Skip to main content

The Citizen

Kennedy School Student Government (KSSG) Year-in-Review: The Citizen Article

IMG_3270By Jieun Baek

Let’s be honest. KSSG probably has not been top of mind for most of you, and you’re probably wondering what in the world this body of 34 elected HKS students do. At the beginning of the year, 34 of your classmates asked what they could do to serve you, and ran for Kennedy School Student Government. We ran events and programs – big and small – all year and this space is too short to list them all.  Below are two major pushes we had and some key take-aways I’ll be leaving HKS with based on my experience with KSSG. Indulge me for five minutes and let me highlight a few things that the KSSG team has worked on to make your year at HKS a little bit better. It’s been a hell of a year, and I thank you for working with us!

SOCIAL AND SCHOOL-WIDE EVENTS: Events our team organized include the Boat Cruise, Halloween Party, Bureaucrats Ball at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Talent Show, our upcoming Spring Formal at Top of the Hub, and weekly quorum calls co-sponsored by student groups. We also funded and supported 180 student organization events!

NETWORKING: We had the HKS-wide opt-in networking database to encourage people to reach out to classmates for professional advice, which over 550 people signed up for! We also launched our first annual peer-to-peer career networking event, meet-and-greet events with HKS alums at the Harvard Faculty Club and quorum call, and J-term shadowing.

Our KSSG mission statement (which we adopted this year!) reads as follows: The Harvard Kennedy School Student Government (KSSG) will work to represent and promote fellow Harvard Kennedy School students’ interests on this campus in service of the broader HKS mission, which is to “train enlightened public leaders and to generate the ideas that provide solutions to our most challenging public problems.” I learned a lot from working with this phenomenal team in service of this mission, and below are a few personal takeaways I want to share.

(1) Meeting so many HKS people every day: One of my favorite aspects of doing KSSG was meeting so many people! I loved having people over at my apartment all the time to brainstorm about future projects and event ideas.  I lost track of how many spare keys to my apartment I’ve given out (for those who have them, please give them back before graduation!).

(2) Leading such a diverse group of people scared me out of my mind at first. To overcome this anxiety, I met with most reps one-on-one to understand their interests, motivation, commitment level, and build rapport. This helped me overcome my anxiety around my relatively younger age and anxieties around being a young woman as the leader of this organization.

(3) Women Leadership and Empowerment:  If more women felt more supported by each other and more comfortable to take up leadership positions, I bet that the world would truly be a better place.  I was initially so concerned about being viewed as bossy, too strong, and became almost obsessed with my identity as a short Asian-American female attempting to lead KSSG and oversee school events and address classmates’ concerns. I may be wrong, but based on my experience and conversations I’ve had with other female classmates, I observed that more female students are more critical of other female student leaders than men are. Call this “catty” or another word that is more eloquent, but this got me thinking about how there is much more room for women to support each other, especially at HKS. In light of the BAN BOSSY campaign that recently went viral, I realized that I’m not as concerned about men calling me bossy or worse. It’s the critical, judgmental gaze of a woman that scares me most. If I were ever to start a campaign, it’d be called “Kick Cattiness!”

(4) Live your life, and don’t be afraid of gossip! One of the most common grievances about HKS (other than the bidding system and the need for more classroom space) that I heard was that people just do not ask each other out on dates because they want to avoid the gossip that accompanies a small, professional community. Yes, this is a professional school, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be romance! People, there are just a few more weeks remaining until commencement. Don’t be afraid to ask out that lady or gentleman you’ve had an eye on since Stats Class, or Math Camp, and get to know each other in between all those problems sets or spring exercise meetings…

KUDOS! Between now and graduation, if you see KSSG reps, please give them a hug and say thank you! I also want to give kudos to:

Maggie Williams (Executive VP) for driving the KSSG ship! KSSG / HKS events would just not happen without Maggie

Allister Chang (VP of Student Activities) for organizing all the huge school-wide events

Paul Rodriguez (VP of Diversity) for coordinating and supporting the Self-Defense Training with HUPD,  PLATICAS (Promoting Language Acquisition Through Informal Conversations and Socializing), Speak Out Campaign, Anti-Racism Organization Training

Ocean Dalton (VP of Finance) for approving funding for 180 student group events

Shradha Balakrishnan (VP of Tech and Ops) for having the most active IT committee ever to help shape the current and future IT experience of HKS students

Isaac Lara (VP of Communications) for crafting this year’s student handbook

Evelien, Leena, and Shaloo for working so hard to engage HKS Alumni

Tommy Tobin, Elsa Sze, Carmen Dominguez, and Joanna Ain for running a vibrant Academic Affairs committee and running the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Student Teaching, leading student teams for Faculty searches, running school-wide surveys,

Faton Limani for organizing spring semester elections, and chartering new student organizations

Alix for getting us HKS fleeces

Varun and Sabreen for the networking database

Samantha Jordan and Lucila Arboleya for helping to put on a phenomenal bureaucrats ball!