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Monica Giannone '06

Monica Giannone '06

Founding Director, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Collaboratory, Harvard Kennedy School; Adjunct Lecturer, Management Division, Babson College 

Education: Wake Forest University, political science and religious studies; Harvard Kennedy School, master’s degree in public policy

What I’m Doing Now: As one example, we’re working a lot on climate change right now to meet the needs of adaptation and mitigation. We’re engaging with international climate negotiators on the process of climate negotiations, such as the Conference of Parties (COP). It’s one of the most complex conferences from a negotiation perspective. The Collaboratory offers a variety of programming and research opportunities for students and faculty at Harvard Kennedy to help them understand climate negotiations. We also work with the climate negotiators themselves to develop their own negotiation capacities. We believe deeply that if you can work better with others, collaborate, you can create more value — for yourself and together.

What Drew Me to My Work: As an undergraduate, I studied political science and religion, and was particularly focused on what happens to minority religious groups in countries with majority religions in power. That was the beginning of my interest in conflict resolution. When I graduated from Wake Forest, I lived in Morocco on a Fulbright, which happened to coincide with what is now often known as the Arab Spring. It was such an interesting time to be there, and I saw the power of grassroots organizing and youth movements. Back in D.C., I worked for a consumer advocacy organization, trying to get progressive legislation passed, like raising the minimum wage. I thought I would stay in D.C. forever, but I came to realize that our Congressional system felt very positional, designed to incentivize people not to reach agreement. It wasn’t for me. Finally, I went to grad school at the Harvard Kennedy School and when I sat in on my first negotiation class — required for master’s in public policy students — I had the quintessential lightbulb moment. This thing called negotiation was the connector to everything I had been interested in.

How KPS Helped Me Get Here: Every person in a student leadership position the entire time you’re at Kent Place is a girl. More than anything else, that was the formative experience for me. There was never, ever a question that you weren’t capable of being the head of something. When you're growing up as a girl, having that be the norm is very powerful. 

Advice for My KPS Sisters: Don’t be afraid to fail. I’m so thankful that Kent Place allowed me to see that failure is often the key to future success. Also, find your people. Maybe for some, “your people” starts with Kent Place friends. For me, it certainly did. But for others, that sense of community and sisterhood might come later. Seek out these people and keep them close to you because having a community of people — to challenge you and support you — has made all the difference to me.