Ruthzee Louijeune is now in her 3rd year in the Harvard joint degree program in law and government. She says she “wanted both the structure of law school—the experience of learning how to read the law and interpret it and be a critical thinker—but also the scope that the Kennedy School offers, the management and policy analysis.”
Students in the program pursue a J.D. at Harvard Law and either a M.P.P. (master in public policy) or a M.P.A.-I.D (master in public administration in international development) at the Kennedy School, finishing both degrees in four academic years after completing a final project involving law and policy.
Although students at Harvard have been pursuing degrees from the two schools simultaneously for decades, the joint degree program established in 2006 streamlines the process. And changes to the program introduced recently are intended to further enrich the student experience, says HLS Professor David Barron ’94.
Starting last year, Barron and Archon Fung introduced a case-based seminar for all third year students, focused on pressing public problems at the intersection of law and public policy (see story). The program also now gives participants the opportunity from the beginning to meet with a range of alumni who talk candidly about their careers and how they’ve made use of their dual training.
For many of the alumni that’s meant pursuing leadership roles in the public interest. Sarah Wald of HKS (the third member of the faculty steering committee with Barron and Fung, and a former dean of students at HLS) says more than 40 percent of alumni graduating over the past 20 years have followed that route as have nearly 30 percent of alumni graduating in the three earlier decades. Some of those alumni include Bryan Stevenson ’85, founder and executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, an organization committed to challenging bias against the poor and people of color in the criminal justice system; Robert Zoellick ’81, former president of the World Bank; economist Larry Bacow ’76, former president of Tufts; Naomi Camper ’97, former aide to the Senate Banking Committee; David Chiu ’95, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and former San Francisco mayoral candidate; Tom Perez ’87, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Richard Tofel ’83, general manager of ProPublica, the non-profit producing investigative journalism in the public interest; author Rebecca Hamilton ’07; and Jonathan Zittrain ’95, a cofounder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and a professor at HLS and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
So far, Louijeune has been focused on issues related to education: “making sure we are doing the best we can to educate our citizens to be involved in the democratic process,” she says. Appointed by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, this year she participated in an advisory committee that has just issued recommendations on changing the way the city assigns students to public schools. And although it’s too soon to know where she will land when she graduates from the HLS/HKS program, she said, “I think the two schools really balance each other out in terms of what they offer to someone who is interested in delving deeply into the pressing public problems of our nation and our time.”