Belfer Center Newsletter Spring 2021

| Spring 2021

An image collage of two icebreakers, seen from above, breaking through ice. In their wake, a firefighter tending to a burning field and a group of migrants walking across arid ground.

Climate and Security: Critical Connections

“Climate change is an unprecedented security threat,” Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry said in his keynote address at the Belfer Center’s Climate Change, Intelligence, and Global Security conference to mark Earth Day. Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson shared a similar warning during a Belfer Center-Wilson Center Earth Day Dialogue on Arctic Sustainability: rapid climate change is increasing conflicts in the Arctic. His concern is underscored by a student Arctic data study, The Quest for Arctic Power, on increasing international tensions around a small Norwegian archipelago.  

Ash CarterFrom the Director

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

At the Belfer Center, we don’t content ourselves with merely admiring problems. We work to tackle them. A generation ago, that meant securing loose nuclear weapons as the Soviet Union fell. Today, it means confronting another existential issue: climate change.

As you’ll see in this newsletter, our scholars, staff, and students are addressing the environmental and global security threats of climate change. They’re working to rebalance energy use, safeguard our oceans, and protect vulnerable populations—all while developing the next generation of scientists, technologists, and policymakers to build a sustainable future.

Ash Carter's signature.

preparing Future Leaders

Student Conference Highlights Women and Resiliency

The Women in Power Conference Logo.

An image collage featuring, from left to right, panelists Debora Plunkett, Sue Gordon, Michèle Flournoy, Lori Robinson, and moderator Eric Rosenbach.

Belfer Center Senior Fellows Debora PlunkettSue GordonMichèle Flournoy, and Lori Robinson took part in a panel moderated by Center Co-Director Eric Rosenbach on Top U.S. Women in Defense.

Students Research Arctic Issues

Supporting Purposeful Technology

Innovation for the Public Good

After a year in which so many lost so much, the Belfer Center’s Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) Project recognized purpose-minded technologists who innovated in the face of crisis. These pioneers, chosen from hundreds of submissions across 14 countries, mobilized, organized, and charted a path forward to tackle fundamental problems spanning the medical field, structural racism, and privacy concerns in our online world.


Shaping Tech Progress 

The inaugural class of TAPP Fellows were charged with conducting in-depth research that bends the arc of technological progress toward the public good. During a Showcase event in April, they presented work on topics including surveillance and data privacy,  trustworthy health data systems, and the science/technology expertise gap in government.


A Playbook for Venture Capital and Public Purpose

Decisions to fund and support various types of technology impact everyone in society. Investors who take credit for innovation should also take responsibility for potential risks. TAPP researchers created a software tool and an accompanying playbook to help venture capitalists and startups better align their work with the public good.

Building Bridges with Diplomacy

Serving Their Adoptive Land

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Goldman Sachs’ Dina Powell McCormick, and Assistant Director for Space Policy Ezinne Uzo-Okoro spoke about their refugee/immigrant experiences in a Future of Diplomacy Project event. They were featured in Pres. George W. Bush’s book Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants, a collection of 43 portraits highlighting how America has been strengthened by those who have come here in search of a better life.

President Clinton on Foreign Policy and Diplomacy

"President Bill Clinton in a screenshot from the event."In an inaugural event honoring the late Ambassador Stephen W. Bosworth, President Bill Clinton spoke with the Future of Diplomacy Project’s Nicholas Burns about foreign policy challenges when he was president and his perspective on key diplomatic issues today.  With China, Clinton said, “we have to work for the best and prepare for the worst.”

Highlighting Cultural Diplomacy

Caroline Kennedy in a screenshot from the event.A Future of Diplomacy Project seminar series this spring featured discussions on cultural diplomacy. In a recent event, Caroline Kennedy spoke with Nicholas Burns about how she employed cultural diplomacy while serving as Ambassador to Japan.

