The Kerry Initiative is an interdisciplinary program that focuses on pressing global challenges through teaching, research, practicums, conferences, and international dialogue.

The Kerry Initiative was founded in 2017 by former Secretary of State and now President Biden’s Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry ’66. Today, it is led by his longtime Chief of Staff David Wade and Sona Lim who has been a major driver of the Kerry Initiative since its inception.

Kerry, a 1966 graduate of Yale College, was named Yale’s Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs as part of the Initiative. Kerry took time away from Yale in 2021 to join the Biden Administration as the first-ever Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change, but the Kerry Initiative carries on, with a renewed focus on mentoring the next generation of leaders and tackling and analyzing the world’s most vexing issues.

The Kerry Initiative leverages the Kerry universe’s insights, experiences, and relationships on a global scale, collaborating with students and faculty from across the university and deepening the Yale experience to have greater interaction with the world beyond campus. In partnership with the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs, the Kerry Initiative advances Yale’s long tradition of preparing the next generation of world leaders.

Through the initiative, Kerry partners with scholars from across Yale, applying their shared expertise to questions of global importance:

  • global climate change and oceans issues
  • democracy, at home and around the world
  • failed and failing states
  • the challenge of authoritarian populism
  • America’s civilian security capacity for the modern world
  • public diplomacy
  • technology in foreign policy, economic opportunity and development

A key part of the initiative includes Kerry Convenings and Kerry Conversations. These events, intended to develop new approaches to solving these crucial challenges, are held at Yale and in various locations overseas, and they are also held virtually.

Teaching and research are fundamental to the Kerry Initiative. For multiple semesters, Kerry led a seminar course that was open to students from across the university, and that course is now taught by David Wade, and most recently attracted guest speakers from a former US Secretary of State, former White House Press Secretary, as well as a host of veterans, ambassadors, and NGO leaders. The Kerry Initiative regularly engages with students at Yale Law School, the School of Management, the Divinity School, the School of the Environment, and the Jackson School of Global Affairs. Through the Kerry Fellows Program, Yale undergraduate, graduate, and professional students collaborate with U.S. policy-makers on leading-edge research and high-profile publications for a global audience.