impact on day-to-day life because you can effect change on a micro level but it affects so many people,” said Lender. “Cities are where all the change is happening —where you can see the most tangible effects of technology or updating transportation systems. I think there is a lot of gridlock now in the upper echelons of government so I’m very excited to get to work — and especially excited for the policy-making aspects of this job.”

“Jackie is the ideal first recipient for this fellowship. Her innovative ideas, optimism, and innate ability to envision and effect change for the better will serve her — and the city — well,” said the mayor’s chief of staff, Daniel Koh ’07, M.B.A. ’11. “The Harvard Business School Leadership Fellowship has been championed by Mayor Walsh as a fantastic opportunity in public service, and we are thrilled to build on its success and be part of the new Harvard Presidential City of Boston Fellowship.”

“We are grateful to Mayor Walsh for the opportunity to partner on this important initiative, furthering the strong and collaborative relationships that exist between Harvard and the city of Boston,” said Faust.

While the fellow will work in City Hall full time, the program also includes participation in at least two campus-based activities to support Harvard’s efforts to utilize alumni to advise and mentor students exploring postgraduate opportunities in the public interest sector.

Harvard has long prided itself on a robust commitment to public service. “We have been working for several years to strengthen pathways to postgraduate public service and transform the way nonprofit and government agencies recruit students on our campus,” said Gene Corbin, assistant dean of Harvard College for Public Service.

Corbin oversees the Phillips Brooks House Center for Public Service & Engaged Scholarship, which provides support and coordination for public service offices at Harvard College.

One of these offices, the Center for Public Interest Careers, has worked with the Institute of Politics and Office of Career Services to develop a structure and early recruitment process for leading public-service organizations to hire Harvard College graduates.

“We are excited that the partnership with the city of Boston and President Faust’s office will bring even more visibility to our fall Public-Service Recruiting Day and offer tangible opportunities for our most outstanding students to pursue work that they are passionate about,” said Travis Lovett, director of the Center for Public Interest Careers at Harvard College. “This is an important next step to support students excited about public-interest work.”

“I hope to gain a better understanding of how to make policy happen, of how to create meaningful change in city government, and of what it takes for someone to come up with an idea and really see it through the system,” said Lender. “I’m lucky. This is the job of my dreams.”

Students interested in applying for next year’s Presidential Fellowship can attend an information session during Harvard’s Office of Career Services Public Recruiting Day on Oct. 28. To participate, students are asked to submit a one-page cover letter and resume. More information about specific times and location, as well as deadlines for submitting the letter and resumes, can be found on the Office of Career Services’ website later this month.