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The Citizen

That’s What Shih Said (Notes From the Editor)

By Irene Shih, Editor-in-Chief, MPP ‘13

May, 2011.

Picture it: I am twenty-four years old – young, confident, homely. My head is still spinning from the excitement of being a future K-School student. Whilst swimming in this expensive, $140K surreality, I formulate the following two-and-a-half concrete thoughts:

1) “I need to stock up on Reduced-Fat Wheat Thins.”

2) “I’ve got to make the best of my HKS experience.”

Irene Shih

Irene Shih

2.5) “Winning.”

After spending an obscenely vegetative week ruminating on thoughts 1) and 2.5), I stumble across a list of HKS student organizations. Enter thought #3:

3) “Holy sh..eet.”

In the middle of scrolling through this gargantuan list, my Apple magic trackpad explodes. ($70. The satisfaction of being an HKS student? Pricey.) But I am no quitter. What I gather from this initial peek is that, for a writer like myself (unemployed, poor), the Kennedy School offers no shortage of options. How can I possibly choose? It is exactly like Sophie’s choice, only [spoiler alert] instead of two babies, I have none, and instead of Nazis, I have…nothing comparable.

Then fate/lightning/something metaphorical strikes. My bleary eyes land on “The Citizen.” The rest, they say, is herstory.

Looking back now, I still can’t pinpoint what drew me to “The Citizen.” I had vaguely heard of this publication before – I had even seen its website pop up on Google search many a time (I’ll leave what I typed in the search box to your G-rated imagination) – but that was hardly enough traction to induce love at first sight. No, I can’t pinpoint the reason behind this fatal attraction, but I have a theory. Two years ago, when I was still working with a theater company in San Francisco, one of my bathroom conversations with an actor went something like this:


Hey, Ashley.


That is not my name.


Oh Ashley, you’re hilarious.


That is not –


So, what brought you to this theater company?


I like that it is what you make it. [pause] This is the men’s bathroom.

He (?) wasn’t trying to inspire me, but I was nonetheless inspired. “It is what you make it” has since become a key component in my choice of commitments and priorities. Uncertainty isn’t a canvas that attracts everyone (few canvasses do), but it’s honest, and it invites innovation. Saying “yes” to uncertainty means opening one’s arms to architecture. In my mind, no challenge could be more appealing, or have the potential to be more rewarding. That is how I viewed, and came to embrace, “The Citizen.”

September, 2011.

Picture it: I am twenty-five years old – aging, confident, cougar.  And I am jittery at the helm of this unique publication, leafing through old articles – the piecemeal history – and schmoozing with our staff over booze and dairy (wine and cheese). In the middle of this epic party (again, wine and cheese), an intoxicated question surfaces:

Zach, Assistant News Editor

[sipping wine]

So, what is our paper supposed to be? What’s our voice?


[after a thoughtful, deliberate pause]

This cheese is delicious.

In all (attempt at) seriousness, here’s our take: Somewhere amongst our digital age’s unfiltered, absurd, constant influx of information (often misrepresented) is room for contemplation, analysis, integrity and humor. We are not frontline news – we are far too biweekly for that – but we are the thought that comes after the information overload. The panoramic view. We are here to reflect how you make sense of your Kennedy School – and world – experience. To reflect the range of voice and diversity, of passion and disquietude here and beyond. We are what we make ourselves to be, and that invites possibility. Moreover, that invites you, our readers, to take part.

So join us. Join us as involved readers, offering your valuable feedback. Join us as writers, lending your voice and perspective. From Harvard Kennedy School to Harvard Yard, from study lounges to other study lounges, from bathrooms to holes-in-the-ground, support our free publication. For we are free at last! Free at last! Thank (student) Gov Almighty, we are FREE AT LAST.

P.S. Actually, we’ve always been free.

Irene Shih is an MPP1. In her spare time, Shih enjoys staring lovingly at her own reflection in the mirror, and will be doing exactly that when you reach her at