What are the factors affecting gender equity in higher education in Zambia? Which districts should pilot a stay-in-school program for girls in Sierra Leone? What have been the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ethiopia’s essential health services? These are pressing issues that Harvard Ministerial alumni Ministers are currently facing. Over the past year, 44 Harvard graduate students from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Graduate School of Education, and Kennedy School of Government worked together in teams as part of the Harvard Ministerial Student Policy Research Fellowship to provide in-depth research to inform these questions.

In late March, all 44 students came together virtually from around the world to present their research to Deans Michelle Williams, Bridget Terry Long and Douglas Elmendorf, as well as to their dedicated Research Advisors (former Liberian Education Minister, George Werner; former Zimbabwean Education Minister, Dzingai Mutumbuka; former Chilean Deputy Health Minister, Jeanette Vega; Africa CDC Deputy Director, Mahlet Kifle; and former Special Advisor to the Health Minster of Nigeria, Kelechi Ohiri), Harvard faculty and other partners of the program. Together, participants heard the research of 11 teams who worked across six ministries in five countries in Africa. Visit the virtual poster session here.

In reflecting on the experience, Francisco Barajas, HGSE M.Ed. Candidate in International Education Policy, said, “Although this year was unique for multiple reasons, it was very inspiring to be surrounded by individuals who are determined to rise above challenges. Providing consultation to the Ministry of Sierra Leone from the comfort of my own home amplified my cultural sensitivity for spaces that are foreign to me. I also recognize that our contributions are a part of something much greater and that our expertise will forever be incomplete. Acknowledging that the work is unfinished is what I believe keeps us committed to the process of improving our world.”

The student-led policy research program is part of a menu of post-Harvard technical support provided to Ministers participating in the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program. During their participation in the annual Ministerial Forum at Harvard, Ministers define priority goals for their time in office and map a high-level implementation plan. To help inform their implementation plans, Ministers are invited to propose policy-related research which is matched to teams of Harvard students with the support of the Harvard Chan School’s Prof. Rifat Atun and HGSE’s Prof. Fernando Reimers.  View video presentations by student research teams here: