The HKSWN Blog

Sharing updates from the HKSWN board, members, and alumnae

Elizabeth at Harvard Commencement with her daughter, Bella.

Elizabeth at Harvard Commencement with her daughter, Bella.

Women of HKS: Elizabeth Patton and Student-Parent Advocacy at HKS

September 30, 2019 | Elizabeth Patton, MPP 2019

After a few days of awkwardly explaining to my cohort-mates why I’d be late for lunch or missing the evening activities, I waited in line for the HKS tradition of 15-second introductions, unsure if I should rattle off some random fun fact, professional interest, or fully own that I was a mom. My fellow Deltas took the stage with wit and charm. I nervously stepped onto the Forum platform and said, “My name is Elizabeth Patton, and I have a beautiful four-month-old daughter. I know what you’re probably thinking, but yes, starting grad school with an infant was on purpose. I hope to meet more parents soon!”  

There weren’t many parents in the MPP program, and no other moms in the class of 2019. I did, however, meet a few MC/MPA moms of infants via our shared frustration with the single lactation room on campus and our often-conflicting pumping schedules. We formed the Parent Advocacy Group at HKS, a student-run organization to build community among student-parents and identify gaps in support. During my time as a student at HKS, we worked with administrators to improve lactation rooms, collect and analyze data on incoming student-parents, formalize Family Liaison staff responsibilities, and convene the Joint Taskforce on Affordable Childcare. While many staff, students, and faculty at HKS supported our work, lack of will at the highest levels to walk-the-walk of policy to support student-parents, especially mothers, is alarming.

To combat many of the preconceived notions and assumptions about student-parents, we collected data on childcare costs. In Spring 2019, we surveyed student-parents across Harvard, including 40 HKS student-parents with kids four or younger. We found that mothers pay, on average, nearly four times as much per week on childcare than our male counterparts. This difference seems to be driven by the fact that 75% of fathers have a spouse, partner, or family member providing childcare. Only 15% of mothers said the same. Moreover, 60% of HKS mothers said they considered declining admission or dropping out of HKS during to the pressure of balancing family and student life.  Only 25% of fathers said the same.

Despite graduating last May, I hope to support current HKS student-parents, especially mothers, in their advocacy for meaningful, systemic change at the school. As alumnae, you all have an important role to play. If you are interested in learning more about our survey results and how you can support these efforts as an alumna, email me at

Screen Shot 2019-09-28 at 5.30.31 PM.png

HKSWN at 2 Years: Building Connections and Elevating Alumnae

September 28, 2019 | Andrea Blinkhorn and Theo Skeadas, Co-Presidents

One of the best parts of the Harvard Kennedy School is the opportunity to meet incredible peers and classmates who believe strongly in the call to public service and making an impact their communities. 

After graduation, while this motivation remains, the opportunity to stay connected appears to diminish, as alumnae scatter globally, seeking the communities where they will establish roots and contribute their time and energies. 

The HKS Women’s Network grew out of the need to both remain connected with classmates, but also to connect with alumnae women from different programs and years who may not have been on campus at the same time. Dedicated to connecting, supporting, and amplifying the work of Harvard Kennedy School alumnae, the HKS Women’s Network formed to fill that role. 

Today, we find ourselves with 48 chapters globally, led by an incredible group of 68 City Ambassadors, who serve as the primary points of contact to the network in their cities of residence.

The Network exists to serve our alumnae, and to connect with each other in meaningful and powerful ways. And like many recently formed, small non-profits, we are continuously re-evaluating how we can better serve our fellow alumnae.

As we look to the next year, we’re excited about the incredible HKSWN-organized programming happening around the world. From Nairobi to Delhi, to Tel Aviv, to Boston, and beyond, our network and alumnae are meeting globally. 

As a part of our 2019 fundraising mission, we are focused on building on our core competencies: supporting local City Ambassador events, building a reserve to support scholarship needs, and planning nation-wide programming events. 

So what does this mean for you?

If you are looking for a leadership opportunity, or just want to connect with local alumnae - please reach out to us or your City Ambassador. We are an organization that focuses on promoting and elevating our alumnae and are open to finding ways to engage graduates in whatever capacity works best for you. 

  • Ready to organize a happy hour or coffee meet-up? Email us!

  • Ready to sign-up to be a City Ambassador? Visit the website to learn more and email Claire to learn more!

  • Ready to support the network’s work and mission? Donate here.

  • Have a general question or just want to talk through some ideas? Email us!

- Andrea + Theo