IOP Names Spring Fellows

David Plouffe, Elaine Chao, and Tom Ridge among the nine chosen

Obama for America Campaign Manager David Plouffe, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and former Pennsylvania Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge are among those who will serve as fellows at Harvard’s Institute of Politics this spring, the IOP announced Friday.

“What’s most exciting about this year is the breadth and diversity of the people who will be here on campus,” said IOP Director Bill Purcell. “This group really covers a very broad territory in our political experience and our political future.”

Plouffe, Chao, Ridge, and Washington Post columnist Eugene H. Robinson will join the IOP as visiting fellows, spending a few weeks each on campus throughout the spring.

Five resident fellows have also been chosen for semester-long appointments to lead weekly, study groups in the spring.

“The belief from the beginning was that the ability to learn from practitioners of politics would be important to undergraduates,” Purcell said. “It has always been separate from the normal academic offerings at Harvard.”

The fellowship program began in 1966 and has brought numerous politicians, journalists, and public servants through the doors of the IOP. Fellows are chosen by IOP staff in conjunction with a student advisory committee, which takes the lead in developing a list of possible fellows, Purcell said.

Rose B. Styron—a poet, journalist, and activist who will be a resident fellow—said she was both excited and nervous to be the first poet fellow. Her study group will focus on the interaction of the artist with the political sphere.

“I think they’re taking a big risk,” she said. “It will be fun for me, but I am not a politician. They were looking for something different, and they’re going to get it!”

Howard Zucker, who has held positions at the World Health Organization and the Department of Health and Human Services, expressed excitement for his upcoming fellowship.

He said he will draw on his globe-trotting experience with the WHO in his study group, which will focus on improving U.S. foreign policy using health diplomacy.

“This is a great forum for discussion, dialogue, and exchange of ideas,” Zucker said. “It is such a wonderful change to hear the perspectives of so many individuals. I am just ecstatic about it.”

The other resident fellows will be Tina Flournoy, assistant to the president for public policy at the American Federation of Teachers and former co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee; Jim Ramstad, a former Minnesota Congressman who has been mentioned as a possible choice to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Teresa Vilmain, a political organizer and consultant.

—Staff writer Evan T. Rosenman can be reached at


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