Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot to teach at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Lori Lightfoot heads to Harvard for a fellowship at the public health school. Her course will be, in part, a study of how she steered Chicago through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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For former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, teaching at Harvard “gives me an opportunity to share my perceptions and experiences of the times we’ve lived through.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times (file)

WASHINGTON — Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s next chapter will take her to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where she will teach a course tentatively titled “Health Policy and Leadership,” drawing heavily on her experiences steering the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and grappling with health equity issues.

Lightfoot will be the Richard L. and Ronay A. Menschel senior leadership fellow at the school for the quarter beginning at the end of August.

Eric Andersen, director of the Senior Leadership Fellows Program and studio programming at the school, said in an interview, “we reached out” to Lightfoot because “I think as mayor and as a leader she faced many pressing public health issues, most notable navigating the pandemic.

“We believe our students will benefit from her experiences, insights and knowledge of leadership decision-making,” he said.

The Menschel program, the school said in a statement, “offers a rare opportunity for those who have recently served in top-level positions in government, multilateral institutions, nonprofit organizations and journalism to spend time at the school mentoring and teaching students who aspire to similar roles. Lightfoot will hold regular office hours to meet with students, faculty and staff during her time on campus.”

Previous Menschel fellows have included former mayors and governors. Last year, former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Boston Mayor Kim Janey were fellows.

Lightfoot wrapped up one term as Chicago mayor May 15 after losing a reelection bid, and the Harvard posting is one piece of the post-mayor life she is putting together, she said in an interview Wednesday.

An attorney, Lightfoot has taught before, mainly courses on trial advocacy at the University of Chicago and Northwestern law schools.

Teaching graduate students at Harvard “gives me an opportunity to share my perceptions and experiences of the times that we’ve lived through with people who are very committed to the public sector,” she said.

Lightfoot said her wife, Amy, and daughter will remain in Chicago as she takes on the Harvard fellowship, which lasts eight weeks. Though this is a residential fellowship, Lightfoot said she expects to travel back and forth from Chicago.

At Harvard, “I want to take advantage of the other opportunities that will surely present themselves, both to participate as part of the campus community and then contribute in other ways, too.”

Harvard fellows at the different schools at the main Cambridge campus and in Boston, where the public health school is located, are often invited to speak and take part in other programs and events.

Asked about her course, Lightfoot said she is working on her syllabus.

“Obviously, I will share specifics about the way we managed the public health crisis, hopefully, of a lifetime, but also talk about how we saw this crisis as an opportunity to address some long-standing public health challenges in the city of Chicago.”

Lightfoot said she anticipates inviting Chicago’s Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, to speak to her students.

Much of Lightfoot’s public health focus as mayor was on grappling with COVID-19. Lightfoot said her course will also deal with how her administration did other things related to the health of Chicagoans, “particularly the state of health of Black residents in Chicago. We did a declaration of racism as a public health crisis.”

Lightfoot said she will focus more on practice than theory.

The Chicago experience will be used at times as a case study, Lightfoot said, with her course also comparing and contrasting “what was happening nationally and internationally.”

Lightfoot, who is not independently wealthy, said she is nailing down other parts of her post-mayoral life — she has to earn a living — with the Harvard fellowship the first to be announced.

Since May 15, Lightfoot said she has been “spending a lot of time kind of reconnecting with people professionally, but also reconnecting with people personally and doing some kind of on-the-ground research and conversations on things I’m also interested in pursuing in my post-mayoral life.”

Asked if she sees a book in her future, she said, “That’s a possibility.”

As for teaching at Harvard for a quarter after four intense years in City Hall, Lightfoot said, “I’m going to open myself up to the campus environment.”

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