Keeping Nations and People Safe

The Power of Civil Resistance

During a time of public upheaval, both civil and violent, Erica Chenoweth’s new book, Civil Resistance: What Everyone Needs to Know, explains civil resistance and how it works, why it sometimes fails, how violence and repression affect it, and its long-term impacts. Chenoweth is the Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard Kennedy School and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. 

Learning from the Past; Improving the Present

Telling Black Stories

In honor of Black History Month, Belfer Center Co-Director Eric Rosenbach welcomed Seattle Seahawks’ DK Metcalf, along with other notable guests, for a discussion focused on the importance of telling Black stories. Metcalf, who dedicated the month to sharing the story of Emmett Till, was joined by Till’s cousin, Reverend Wheeler Parker Jr., Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Prof. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and ESPN’s Kevin Merida. The event was moderated by HKS student Ratna Gill.

Kudos to #ShareTheMicInCyber for Highlighting Black Women 

Cyber Project Executive Director Lauren Zabierek and Camille Stewart, a Cyber Fellow and cybersecurity expert at Google, have been named Microsoft Changemakers of the Year and also SC Media Diversity Leaders of the Year for their #ShareTheMicInCyber campaign in March to provide prominent social media platforms and amplify Black female voices and achievements.

See more reactions from #ShareTheMicInCyber »

spotlighting community


Syra Madad

A headshot of Syra Madad against a colorful background.

Syra Madad is a nationally recognized epidemiologist in public health and special pathogens preparedness and response. A Belfer Center Fellow, she directs the Special Pathogens Program at New York City Health + Hospitals. During the pandemic, her work has included providing extensive education on staying safe. We asked Syra how she maintains her energy and optimism.

Staff Spotlight:

Simone O'Hanlon

A headshot of Simone O'Hanlon against a colorful background.

Simone O’Hanlon is Executive Assistant to Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard Kennedy School and former Director of the Belfer Center. For 15 years, she has managed to keep one of Harvard’s most active administrators and professors on schedule and organized. We asked her to share thoughts on her important work at the Center.

International Council Event Explores U.S.-China Rivalry 

As part of a Center-wide effort to continually strengthen the community’s diversity, directors organized a special International Council event for women in leadership positions to discuss “The U.S.-China Rivalry in Five Dimensions.”

A screenshot of nine speakers onscreen at the International Council event on China.

Hot off the Presses

International Security Journal Highlights

For the Spring 2021 issue of the journal International Security, we highlight several articles including “Illusions of Autonomy: Why Europe Cannot Provide for Its Security If the United States Pulls Back” by Hugo Meijer and Stephen G. Brooks to “Water and Warfare: The Evolution and Operation of the Water Taboo” by Charlotte Grech-Madin. 

Belfer in Brief

  • Sheila Jasanoff, William Tobey, and Fran Ulmer are recognized for impact

  • Bruce Schneier imagines a world of AI hackers

  • Applied History Project asks How to Reunite America in an essay contest, and applies history to today

  • Environment and Natural Resources Program  investigates climate media coverage and adaptive climate leadership, and explores the future of hydrogen

  • International Security Journal joins with Girl Security in an essay contest for young women

  • New Research from the Middle East Initiative looks at impacts of COVID-19 on religion, and at the role of social media in nonviolent protests

Belfer Podcasts


79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

Ash Carter, Director
Eric Rosenbach, Co-Director

Editor: Sharon Wilke, Associate Director of Communications
Designer: Andrew Facini, Publishing Manager
Multimedia: Benn Craig, Multimedia Producer
Digital Outreach: Julie Balise, Digital Communications Coordinator
Josh Burek, Director of Global Communications & Strategy

The Communications Office would like to thank the following staff members for their assistance in producing this newsletter: Raleigh Browne, Caitlin Chase, Carly Demetre, Brittany Janis, Susan Lynch, Amanda Sardonis, Bruce Schneier, and Hugo Yen.

 All photos and graphics by Belfer Center unless otherwise noted.




For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Belfer Center Spring 2021 Newsletter. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. (Spring 2021)