Envisioned and launched before the coronavirus pandemic, Harvard Kennedy School’s flagship online non-degree program, the Public Leadership Credential (PLC), is filling an unanticipated gap in the educational landscape, straddling the space between bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.

This month, the first cohort of 35 participants completed the program of six courses followed by a capstone project to receive the Public Leadership Credential. This milestone event for the new program was recognized with an online celebration of the students who completed the final project.

The learners covered a range of topics in their capstone projects — from supporting youth in crisis in the U.S. state of Maine, to improving air quality in Romania, to boosting the manufacturing industry in Rwanda. At the capstone celebration event, Dan Levy, senior lecturer in public policy and faculty director of the PLC, said: “The range of projects and policy areas represented is astounding!”

The PLC program was designed to reach busy professionals with several years of work experience who could benefit from the practical teaching the Kennedy School offers. “We did this so that people across the globe could help improve their communities and the world around them,” Levy said.

“A key priority for us was to reach as many learners as possible, people who for professional, personal, or financial reasons, couldn’t come to the Kennedy School,” added Kristin Sullivan, staff director of the Public Leadership Credential.

With COVID-19 keeping people home, the PLC has seen a boost in enrollment numbers. More than 1,300 learners from 100 countries have enrolled in PLC courses and represent a wide range of professions.

PLC courses cover three interdisciplinary topics: policy design and delivery, leadership and ethics, and evidence for decisions, with curriculums designed by Kennedy School faculty members with the support of digital learning designers from SLATE. The capstone experience allows learners to synthesize all that they have learned over the six courses and apply this knowledge to a project of their choice.

The PLC includes signature Kennedy School pedagogies — like the School’s degree programs and executive-education offerings— and is academically rigorous and relevant to professionals dealing with real-world problems.

“We emulate the kinds of learning that happen in our classrooms,” said Teddy Svoronos, the faculty lead for the evidence for decisions courses and a lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School. “Whatever we do, we want to make an impact.”

For more information, visit the website. The next registration deadline is Jan. 7, 2021.

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