Thursday, August 16th, 2018
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Hodan Osman learns to ask new questions

When Hodan Osman, M.C./M.P.A. Mason Fellow
2018, arrived in Cambridge last summer, she knew exactly what she was looking for. After spending nearly five years working in Somalia’s
fledging government, the former banker had three things in mind. “I came to the U.S. to find lattes and sidewalks,” Osman says with a
laugh. “I’d been working in Mogadishu since 2013, and we would hear explosions outside the compound while we were having meetings about the country’s financial future. We’d order lunch, and you’d hear the bombs
dropping. It’s amazing what you come to accept as normal.” While Cambridge certainly has sidewalks and lattes in abundance, the
third thing Osman was searching for proved a bit more elusive.



“I’m passionate about state-building,” she says. “After spending several years working in a new government, I wanted to know: Is there a
process for state-building? A formula? An A to Z? We’ve been doing things that are new in Somalia, but these things are not new in the
world. I wanted to find models, answers, a how-to guide.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Osman’s time at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)
has left her with few definitive answers. Instead, she has gained a new appreciation for asking the right questions.
“I’ve loved being a part of this tight-knit cohort and having access to people who understand me. Our countries may be different, but we’ve gone through some very similar things and we can help each other.”



Osman isn’t leaving the sidewalks and lattes behind just yet; she’ll spend next semester in Cambridge, doing additional research on
state-building, before returning to Somalia to resume her work with the government. Though she’s grateful for the extra time stateside, she’s
also excited to return. “I fell in love with public service in Somalia,” she says. “I definitely needed some perspective, and the chance to gain new tools —but I left knowing I was coming back. I’m excited to go back. I can’t imagine myself doing anything better with my life.”



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