Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who led her country through a devastating mass shooting, will be temporarily joining Harvard University later this year, Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf said Tuesday.
Ardern, a global icon of the left and an inspiration to women around the world, has been appointed to dual fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School. She will serve as the 2023 Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow and a Hauser Leader in the school’s Center for Public Leadership beginning this fall.
“Jacinda Ardern showed the world strong and empathetic political leadership,” Elmendorf said in statement, adding that Ardern will “bring important insights for our students and will generate vital conversations about the public policy choices facing leaders at all levels.”
Ardern, who was just 37 when she became prime minister in 2017, shocked New Zealanders when she announced in January she was stepping down from the role after more than 5 years because she no longer had “enough in the tank” to do it justice. She was facing mounting political pressures at home, including for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which was initially widely lauded but later criticized by those opposed to mandates and rules.
She said she sees the Harvard opportunity as a chance not only to share her experience with others, but also to learn.
“As leaders, there’s often very little time for reflection, but reflection is critical if we are to properly support the next generation of leaders,” she said.
Ardern’s time at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university will also include a stint as the first tech governance leadership fellow at the school’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.
The center has been an important partner as New Zealand worked to confront violent extremism online after a white supremacist gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in 2019, Ardern said. The gunman livestreamed the slaughter for 17 minutes on Facebook before the video was taken down.
Two months after the shooting, Ardern launched the Christchurch Call with French President Emmanuel Macron. The initiative’s goal is to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.
More than 50 countries joined the initiative, including the United States, Britain, Germany and South Korea, as well as technology companies like Facebook parent company Meta, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, YouTube, Zoom and Twitter.
“The Center has been an incredibly important partner as we’ve developed the Christchurch Call to action on addressing violent extremism online,” Ardern said, adding that the fellowship will be a chance not only to work collaboratively with the center’s research community, but also to work on the challenges around the growth of generative AI tools.
Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center, said it’s rare for a head of state to be able to immerse deeply in a complex and fast-moving digital policy issue.
“Jacinda Ardern’s hard-won expertise — including her ability to bring diverse people and institutions together — will be invaluable as we all search for workable solutions to some of the deepest online problems,” he said in a statement.
Ardern said she planned to return to New Zealand after the fellowships.