Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows

The Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program seeks to partner with senior-level political leaders who have the knowledge, skill, and will to be effective, reform-minded education policymakers at the state level. Named for renowned education governors Jim Hunt (D-NC | 1977-1985; 1993-2001) and Tom Kean (R-NJ | 1982-1990), the national, nonpartisan Fellowship launched in the fall of 2014. Ongoing support through The Hunt Institute’s research, tools, and mentors will be available to alumni, if desired.

The Vision

Education is the most important investment we can make to strengthen our nation’s economy and society. Senior, state-level policymakers have enormous influence over our complex education system, and yet, all too often these leaders are required to assume massive responsibilities with little background in education policy. Our vision is to help political leaders develop a deeply rooted vision for educational improvement.

The Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows – unlike any other Fellowship in the nation– will provide political leaders with the core knowledge they need to cultivate smart and effective education agendas. The program will:

  • Expose Fellows to the best research and analyses on innovative and successful education policies and practices;
  • Provide an environment that welcomes distinct views and fosters debate on multifaceted education issues; and
  • Introduce Fellows to other leaders directing successful reform efforts across the nation.

Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows will be part of an elite group of the highest-ranking elected state officials in the nation who have committed themselves to a K-12 education policy immersion, but participation does not require Fellows to adopt any particular policy position or ideological framework.

By investing in America’s political leaders, we aim to build a cadre of informed and motivated educational change agents with the necessary influence to reform state education systems and improve outcomes.

For more on Fellowship program design, on- and off-site learning experiences, and alumni benefits, please take a look at our brochure.

The Prototypes

Governor Jim Hunt

Governor Jim Hunt

Governor Tom Kean

Governor Tom Kean

Both Democrat Jim Hunt and Republican Tom Kean are uniquely qualified for the title “Education Governor.” As the state’s only four-term governor, Jim Hunt led North Carolina through an unprecedented period of educational improvement and economic growth. With a particular focus on early childhood development and improving the quality of teaching in America, Governor Hunt is ranked with U.S. presidents and secretaries of education as one of the 10 most influential people in American education.  

As a former teacher, education policy was of special importance to Governor Tom Kean, who propelled change in New Jersey following the report, A Nation at Risk. Governor Kean proposed, among other things, raising beginning teacher salaries, instituting statewide high school graduation tests, and adopting new approaches to education in urban schools. He, too, has been rated among America’s most effective state leaders.  Whether blazing audacious trails in early childhood education, establishing national teacher certification, connecting education and economic development, making historic NAEP gains, or fighting to raise teacher salaries, these governors understood the essential components of a coherent education policy agenda, how to establish and articulate a long-term vision, and how to use the bully pulpit to inform and move public policy. Hunt and Kean define what it takes to become gubernatorial legend.


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