Maia Sandu MC/M.P.A. ’10, who waged a decade-long anti-corruption campaign that led to her becoming the president of Moldova, will deliver the 2022 graduation address at Harvard Kennedy School on Wednesday, May 25, Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced today. Sandu is the first woman to lead her country.
After earning her mid-career master in public administration degree at the Kennedy School in 2010, Sandu joined the World Bank in Washington as a senior adviser. But just two years later, she chose to go home to Moldova and use her skills to repair a corrupt political system that she said was destroying the small former Soviet republic sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania.
She joined the Moldova cabinet as education minister from 2012 to 2015, established a pro-European political party, and became prime minister briefly in 2019. She described her top priority as “making people believe again in their country.” Sandu confronted billionaire oligarchs and socialist advocates who had vied for control of the government coffers; she was ousted after just five months in office. But she vowed to continue the fight to turn Moldova into a modern democracy — and won a landslide victory to become president in December 2020.
“Maia Sandu has set an impressive example for Harvard Kennedy School students of what it means to be a principled and effective public leader and public servant,” said Elmendorf, the Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy. “Her decision to return home and enter the political fray, and her determination to challenge vested interests so she could reduce corruption and create new opportunities for Moldovans, offer important models for this year’s graduating class. We are so pleased that she accepted our invitation earlier this year to give our graduation address, and we look forward to her being able to come.”
Sandu studied management at the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova and earned a master’s degree in international relations at the Academy of Public Administration. She worked in the World Bank office in the capital, Chisinau, and in government and consulting roles before coming to study at the Kennedy School. She speaks Russian and English as well as her native Romanian.
The graduation address will be part of this year’s in-person graduation ceremony at the Kennedy School after two years of virtual ceremonies because of the pandemic. The events will be livestreamed on the School’s website at www.hks.harvard.edu/commencement.