This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.
Deeneaus ‘D’ Polk, M.P.P. ’20, found his way from Mississippi to Harvard Kennedy School with plans to return to the South
Growing up in the small, blue-collar Mississippi town Pascagoula, Deeneaus Polk could not have predicted that his path would take him to Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Or that it would run by way of Germany.
As the oldest of three children, Polk — who goes by “D” — was responsible for keeping an eye on his brother and sister while his mother worked multiple jobs to support the family. But in high school, he got the opportunity to move to Germany for his junior year and fell in love with the country, a world away from the American South.
“That experience changed my whole life,” Polk says. “I really think I’d be either dead or in prison had I not gone when I was in high school. It sent me on a trajectory of wanting to become an ambassador to Germany and wanting to do more for my community. But even more than all those things, it gave me a new lease on life.”
At first, Polk thought he would become a foreign service officer, and after completing community college in Mississippi and attending the University of Mississippi, he returned to Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship. But as much as he loved the country and the German people, he felt the pull of home.