TOPEKA (KSNT) – A group of students from Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government will be visiting Topeka early next year as part of a program that pair students HKS students with newly elected government officials.
Expected to arrive in January of 2022, three Harvard students will take part in the Transition Term program which embeds HKS students in the offices of newly elected mayors, county executives and governors to provide students with a unique learning opportunity while also helping officials shift from campaigning to governing.
Topeka’s new mayor, Mike Padilla, will be paired with these three students who will join him full-time for three weeks in January.
“Shortly after the election I was given the opportunity to attend the Harvard John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics at Cambridge,” said Padilla. “As a participant, I interacted with a wide range of newly elected and seasoned Mayor’s from across the country. Sharing our paths to a mayor’s seat, it was clear that the same commitment to serve our community is our common driving force.”
The HKS students will help to accelerate projects based on Topeka’s priorities. Their daily tasks will include performing research, conducting data analysis, drafting memos, engaging with stakeholders and responding to rapidly evolving needs that arise during the intense early weeks of governing.
“I listened to problem solving that encouraged progressive and sometimes bold action. Looking at issues from different perspectives is the goal of this Transition Term Team. ‘Learning how the sausage is made’ at the local government level will engage the graduate students in many aspects of Topeka’s governing body,” Padilla said.
According to Professor Jeffrey Liebman, Director of the Taubman Center, the HKS students will gain critical on-the-ground experience over the course of their stay in Topeka.
“We are excited to announce the largest and most diverse cohort of mayors and students yet and look forward to seeing the real-world impact of this program in the weeks to come,” Liebman said.
Topeka is one of 13 communities that will be receiving students from Harvard next year through the Transition Team program. Other HKS student groups will be traveling to Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; Erie County, Pennsylvania; Lawrence, Massachusetts; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Rochester, New York; Somerville, Massachusetts; St. Petersburg, Florida; and Stamford, Connecticut.