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Former New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern joining Harvard Kennedy School on two fellowships

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, pictured speaking to rugby fans during the New Zealand 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup celebrations event at Parliament in Wellington on Dec. 13, 2022, has been appointed to a pair of fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School.MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who won widespread praise for her response to a deadly mass shooting and her leadership during the initial phase of the pandemic, has been appointed to a pair of fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School, the university said Tuesday.

Ardern, 42, will begin her fellowships in the fall, the Kennedy School said in a statement. She has been tapped to serve as the 2023 Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow and as a Hauser Leader in the School’s Center for Public Leadership.

Ardern became a global figure after her election in 2017, when she was 37, becoming the world’s youngest female head of state. In 2008, she became the youngest member of her nation’s parliament, and she has twice landed on Time magazine’s list of most influential people.


In January, she stunned her nation of 5 million when she announced her resignation after more than five years as prime minister. Fighting back tears, she told reporters she knew “what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple.”

The Angelopoulos fellowship allows “high-profile leaders” transitioning from public service to spend time in residence at the Kennedy School, the university statement said.

The Hauser fellowship, based at the school’s Center for Public Leadership, brings “high-profile leaders” from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to campus every semester to discuss building skills in “principled leadership,” the statement said.

“I am incredibly humbled to be joining Harvard University as a fellow — not only will it give me the opportunity to share my experience with others, it will give me a chance to learn,” Ardern said in the statement. “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.”


Ardern is also being appointed to a fellowship at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, the university said.

As a Knight Tech Governance Leadership Fellow, Ardern will study ways to combat extremist online content and analyze best practices for artificial intelligence, as well as “algorithmic harms.”

“Jacinda Ardern showed the world strong and empathetic political leadership,” Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf said in the statement. “She earned respect far beyond the shores of her country and she will bring important insights for our students and will generate vital conversations about the public policy choices facing leaders at all levels.”

Ardern made several notable policy decisions while in office. She oversaw a ban on assault weapons after a white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques in 2019, pushed through a bill targeting net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and generally kept COVID-19 out of New Zealand for 18 months.

Her pandemic strategy drew criticism from then-president Donald J. Trump and she was forced to abandon her country’s zero-tolerance strategy for battling the virus as more contagious variants spread and vaccines became widely available. She also faced growing anger from constituents who opposed COVID-19 mandates and rules.

Ardern delivered Harvard’s commencement speech last May with a tribute to the “esteemed guests” before her in Te Reo Maori, the language of the Indigenous people of New Zealand. She then spoke of democracy, disinformation, and kindness.


“In the overwhelming challenges that lay in front of us, in our constant efforts to reach into the systems, the structures, the power, don’t overlook the impact of simple steps that are right in front of you,” she said. “The impact that we each have as individuals. To make a choice to treat difference with empathy and kindness.”

Ardern also spoke about her country’s efforts to curb gun violence in the aftermath of the mass shootings in 2019.

“We are at a precipice, and rather than ask what caused it, today I want to talk about how we address it,” said Ardern, citing the role social media played in the Christchurch attack, which was partly livestreamed. “In the aftermath of New Zealand’s experience, we felt a sense of responsibility. We knew we needed significant gun reform, and so that is what we did.”

As the commencement address came to a close, Ardern urged graduates to “make a choice to treat difference with empathy and kindness.”

“We are the richer for our difference and poorer for our division,” she said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Material from prior Globe stories was also used.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.