From The Desk of Mark Gearan, IOP Director

Learn more about our Spring 2019 Fellows

Dear Friend of the IOP - 

One of the exciting moments at the beginning of each semester at the IOP is the announcement of Resident and Visiting Fellows.  This semester is no exception - and we are pleased to welcome an extraordinary cohort of Fellows for the Spring term. The Fellows Program enjoys a proud history dating back to the first class of Fellows in 1966. Since that time, elected officials from both sides of the aisle, trailblazers, journalists and activists - have all come to Cambridge and engaged our students in meaningful ways.  

I can personally attest to the impact of IOP Fellows. As a Harvard undergraduate I was fortunate to attend a Study Group led by Mark Shields(Fall 1974), who drew upon his extensive political campaign experience. It was those conversations that allowed me to explore my interest in politics and government. Mark was a great model of an engaged citizen and I have valued his friendship ever since. Today’s students enjoy these same opportunities by spending time with Fellows who have been ‘in the arena’ and who share their perspective in formal and informal ways as part of the Harvard community. 

In 2002, then-President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges Mark D. Gearan (right) invited his former IOP Fellow Mark Shields (left) to deliver the commencement address.

Many have observed that one of the key benefits of our Fellows program is the opportunity for students to engage an array of issues from diverse perspectives. In a letter to the Kennedy School community at the start of the academic year, Dean Doug Elmendorf  wrote about this moment in our civic life and the importance of discourse and ideas: 

“Rather than dismiss or ignore those with whom we disagree, we should listen to them, try to understand their perspectives, vigorously advocate our own views—and then look for ways to work across differences that do not require us to abandon our principles but do allow us to move forward.”

At the Institute of Politics, we seek to provide students with an environment to engage in civil discourse, ask the tough questions, listen to a variety of voices, and conclude the semester inspired to public service and active citizenship. 

Spring Fellows at the Institute of Politics

The midterm elections covered stories of flipped districts, races too close to call and debates on topics ranging from voter registration to immigration to climate change. To provide students with behind-the-scenes look at the November election and issues of importance to voters, we welcome the former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and former Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) who will share their experiences as elected leaders at the local and federal level.

Aisha Moodie-Mills, immediate past president of the Victory Fund, worked to ensure ten openly LGBTQ candidates could become a voice for their constituents in the 116th U.S. Congress. This semester, Aisha will share with students how she helped candidates and the political implications of America's demographic shift and the role of racial and identify politics in campaigns.

During the Obama Administration, Ambassador Catherine Russell led the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, working to promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls through U.S. foreign policy. After traveling extensively abroad, Ambassador. Russell will come to Cambridge to share her experience and share her views on the true power of public diplomacy and why women and girls matter to U.S. foreign policy. 

To help the IOP community consider the legal proceedings unfolding in Washington, we welcome CNN legal analyst. Michael Zeldin. Michael’s tenure at the Justice Department will help our students sort the investigations underway and the impact for politics and policy.

In addition to the Resident Fellows, the IOP community will have the unique opportunity to engage with four distinguished Visiting Fellows.  In an innovative study group co-led by former National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and former Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), students will have the chance to discuss and debate economic policy with two of our nation’s leading experts who have served in senior capacities in the Administration and Senate.  We welcome back former mayors Mitch Landrieu and Michael Nutter to share their perspective on city politics and local governance. 

Watch our video introducing our Resident and Visiting Fellows.

I look forward to another great semester at the IOP. 


Mark D. Gearan '78
Institute of Politics 
Harvard Kennedy School