Current and former members of the Harvard Institute of Politics Student Advisory Committee praised “the stable pick” of Setti D. Warren as the permanent IOP director, adding they are pleased the appointment stayed within the IOP.
Warren’s appointment to the permanent role was announced Wednesday, concluding a national search that narrowed to four finalists earlier this month. Student interviewers had viewed Warren as a viable candidate prior to his selection, though he was not their top choice.
“I trust the Dean’s decision,” said IOP Communications Director Ethan C. Kelly ’25. “If the Dean thought Setti was the right choice, then I believe he is the right choice.”
Warren — the former mayor of Newton, Massachusetts — joined the IOP in 2021 as its executive director and became its interim director in July 2022 after the unexpected departure of former IOP Director Mark D. Gearan ’78.
Former IOP Vice President Tabitha L. Escalante ’23 wrote in a statement she is “thankful that the IOP will not undergo another senior staff transition,” with Warren staying in the top role. Members of the Student Advisory Committee said they were also pleased with the decision to keep the appointment in-house.
“Having a director with already a year’s experience means he knows how to hit the ground running,” Kelly said.
“With any organization, with any company, with any entity, picking someone internal by nature is more of a seamless transition,” said Robert Fogel ’25, one of the JFK Jr. Forum Committee co-chairs.
The sense of relief among current and former IOP student leadership comes after a series of staff changes in recent years.
“It’s gonna be a strong start in leadership at the IOP. There have been some issues with turnover in the past,” current IOP Vice President Pratyush Mallick ’25 said.
“There probably doesn’t need to be a transition because Setti is already interim director,” Fogel added.
Current student leaders also said Warren was a “pretty good choice” and the IOP will not experience “infrastructure change” as a result of his appointment.
Former Student Advisory Committee members, however, are conflicted about whether Warren will be able to help the IOP reach its full potential.
“It’s not really bringing anything new to the IOP because, not only was he just interim director, he was executive director,” former Student Advisory Committee member Luis F. Esteva Sueiro ’24 said.
“I am confident that his meaningful collaboration with students can allow the Institute to successfully grow and flourish,” former IOP Vice President Escalante said, referring to Warren.
Esteva Sueiro said that selecting a director “jumping on MSNBC every now and then,” rather than Warren, would have disadvantaged students.
“If we got a David Axelrod to the IOP, how much time would he have for students, and how much time would he have to truthfully engage with student programming?” Esteva Sueiro asked, referencing the former University of Chicago Institute of Politics director.
“Setti is an IOP guy for sure; the IOP is Setti’s thing,” Esteva Sueiro added.
IOP spokesperson Lauren Miller wrote the Institute’s staff are “excited to continue working under Setti’s strong and capable leadership to inspire students’ lives in politics and public service.”
The current Student Advisory Committee looks forward to further collaboration with Warren, who has been “super receptive to student feedback,” according to Mallick, and is overall supportive of Elmendorf’s decision.
“I’m excited. I think that a lot of students have been able to have good working relationships with him over the past year,” Kelly said.
“Setti is amazing,” Fogel said. “We’re really happy to get to continue working with him.”
—Staff writer Thomas J. Mete can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @thomasjmete.