Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows Program

Partnering for Education Reform

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 goal is to help political leaders develop a deeply-rooted vision for educational improvement. The Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program – unlike any other Fellowship in the nation – provides political leaders from across the country with the knowledge they need to cultivate smart and effective education agendas.

Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows

The Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program partners 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.

The program currently boasts a network of over 100 Fellows representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, each year adding an incoming cohort of 20-25 Fellows.

The Hunt Institute offers ongoing support to Fellows through The Institute’s research, tools, mentors, and access to The Institute’s wide network of policymakers and experts

The Fellows are part of an elite group of high-ranking, elected state officials who have committed themselves to a nine-month immersion in the full education continuum.

The Vision

The nonpartisan Fellows program:

  • Exposes Fellows to the best research and analysis on innovative and successful education policies and practices
  • Provides an environment that welcomes distinct views and fosters debate on multifaceted education issues
  • Introduces Fellows to other leaders directing successful reform efforts across the nation.

The Fellows are part of an elite group of high-ranking, elected state officials who have committed themselves to a nine-month immersion in the full education continuum, from prenatal care and early childhood to postsecondary education and the workforce. 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.


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.


The Fellowship includes two in-person sessions – six days total – where Fellows engage with leading minds in education, policy, and politics. Throughout the program, Fellows interact with outstanding educators and school leaders, as well as participate in an intensive site visit of an area school. The curriculum is designed to equip participants with the knowledge, relationships, and inspiration they need to engage in critical conversations about equity and lead on education reform in their current roles and as they pursue higher office. Fellows, educators, and experts engage in critical dialogue about key education issues such as prenatal to three years, early childhood, teacher policies, school leadership, school choice, standards and assessments, school accountability, postsecondary education, and the workforce.

During the two in-person sessions and throughout the nine-month program, Fellows are afforded a wide range of learning experiences, including:

  • Policy Discussions featuring experts who probe Fellows’ thoughts on the challenges and policy implications of the topics at hand and provide additional knowledge building as needed.
  • Study Groups allowing Fellows to gain a deeper understanding about an issue. Fellows break into small groups to engage in a facilitated in-depth discussion, case study analysis, or examination of model policy. They also participate in a deep-dive session where they have the time to present a current education issue that is important to them, share their position on the issue, and receive constructive feedback from critical friends.
  • Strategy Breakouts featuring former governors. This session allows Fellows to consider political and strategy implications in an intimate setting.
  • Site Visits and Classroom Perspective which provide Fellows a chance to see various issues firsthand and points of view of current practitioners. Fellows are equipped with the tools they need to conduct future site visits in their home states.
  • A Personalized, In-State Session guided by Hunt Institute staff. Fellows delve into specific policy areas in a private setting, which allows time for individual consultation.
  • Monthly Webinars which provide Fellows a venue to discuss timely education policy activities occurring in their states, other states, and at the national level.
  • Regional Site Visits where Fellows from across multiple Cohorts participate in small groups to see innovative models in action. Fellows meet with policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders involved in those models.
  • During the months between the two-in person sessions, members of The Hunt Institute team also travel to Fellows’ home states in-state sessions. These in-state sessions allow Fellows to engage The Institute team and dive deeper into policy areas of interest.

Our Fellows

The Fellows Advisory Board consists of former governors who put education at the center of their agendas, learned from practical experiences of other governors, and utilized gubernatorial leadership as a lever to make systemic changes that resulted in improved student achievement. Members of the Advisory Board will serve as experts and provide counsel to participants throughout their Fellowship experience.

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