Kennedy School Receives $20.5 Million Gift to Support Asian Studies


The Harvard Kennedy School has received a $20.5 million gift—one of the five largest in the school’s history—to be directed toward Asia-related programs and research, officials announced Wednesday.

The gift from the PT Rajawali Corporation, one of Indonesia's largest conglomerates, will be used to further scholarly research on Indonesia and is divided in two parts. The Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia will receive $10 million for its permanent endowment, spread over five years, and an additional $10.5 million, also paid over five years, will fund research, teaching, and exchange programs focused on Indonesia.

The Rajawali Foundation Institute will consolidate and endow work already done under the Asia Program of the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Both new programs will continue to operate under the leadership of the Ash Center, according to Julian P. Chang, the newly appointed executive director of the Rajawali Foundation Institute.

“It’s a testament to the vision and the forward thinking of a lot of people in Indonesia that...despite all the political problems, despite all the natural disasters and other crises, there are people thinking about how to move the country forward politically," Chang said.


The donation will allow the Kennedy School to dedicate new staff to research Indonesia and to work directly with Indonesian academics and politicians, who will be invited to Harvard for training sessions and meetings with other political leaders. The Institute will also encourage Indonesian students to enroll in graduate school programs at the Kennedy School in an effort to foster cross-university research and collaboration.

The Ash Center’s ongoing work in Vietnam encouraged the donation, according to Chang. After reading reports on socioeconomic development from the Ash Center’s Vietnam Program, Peter Sondakh—the billionaire owner and director of the Rajawali Corporation—had approached the Kennedy School to perform a similar competitive analysis of Indonesia. The initial report that Sondakh requested will be completed by the end of the month.

One of the major benefits of the new Institute is the integration of Indonesian political research with work focusing on the rest of the region, Chang said.

Although the Ash Center had already worked on Indonesian microfinance issues, there had been no sustained, in-depth research on the country. During the preparation of the new report, it became clear that creating an expanded program including Indonesian academics, politicians, and officials would be the most effective way to improve Indonesian political scholarship, Chang said.

“This gives us the opportunity to leverage what we’ve been doing in China and Vietnam to help the Indonesian government to think about their progress moving forward,” Chang said. “We can link Indonesia to other countries in the region in ways that they may not have linked before.”

—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at


An earlier version of the Jan. 7 news article "Kennedy School Receives $20.5 Million Gift to Support Asian Studies" incorrectly referred to the recently renamed Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Leadership as the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Leadership.