Since its founding in 2000 with a generous gift from Leslie and Abigail Wexner, the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School has worked to prepare its students to exercise leadership in a world responding to a rapidly expanding array of economic, political, and social challenges.
1985: Thirty years ago, operating with the simple belief that effective leadership is essential for social and economic prosperity, Leslie and Abigail Wexner launched the Wexner Israel Fellowship program with the goal of bringing promising civil students from Israel to study at Harvard Kennedy School.
Where are We Now?
2000: Fifteen years later, through a generous gift from the Wexner Foundation and under the leadership of Harvard Kennedy School faculty David Gergen, Ron Heifetz, Barbara Kellerman, and Dean Joseph Nye, the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) opened its doors. CPL is now home to eleven named student fellowship and almost thirty faculty affiliates engaged with leadership scholarship practice across campus and in the global arena. The center serves almost a quarter of the HKS student population through our full-tuition fellowships, and offers a robust leadership development curriculum to all students enrolled at HKS.
2013: The Behavioral Insights Group (BIG) at CPL is launched by then CPL co-director Max Bazerman and HKS academic dean Iris Bohnet. Featuring active involvement of top Harvard behavioral science scholars, including Francesca Gino, Cass Sunstein, Todd Rogers, and Allison Wood Brooks, BIG helps leaders create environments that promote more ethical decision-making to advance the well-being of society. Today, BIG is directed by Todd Rogers, professor of public policy at HKS.
2014: Amplifying the impact of our research portfolio and establishing our role as a leader in the social entrepreneurship and philanthropy arena, CPL merged with the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations—the first merger of two centers in the history of Harvard Kennedy School. Created over 15 years ago by founding donors Rita and Gustave Hauser and now operating as the Hauser Institute for Civil Society, Hauser is home to the Social Innovation + Change Initiative and is CPL's hub for NGO leadership development. The Initiative for Responsible Investment (IRI), and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) are both part of the Hauser Institute.
2019: Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, former U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, is named director of CPL and professor of the practice of public leadership at Harvard Kennedy School.