Staff Spotlight: Karen Jackson-Weaver

deanDean Weaver, what do you do here at HKS?

My role here at HKS is quite multi-faceted.  I manage and oversee the Degree Programs and Student Affairs division, which encompasses all of the degree programs, admissions, student diversity and inclusion, the Office of Career Advancement, Student Services, Student Financial Services, and the Registrar’s office.  We have over 50 people in our unit and it is a great team! Because our focus is student-centered, I am able to advocate and be a part of variety of conversations which have to do with the student experience.  These range from working with faculty and staff on major issues which impact the HKS community to meeting with the KSSG about programming. Each day brings exciting, new challenges and personal fulfillment in knowing that I have done my best to make a difference and groom our students to impact the world.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is working with people! I really enjoy engaging with the students, faculty and staff. I think what’s most interesting about my work is that it represents the total spectrum of student engagement. Our degree programs and students affairs team thinks about creative ways to recruit students who reflect diversity of the global community.  I really enjoy working with the faculty and staff who are responsible for each degree program, and I feel fortunate to work collaboratively on ways to enhance the overall student experience. In addition to an enriching academic and intellectual experience, we want each student to have the financial support and student services they need coupled with the professional development and access to networks that are required for them to be successful once they have completed their graduate studies at HKS.

Could you share an interesting story about you?

I’m a Harvard alum (HGSE). During my studies for my master’s degree, I took a class with the late Judge A. Leon Higginbotham. He was a faculty member here at the Kennedy School and at the law school. It was a transformative experience that set me on the path for a career in higher education. Judge Higginbotham encouraged me to pursue my PhD, which I did, in American History from Columbia University.

Every day I walk by a picture of Judge Higginbotham and Nelson Mandela on the way to my office. For me, it is a powerful reminder of how fortunate each of us is to be a part of this community and the responsibility we have to make each day count. Legendary leaders like the two of them have paved the way for us to lead courageously. Each day seeing them and remembering their legacy inspires me to give my best!

What would most students not know about your background?

HKS is a special place with an authentic commitment to public service. That really resonates with me and I love the fact that we have leaders from all over the world who come to share their expertise with our students. I am new to the HKS community but I am not new to academia or public service. Prior to my role here at HKS, I was a Dean at Princeton University’s Graduate School, where I handled academic affairs for all of the Master’s and PhD students, including the Woodrow Wilson School. I also played a leadership role in admissions and financial support, recruitment, diversity initiatives, and professional development. Before that, I served as the Executive Director of the Amistad Commission and worked closely with the Governor, Secretary of State and Commissioner of Education in the State of New Jersey.  It seems like a natural progression for me to serve in this role. While I have only been here since September, it feels like home and I am excited about the future!

This interview was reproduced on the official website of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. To access the interview, please click here