Barbara Best Named Executive Director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership

September 15, 2017
Barbara Best

The Center for Public Leadership is pleased to announce that Barbara Best has been appointed the Center’s Executive Director. 
Barbara has served CPL with distinction as Acting Executive Director since February, 2017 and for more than four and a half years as Director of Student and Fellows Programs, where she led the rapid expansion of CPL graduate fellowship programs from 51 fellows in Academic Year 2013 – 2014 to 107 fellows in Academic Year 2017 – 2018 and oversaw the launch of the Sheila C. Johnson, Louis Bacon Environmental Leadership, and Emirates Leadership Initiative Fellowships.

Barbara has dedicated her entire professional career to public service and brings a spirit of servant leadership and a deep commitment to developing public leaders to CPL. Prior to joining CPL, Barbara spent 13 years at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and served in a variety of leadership roles at the local, state and national levels. Barbara spent ten years in CDF’s Texas office, rising from an outreach coordinator to Texas Executive Director, where she started the CDF Houston and Rio Grande Valley offices along the Mexican border, oversaw the growth of CDF-Texas from 1 to 27 statewide staff, and mobilized regional coordinators in ten Texas cities to restore health coverage to 176,000 uninsured Texas children. After graduating from HKS, she served as CDF’s national Director of Foundation Relations and Special Projects where she cultivated and stewarded relationships with major national foundations and coordinated special projects of strategic importance to CDF including a partnership with the American Association of School Administrators and school districts in four states to systematically identify uninsured children and link them with health coverage. The project has been recognized as national best practice by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which have called on states and districts to help enroll students in healthcare coverage during school registration processes.

Barbara is a graduate of Duke University and received a Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2010 where she served as the first Mid-Career Fellow in the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

Barbara will oversee all aspects of CPL’s day to day operations and report to CPL Faculty Co-Director Dana Born. CPL Faculty Director David Gergen will continue to provide strategic oversight for the Center. The Center’s staff, faculty, and leadership congratulate Barbara on her new role and are confident that, with Dana and David, Barbara will propel CPL to new heights of leadership and service.

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