The Harvard Collective

Showcasing Community @ Harvard

Community and Innovation at Harvard Ventures

Harvard Ventures is an entrepreneurship and venture capital network, acting as a learning hub through which networks can connect and grow. It’s the largest of its kind at Harvard, bringing together undergraduates and alumni, and providing barrier-free participation.

Startups and venture capital are all about creating new value—going from zero to one—and networks are core to that. Harvard Ventures doesn’t provide investment, but it facilitates connection. Nothing drives the hustler spirit quite like being among other innovators.

The Bottom Line Podcast

In the spring of 2020, large parts of the world rapidly shut down and isolated in response to Covid-19, and Harvard was no exception. To a startup community that thrives on interaction, this is a tough situation. But it also provided the opportunity to demonstrate exactly what innovation means, and whether or not you’re able to adapt quickly when it’s not smooth sailing.

Harvard Ventures was not caught flat-footed though, swiftly gearing up The Bottom Line, its entrepreneurship podcast. If anyone was uncertain whether or not they had the chops to pull it off, they needn’t have worried, as the pod’s first guest was Mark Cuban. A statement of intent? Perhaps, and it was effective, as the podcast went on to do those most important of things for a new venture: it provided value and solutions, in uncertain times.

The Fall Comp

Moving forward in 2021, Harvard Ventures offers hands-on guidance as to how the startup ecosystem operates, and how to thrive within it. There are certain concepts you need familiarity with, and the Harvard Ventures Comp allows you to get to grips with them in a supportive environment. If you already understand things like startup metrics, funding rounds, and pitch decks, then it’s good to check in and confirm what you know. Or if it’s all new to you, that’s great: there’s nothing better than a clean slate and a beginner’s mind.

In addition to the comp, Harvard Ventures hosts regular presentations, at which attendees can get authentic insights into how successful companies are seeded and grow. Real life stories and tips, delivered in person, can be invaluable, unforgettable, and inspiring. Recent attendees have included speakers from proven names such as Tinder, SimpleBet, and Forethought AI.

Test Your Ideas

Although Harvard Ventures is not an investment organization, it can facilitate no-equity grants to undergraduate founders. This is done through the i3 Innovation Challenge, which is run in collaboration with Harvard’s Technology and Entrepreneurship Center. The focus of the i3 is on rewarding the best startup, but even if you don’t grab first prize, there is great value in testing yourself and your ideas in a competitive environment, and receiving feedback from expert judges.

Globally, we’re all experiencing turbulence, but also tremendous innovation, as technology levels up at a mind-blowing pace. Where there’s disruption, there are opportunities, but what’s also become clear is the necessity of community and connection. A strong network, such as that accessible through Harvard Ventures, is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Spotlight: Harvard College Debating Union (HCDU)

The Harvard College Debating Union (HCDU) was first established in the fall of 1981 and was previously known as the Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society. Currently one of the most successful, top-ranked debate clubs in the world, it holds a record eleven national titles, more than any other institution within the American Parliamentary Debate Association. HCDU teams have also been in 5 final rounds of the World Universities Debating Championships and have won 4 world championship titles thus far.

HCDU deals in both American and British Parliamentary styles of debate, a testament to its members’ versatility in debating styles, and members travel domestically to attend tournaments on a weekly basis. Joining the HCDU is joining a new and exciting family for life, where members train, compete and hang out together through team dinners, off-campus retreats and regular social events. Currently, the HCDU is headed by its president Ishan Bhatt.

As for events and media, the HCDU hosts three tournaments annually: the Harvard APDA, the Harvard National Forensics Tournament and the Harvard College World Schools Invitational, all of which are great opportunities for both novices and experienced debaters of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities to get to know more about the debate formats and make new friends within the debating circle.

The Harvard APDA brings collegiate teams from all over the USA together on Harvard’s campus for the largest tournament of the fall APDA season, giving novice debaters a chance to make new friends within the national circuit and familiarize themselves with the format. The Harvard National Forensics Tournament attracts thousands of middle and high school students from around the world and allows younger debaters to gain valuable experience in debating and public speaking divisions. The Harvard World Schools Invitational is the USA’s premiere World Schools tournament and attracts debating teams from all over the world to attend it in preparation and to gain more experience before the World Championships that happens in July.

In Fall 2020, the HCDU also launched the “Public Debates Initiative”, which pairs its debaters with professionals on current issues to debate for the public. These initiatives ensure its members get exposure to differing perspectives on public issues and also give back to the public through the intellectual discourse generated within them.

As for 2021, the HCDU completes the year with Top Honors once again, with 10 of its members qualifying to compete at the American Parliamentary Debate Association’s Online National Tournament. Its members won top honors and had the most teams still competing past the Octafinals. HCDU members also won cumulative awards for their year-round performance against other collegiate debaters in the American Parliamentary Debate Association, winning the 6th and 7th places for Speaker of the Year.

As for their British Parliamentary performance, the HCDU won First Breaking ESL Team at Cambridge, as well as Novice Champions at Oxford. Finally, the HCDU sent a record eight members to the 2021 World Universities Debating Championship in July, with 3 of the 4 teams proceeding onwards to the elimination rounds.

