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IOP Launches New Conferences Committee Pilot Program

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Harvard’s Institute of Politics will pilot a Conferences Committee to centralize planning for some of its major programs.

The Conferences Committee – the IOP’s first new program since 2018 – will be responsible for organizing IOP events and conferences under the umbrella of the committee, rather than under the Harvard Political Union as in previous years.

Past events have included a biennial seminar for newly elected mayors and a conference of presidential campaign managers.

The committee — led by co-chairs Desiree A. Rickett ’24 and Aristotle M. Vainikos ’23 — will oversee planning for at least the remainder of 2022.

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Rickett said she is both “nervous” and “excited” about starting her role as co-chair of the new IOP program.

“It feels like a very important position,” she said. “So I’m nervous and want to make sure that I do everything correctly and that I hopefully set the foundation for a lot of successful years in the Conferences Committee to come.”

Rickett said she is prepared for the challenges she will face as co-chair of the pilot program.

“There's something great about kind of going into the unknown — not really knowing what the year’s agenda is going to look like, not knowing exactly how every single meeting is going to run — but instead getting to be that person who tries it out who sees who makes mistakes,” she said.

Vainikos, Rickett’s co-chair and former chair of the Harvard Political Union, said his past focus as chair on “the student aspect” of conferences — formerly “nestled” in HPU — will help him lead the new committee.

The idea of separating the conference planning aspect from HPU had been in the works for some time, according to Vainikos.

“The general concept of making this distinct role was in my head for a while,” he said.

Vainikos noted that he anticipates the new role will involve “a lot of communication and interaction.”

“The new role is going to be a nice blend of strategic planning, week-to-week management, and then what I would call people-to-people connections, working with other students first, to help them contribute, and then eventually help them execute the conference.”

Vainikos added that he and Rickett will also spearhead communications with outside groups who participate in the committee-organized conferences.

Janna E. Ramadan ’23, president of the IOP, said the committee will work on multiple upcoming events, including the National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement, which aims to encourage civic engagement among students nationwide.

Another conference the committee will oversee is the Bipartisan Program for Newly Elected Members of Congress, an orientation program for U.S. representatives that will be held following the 2022 election.

Ramadan said she hopes the Conferences Committee program will create a “greater IOP umbrella identity.”

“Sometimes people will say, ‘Oh, I'm part of the IOP, but I'm part of this program or that program,’” she said. “We want people to feel like they can be a part of this broader IOP umbrella community on a macro scale.”

Students can apply to join the Conferences Committee through the IOP’s Common Application, which is open to applicants until Feb. 2.

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at miles.herszenhorn@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.

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