As the Co-Chair of the National Advisory Board for Public Service at Harvard College, President Mark D. Gearan recently led the annual meeting of leaders in business, academic and non-profits who gathered at the Cambridge, Massachusetts campus to focus on “Establishing Stronger Pathways to Public Interest Careers.”
Harvard’s National Advisory Board was formed last year following President Drew Gilpin Faust’s encouragement of broader public service focus for undergraduates. Gearan and co-chair Cheryl Dorsey, the president of Echoing Green, a social entrepreneurship movement coordinate a national committee of prominent alumni, scholars and practitioners seeking to expand the opportunities for Harvard College students. The board is charged with providing vision, strategy and support for public interest at Harvard, an effort that directly impacts thousands of individuals in Boston and surrounding areas through coordination with Harvard’s student-led non-profit organization, Phillips Brooks House Association, and the Harvard Public Service Network, as well as through increasing public service involvement of Harvard alums.
Gearan and Dorsey, both Harvard alums, have witnessed rising interest in public service. “We are struck by the research and data evidencing the idealistic millennial generation seeking opportunities to pursue service and social change in both local and global settings like never before,” they recently wrote to stakeholders. “This passion is reflected in the career choices of many students who hope to devote their postgraduate lives to such worthy pursuits. Students want to blend their professional lives with a sense of civic duty and citizenship that is fostered and honed during their undergraduate years.”
At the annual meeting, working groups discussed such topics as summer internships, supporting students interested in public service careers, alumni engagement, and efforts surrounding the Service to Society Initiative. The initiative seeks to expand public service opportunities for Harvard students, providing all students with the experiences that will enable them to make service to society a meaningful part of their lives in whatever career path they choose.
The Advisory Committee received presentations from Don Pfister, Harvard Dean; Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of Partnership for Public Service; Perla Ni, chief executive officer of Great Nonprofits; Gene Corbin, Harvard dean of public service; and Trey Grayson, director of the Institute of Politics at John F. Kennedy School of Government; as well as a panel discussion with recent Harvard graduates.
An expert on the intersection of higher education and civic engagement, Gearan has held numerous leadership roles in public service. As the current chair of the Talloires Network Steering Committee, an international association of more than 200 institutions on six continents committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education, he has fostered a global culture of service. As the past chair of the board of directors of National Campus Compact and the Corporation for National and Community Service, he has similarly supported civic engagement activities in the United States.
In addition, Gearan serves on the Presidential Advisory Group for the NCAA. He is the past chair of the board of directors of the Annapolis Group, a nationwide consortium of liberal arts colleges. He has served as a board member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and The Partnership for Public Service. With extensive credentials in public policy and service, Gearan served as Director of the Peace Corps and was Assistant to the President, Director of Communications and Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House.