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The institution known today as the John F. Kennedy School of Government traces its roots back to 1936, when the Graduate School of Public Administration was established at Harvard through a $2 million gift from Lucius N. Littauer (AB 1878). At the time it was the largest single gift from an individual donor ever given to the university. With faculty drawn from the economics and government departments, the new school welcomed its first students in 1937, launching a one-year Littauer Fellowship program, which later grew to become the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration Program (MC/MPA).
Two decades later, the program grew to include the Mason Fellows — comprised of emerging leaders from developing countries. By the mid-1960s, faculty began to develop a public policy curriculum based more in economics and analytic studies than on the management principles of traditional public administration. This grew into the two-year Master in Public Policy Program (MPP), which accepted its first students in 1969.
About the same time, Harvard University sought to establish a memorial to the late President John F. Kennedy. Under the leadership of faculty, the Institute of Politics (IOP) was established by friends and Kennedy family members to serve as a bridge between the academic study of government and the real world of politics.
Harvard’s Graduate School of Public Administration was renamed in honor of President Kennedy in 1966, but it wasn’t until 1978 when, under the leadership of Dean Graham Allison, the Kennedy School settled into its current home. The Master in Public Administration (MPA) program, the Master in Public Policy (MPP) program, and the IOP were brought together under one roof in the newly constructed Littauer Center, marking a new era in public service education at Harvard and in the United States.
In the 1990s, Kennedy School faculty working on the problems of developing countries around the world began to realize that their field required a new kind of professional training. To be successful, development professionals had to combine expertise in economic analysis with a multi-disciplinary approach to solving problems, drawing on political science, management, sociology, history, and other disciplines, as well as professional skills. In response, the School in 1999 launched a new degree program, the Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID), specially designed to train the next generation of leaders in this growing field.
In 2003, the Kennedy School Forum — which has hosted countless famous and influential figures from all walks of public life — was renamed the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.
Today the Kennedy School has evolved into one of the world’s most eminent social science research institutions – housing 15 research centers and institutes and more than a dozen executive education and degree programs – with worldwide reach and influence. More than 27,000 Kennedy School alumni reside in 137 countries and serve in a wide range of positions in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
Courses run by Kennedy School of Government (KSG)
MPA International Development - MPA/ID
: Harvard University
The Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID) is designed to prepare the next generation of leaders in international development. It is an economics-centered, multi-disciplinary program, combining rigorous training in analytical and quantitative methods with an emphasis on policy and practice.
Each academic year, a class of about 65 students enrolls in this selective program. Geared to the future development practitioner rather than the future scholar or teacher, the MPA/ID is taught with intense rigor and quality. Both U.S. and international candidates are considered for admission. Applicants must demonstrate competence in economics and quantitative analysis and the potential for leadership in international development. Although the MPA/ID program occasionally accepts applicants directly from undergraduate colleges and universities, most admitted candidates have between three and five years of work experience in government, central and regional banks, international development institutions, non-governmental organizations, or private businesses.
By creating this program, the Kennedy School has established a new career path towards leadership positions in international development. Existing programs emphasize either high-level technical training (as in master's and PhD programs in economics) or professional training (as in master's programs in international affairs or public administration). The MPA/ID combines the two approaches.
Our students graduate with the analytical and technical skills that one expects of economics PhD students, as well as deep immersion in the problems and institutional realities of developing countries that excellence in this field requires.