President Maia Sandu will deliver the 2022 graduation address at Harvard Kennedy School

Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced today that Maia Sandu MC/MPA 2010, who spearheaded a decade-long anti-corruption movement that led to her election as President of Moldova, will deliver the 2022 commencement address at Harvard Kennedy School. President Sandu is the country’s first female leader.

Sandu joined the World Bank in Washington as a senior adviser after earning her Mid-Career Master in Public Administration degree at the Kennedy School in 2010. But, just two years later, she returned to Moldova to restore a corrupt political system that, she claimed, was ruining the little former Soviet republic situated between Ukraine and Romania.

She served as education minister in Moldova’s cabinet from 2012 to 2015, founded a pro-European political party, and briefly served as prime minister in 2019. “Making people believe in their country again,” she said, was her main objective. Sandu faced down a battle between millionaire oligarchs and socialists for control of the government’s coffers, and she was deposed after only five months in office. But she vowed to keep fighting to transform Moldova into a modern democracy, and she was elected president by a landslide in December 2020.

“Maia Sandu has set an impressive example for Harvard Kennedy School students of what it means to be a principled and effective public leader and public servant,” said Elmendorf, the Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy. 

“Her decision to return home and enter the political fray, and her determination to challenge vested interests so she could reduce corruption and create new opportunities for Moldovans, offer important models for this year’s graduating class. We are so pleased that she accepted our invitation earlier this year to give our graduation address, and we look forward to her being able to come,” added him.

Sandu got a master’s degree in international relations from the Moldovan Academy of Economic Studies and a bachelor’s degree in management from the Moldovan Academy of Economic Studies. Before coming to the Kennedy School, she worked in the World Bank office in Chisinau, as well as in government and consultancy capacities. She can communicate in Russian, English, and Romanian.

After two years of virtual graduation ceremonies due to the pandemic, the commencement address will be part of this year’s in-person graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 25 at the Kennedy School. The festivities will be aired live on the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s website.

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