Emirates Leadership Initiative

| Dec. 20, 2018

Generously supported by the government of the United Arab Emirates, the Emirates Leadership Initiative (ELI) at Harvard Kennedy School concluded its fourth year in 2018. Facilitated jointly by the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at HKS, HKS Executive Education, and MEI, the program connects students, fellows, and faculty to the UAE and the broader Middle East every year at Harvard and in the region through four key activities: the Graduate Student Fellowship, the Research Program, Executive Education, and the UAE Policy Field Experience. MEI primarily supports the Research Program and takes an active role in the Graduate Student Fellowship and the Policy Field Experience with CPL. ELI thrives on the shared mission of preparing emerging leaders from the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East to confront the region’s public policy issues through a multi-pronged approach that goes beyond traditional academic coursework.



Research Program

Within the ELI Research Program, MEI implements four distinct activities that foster academic inquiry, informed by on-the-ground experience in the region, into the Middle East’s most pressing public policy challenges: pre- and postdoctoral research fellowships for emerging scholars on Middle East governance and public policy; faculty research funding for policy-relevant research on the region across Harvard; research and internship funding for students to engage policy issues in the region and shape their careers; and senior fellowships to bring top policymakers and academics to the Kennedy School.

MEI Research Fellowships

The Research Fellowship Program fosters a promising community of scholars, who contribute much-needed insight into advancing informed policy on many issues confronting the Middle East during and beyond their year at Harvard. During the year-long fellowship, these emerging scholars build new professional relationships, launch new and collaborative research projects, and serve as a pivotal resource on campus for the HKS community by engaging with and mentoring students from and interested in the Middle East. e enriching research environment and access to premier faculty and resources at Harvard enables these scholars to maximize their year, advance their research, and ultimately shape both their academic careers and the future of public policy in the region.

“The [fellowship] provided an ideal opportunity to leverage my methodological skill set and work with leading scholars on projects with contemporary significance. The MEI community continues to serve as a gateway to a broader community of like-minded innovators from Boston to the UAE.”

Muhammed Y. Idris, MEI Research Fellow, 2014-2015


Faculty Research 

ELI Faculty Research Grants support Harvard faculty conducting policy-relevant research in the Middle East. is program increases faculty engagement with MENA-based research – including opportunities to collaborate with or present at institutions in the region. These projects contribute to a growing body of knowledge on a variety of topics and inform evidence-based public policy in the region.

Student Research and Internship Funding

ELI’s Student Research Fund provides opportunities for Harvard students to travel to the region to engage not just with policy issues but also the people and culture of the region and to shape their careers. Such experiences build capacity and prepare the next generation of policy leaders from the Middle East, and draw future leaders from other regions to learn about – and in – the region more deeply. rough policy research, student internships, and experiential learning, this opportunity builds upon Harvard’s connections to and work in the region. 

“This project was fundamental in helping me research the frontiers of Islamic capital markets in a burgeoning hub of the industry — the UAE — which has guided my future aspiration of contributing to the global growth of Islamic nance.”

Azizjon Azimi, MPP ‘20


Senior Fellows 

ELI Senior Fellows support the Kennedy School’s mission to strengthen the bridges between Harvard and the region and between scholarship and practice. Senior Fellows at HKS o er students a rare opportunity to engage with notable practitioners from the highest levels of public service and academia, invaluably augmenting the HKS experience for students both from and interested in the region. is unique opportunity allows regional experts time and space to think through the most pressing policy challenges, exchange ideas with faculty and other experts at Harvard, and thereby return to the region with new insights, networks, and resources. 

Student Degree Fellowships

MEI collaborates with CPL to support 10-12 talented student fellows from the UAE and broader Arab world each year, working to recruit and select fellows and to coordinate personal and academic support during their HKS experience. ELI student fellows also have access to Research and Internship Funding, MEI Research and Senior Fellows, and MEI’s robust events calendar and broader programming on the region. Student fellows also bring a great deal of expertise and leadership to campus each year, making them a cornerstone of MEI’s efforts to bring the region to Harvard. MEI also serves as an important resource as students begin their career search, offering advising and networking opportunities during and after their time at HKS.

Policy Field Experience

MEI and CPL offer an annual intensive field visit to the UAE every January since 2015. Each year, participants explore a pressing policy issue and engage with government ministries, local universities, public-private partnership initiatives, and leading entrepreneurs, to discuss topics such as sustainability, energy, and innovation policy. MEI Fellows and Harvard faculty also join the trip, bolstering the academic experience for students and advancing their own policy-relevant research on critical issues in the UAE and the region.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Mawhorter, Christopher, ed. Emirates Leadership Initiative.” (December 20, 2018).