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06.01.06: Chris Lyttle (2002)

A prestigious Harvard scholarship was recently awarded to Chris Lyttle (2002) who has begun his postgraduate studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He took some time out of his crazy timetable to share his experiences and thoughts with Martina Callanan.

The Frank Knox Scholarship is awarded annually to recent graduates from the UK who display outstanding leadership potential in their field.

Five fellowships were awarded this year, and four out of five went to Oxbridge graduates, leaving Chris to fly the flag for QUB, where he was awarded a first class honours degree in Politics and English.

For the next year Chris will be a Frank Knox Scholar and special student, with permission to take any course from the Masters in Public Policy at Kennedy School of Government (KSG) and other departments of Harvard.

The scholarship awards tuition fees, health insurance and a living allowance.

Chris noticed advertisements for the scholarship at Queen’s and was awarded it after a rigorous application and interview process and separate successful application to his respective course at KSG, Harvard University.

He hopes to "get the opportunity to examine real time implications of specific policy under the guidance of globally recognised experts. I’m looking forward to exchanging with the people at KSG - the professors, speakers, and of course the students who are themselves world leaders. Present in my Human Rights course is a juror from the Post-Conflict Tribunals in Rwanda and my Christian Fellowship is the assistant secretary to the Nicaraguan Department of Defence."

His wishes seem to be coming true: this semester Chris is studying Criminal Justice Policy with Professor Chris Stone, Human Rights Policy with Michael Ignatieff, Leadership: the mobilization of group resources with Professor Ron Heifitz, Running for Office with Professor Steve Jarding and Spanish at Harvard College.

The Kennedy School attracts various speakers, which have so far included the President of Serbia who addressed the challenges for democracy in the Balkans and the UK Minister for Culture, David Lammy, himself a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Even with all the excitement and challenge, Chris misses home a wee bit. "I miss the city, the people, my church, football! I have a big heart for Belfast and it is always a challenge to depart from these shores." And he’s not looking forward to the Boston chill: "I am told it is even colder in Boston than in Northern Ireland during the winter!"

But he’s not getting much time to miss home too much - days at Harvard are best summed up in one word: "Crazy. The people at KSG are committed to learning. There is no room for the traditional student timetable at Harvard. Finding free time in a day that involves criminal justice class in the morning, leadership at lunch, Spanish in the afternoon and an address from the President of Serbia at the Kennedy School Forum in the evening is not an easy task. My basic disciplines of eating, sleeping and praying are taking a hit."

The tough schedule reflects the demanding attitude of KSG - apart from the rigorous academic requirements, admissions also look for leadership potential and a record of public service. "I have endeavoured to serve my community at local level and in my previous employment as constituency assistant to Cllr Naomi Long MLA," says Chris.

He points to his experience of the Washington-Ireland Program as a contributing factor to his attitude and success. "It goes a long way to explain the heart for service and leadership."

The vision of the Kennedy School of Government is to be a place ‘preparing leaders for service to democratic societies; contributing to the solution of public problems’. Chris is keen to point out that this is a vision shared by the Washington-Ireland Program.

"I hope to return to Northern Ireland as someone with the willingness to serve and the ability to pose solutions to the public problems faced by our society, in whatever tangible way possible.

I thank the Washington Ireland Program for a founding in this vision that I may never have received otherwise, and hope to see our Alumni Network display our gratitude for this opportunity by becoming involved with the development of this great program in whatever way we can."

For Chris, it is all "a real blessing"

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