Swanee Hunt is the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. An internationally recognized expert on foreign affairs and diplomacy, Hunt is heralded for her trailblazing work to increase the participation and inclusion of women in peace processes globally. She is also Chair and President of Hunt Alternatives Fund, a private foundation committed to advancing social change at local, national, and global levels.
From 1993 to 1997, Hunt served as Ambassador to Austria. During her tenure she hosted negotiations and several international symposia to focus efforts on securing the peace in the neighboring Balkan states. Hunt became a specialist in the role of women in post-communist Europe and in July 1997 she launched “Vital Voices: Women in Democracy,” a conference convening 320 women leaders in business, law, and politics from 39 countries, which spawned the film documentary “Voices” as well as an ensuing State Department initiative led by Madeleine Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Ambassador Hunt’s work in Europe inspired the creation of Women Waging Peace, an initiative she incubated at the Kennedy School, which advocates for the full participation of women in formal and informal peace processes. In addition, Hunt teaches a course at the Kennedy School entitled, “Inclusive Security,” which explores this subject with students. She also teaches “The Choreography of Social Movements” at Harvard College.
A native of Dallas, Hunt began her career by working to address the economic and social challenges facing local communities in the Denver area. Hunt funded more than 400 neighborhood-based organizations to address issues including violence prevention, job creation, public education, and leadership development. Hunt’s widespread community involvement also included tenure as minister of pastoral care in an ecumenical parish, and she later directed a halfway house for mentally ill young people. Hunt worked with a number of elected officials, including two mayors and the governor, to advance the causes she cares about. She chaired initiatives on children and family services, affordable housing and homelessness. Hunt also co-founded the Colorado Women’s Foundation.
Hunt’s passion for mental health reform and advocacy inspired her foray into politics. During former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, Hunt co-chaired “Serious Women, Serious Issues, Serious Money”—widely considered the first time women from all walks of life came together as a united front to provide major financial backing for a national political campaign.
A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Hunt has authored numerous articles for American and international newspapers and professional journals including Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Herald Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Denver Post, Dallas Morning News, and Rocky Mountain News. She also writes a nationally syndicated column. Her book, This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace, won the 2005 PEN/New England Award in the non-fiction category and included a foreword by former President Clinton.
Hunt’s private foundation has contributed $50 million to projects committed to advancing social change. In addition to Women Waging Peace, Hunt Alternatives Fund has a national initiative, Prime Movers: Cultivating Social Capital, as well as, locally, ARTWorks for Kids.
Hunt holds two masters degrees and a doctorate in theology.
Follow Hunt on Twitter @SwaneeHunt.