American Asian studies will undergo a historic expansion at Harvard

A generous lump sum of $45 million was donated to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) to embark on the expansion of American Asian studies earlier this week by Asian American alumni leaders. With the expansion plans in place, the academic depth of the area of study will flourish, allowing an all-inclusive academic vision to be prevalent for future change makers of society.

Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences holds this futuristic vision close to her heart.

“I am deeply grateful for these vital investments in Asian American studies, which are foundational to our goal to augment the study of ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration across many diasporic communities, and to create momentum around the research on race and inequality,” Gay said.

This generous sum will not only equip the university with much-needed academic funding, but will also give more power to the FAS to bring on board distinguished scholars and professorships.

Back in the Summer of 2020, Dean Gay laid bare her zest to ameliorate both teaching and research on ethnic inequality. She set forth four new faculty appointments, while also laying the foundations of the Harvard College Visiting Professorship in Ethnicity, Indigeneity, and Migration.

With this body set in motion, she was able to recruit esteemed scholars of race and ethnicity to have the study taught by the very best. Going forward, she is looking to further expand the Inequality in America postdoctoral fellowship program in order to take on early career scholars who have an academic leaning in racial and ethnic studies.

The president of Harvard University also stepped in to relay his gratitude towards the alumni community and their generous investment.

“It is imperative that we prepare our students to lead in our modern global society. The diversity and scholarship enabled by their gifts will benefit Harvard’s entire academic community— and ultimately society—by creating new knowledge that will amplify the experiences of Asian Americans in the United States,” he said.

Two members of the alumni community, Bae and Lee, expressed the importance of understanding Asian American struggles, and their contributions in molding the diverse and ethnic land of the United States of America.

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U.S poet laureate Tracy K. Smith joins the faculty at Harvard

Tracy K. Smith’s fruitful 30-year career was laced with numerous milestones in the field of writing that brought to the fore not only her creative excellence but also the bigger questions of American history. Taking all that creative fuel and expertise, she will now find herself in the English department of her alma mater, as a professor of English and African and African American Studies.

The first inklings of her passion for writing poetry were cradled in the creative writing workshops of Harvard in 1990 when she was just a young undergraduate who still had her whole life in front of her.

“Just taking the time to move through a poem and gather a sense of its insights helped me to name the things I was feeling. It saved my life, in a way,” she said.

Now, under her belt, she has 5 books of poetry— Wade in the Water, Life on Mars, Duende, The Body’s Question, and the anticipated Such Color: New and Selected Poems — and a captivating memoir, Ordinary Light. With the power of paradoxical and immersive storytelling, she delves into themes of love, justice, loss, and the significance of human connections, justice, and racism.

For the new generation of writers to harbor the same love for writing, she took it upon herself to give life to a similar space that had fueled creativity for her back in the day. This seeded the beginning of the Poetry Workshop: Form & Content, for the fall course.

“I love the feeling of trust and investment that takes shape…A workshop also keeps me honest, in a way, because the students are pushing themselves to write poems and take new risks every week, and I often feel compelled to write in solidarity with them,” she said.

Not very long ago, she set out on a journey called American Conversations, where she visited seven destinations, largely covering rural areas like Maine and South Dakota. What moved her the most on her tour was the revelation that poetry has the power to create profound conversations among people despite their backgrounds.

She says, “What I love about reading a poem is that you’re being invited into another person’s voice…we become more interested in the experiences of the real people that we are living, working, even struggling with.”

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COVID-19 infection rate remains low with Harvard’s multilayer strategy

With schools finally reopening after what seems like an extremely long haul, the health departments of every school must factor in the risk of COVID-19 infection and employ preventative measures to keep it at the lowest possible rate. Harvard University, among other schools, has had an exemplary infection percentage of 0.14 percent since the beginning of its COVID-19 testing program.

Executive Director of Harvard University Health Services (HUHS), Giang Nguyen, was interviewed to shed some light on pressing matters related to safety measures in classrooms and other solid courses of action to keep the spread of the virus at bay.

Mr. Nguyen emphasized the protective learning and teaching environment at the University after implementing certain aspects like making use of air filtration systems, maximum community vaccinations, the mandatory wearing of masks when indoors, and frequent testing for infection. He also highlights that they have “yet to identify a situation in which a person was infected as a result of classroom exposure.”

As for the handful of students who have decided not to take the vaccine due to religious and other reasons, Mr. Nguyen clearly states that the vaccination protocol is just one out of the four above-mentioned preventative strategies. Other measures like proper wearing of masks in classrooms alongside sufficient ventilation have proven to be extremely efficient in combating the virus spread.

He further goes on to elaborate on the procedure one could follow if they found themselves in close contact with a COVID-positive person. First of all, as a close contact individual, it’s not hundred percent certain that they’d contract the virus. If one is fully vaccinated they could continue attending class or teaching. What they should avoid though are social events and activities where masks would have to be removed (eating, drinking, etc.) The person in question would be included in Harvard’s confidential contact-tracing protocols and may be advised to quarantine.

On a final note, he says, “It is so important for all of us to remember that we are part of a shared community and that it is up to us to take care of each other, whether we are in the classroom, or unwinding on the weekend.”

To top it all, stress and anxiety often make an unwelcome appearance when one is kept in isolation. It is important to be kind to oneself and reach out for help if the need arises.

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