Zane Vāgnere: Grundmanis Fellowship Report

Jan 8, 2023

AABS is pleased to recognize Zane Vāgnere for her completion of the Jānis Grundmanis Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowships for Study in the U.S.

Zane Vagnere smiles at the camera

©Zane Vāgnere, 2022

Zane Vāgnere is an experienced public administrator and international policy expert with a career spanning over two decades. She is currently the Deputy State Secretary for International Affairs, Integration, and Media Policy at the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia.

Zane holds a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she successfully completed coursework in management, leadership, and decision sciences. She also obtained a Mini-MBA from Harvard Business School and a Master of Laws in Public International and European Law from the Riga Graduate School of Law.


The Impact of an Award: Report from Zane Vāgnere

After the completion of her fellowship, Zane Vāgnere submitted a reflection to AABS.
We thank her for her permission to publish her thoughts, which have been lightly edited.


From June 2021 to May 2022, I was a graduate student in the Master of Public Administration, Edward S. Mason Program (Mason Program) at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The Mid-Career Master Public Administration Mason Program is designed to help public policy leaders from transitional economies, developing, or newly industrialized countries advance positive growth and change. The program’s curriculum is tailored to sharpen the leader’s individual and the cohort’s collective abilities to address some of the world’s most compelling challenges that require advanced collaboration skills and an inter-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach. In the 2021-2022 academic year, the Masons program comprised mid-career and advanced career leaders from fifty-one countries.

My initial focus during the studies was on the impact of technology development on the media and public opinion and the role and motivation of corporations in the public policy-making process. Preventing adverse societal effects in the development stage of technology is a practical way to avoid these effects from arising in the first place. However, the global nature of technologies and their transformative power in every domain of public life necessitates a broader approach.

I completed ten courses throughout the program, a total of 34 course credits for my studies. The courses range from technology and media-related studies to the global framework of international relations, energy security, geopolitics, international economic development, leadership strategies, negotiations, communication studies, and other courses, including at the Harvard Business School. In the following, I will summarize some of the most impactful ones.

Addressing adverse effects of disruptive technologies requires adaptive leadership within societies and organizations as they face the challenges of a changing world. Working on solutions under a high degree of initial uncertainty requires leadership that creates opportunities for individuals, societies, and organizations to rethink, innovate, adapt, or fundamentally change the “old ways of doing things”. In the course Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change, leadership theories were applied to practice that clarified the relationship among crucial concepts – leadership, management, authority, power, influence, followership, citizenship – and provided a practical and coherent theoretical framework. This course allowed me to develop diagnostic tools for analyzing the complexity of change in social systems and strategies of action for significant societal challenges.

The global character of technology requires placing these challenges within the context of the global economic system. The course Why Are So Many Poor Countries, Volatile, and Unequal? looked into the state of development across the world and its evolution. It discussed different approaches to inequality in economic systems, including factors such as capital accumulation, demography, institutions, and obstacles to structural transformation.

International relations, geopolitics, energy security, and global warming need to be taken into account when determining future policies for technologies and international development. Also, international relations and geopolitics of energy are key factors that determine the overall course of the world’s security and global action.

The course Realism in International Politics discussed the various realism theories that, since the end of the unipolar, countries interact on the global stage and ultimately shape the overall global balance of power. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, these international realism theories have become more present in global discourse. Also, the energy environment has long shaped global affairs and continues to mold global politics. The Geopolitics of Energy and the Energy Transition course examined the complex interplay between energy, climate, the transition from fossil fuels, and international politics, technology, and national security.

In addition to the Harvard University diploma, I was awarded a Certificate in Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences. Also, I completed an extra-curricular program, From Harvard Square to Oval Office, focusing on women’s leadership.

The Grundmanis Fellowship was essential in pursuing my goal – to better understand how to address the unintended consequences of technology while maintaining an open environment that fosters innovation and allows people and the economy to flourish. The fellowship was essential for completing my studies at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Mid-Career Master in Public Administration program. Upon conclusion of my studies, I am returning to serve Latvia’s public service, give back to my community, and continue to improve public policy and leadership so people in Latvia, Baltics, and Europe can live in safe, free societies, just, and sustainably prosperous.

– Zane Vāgnere


What is the Grundmanis Fellowship?

The Jānis Grundmanis Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowship, established in the memory of Dr. Jānis Grundmanis, is an annual fellowship of $20,000 for graduate or postgraduate study in the United States.

Recipients of the fellowship must be citizens of the Republic of Latvia, speak Latvian, and have their permanent residence in Latvia. Preference will be given to applicants studying in the field of humanities or social sciences.


The application deadline for academic year 2023-2024 is February 1, 2023. Applications will be evaluated by the AABS 2023–2024 Grants Committee consisting of AABS VP for Professional Development Dr. Kaarel Piirimäe, AABS President Dr. Dovilė Budrytė, and AABS Director-at-Large Dr. Daunis Auers. Award notifications will be made in April 2023.

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