faculty dinner

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Losing an hour may not seem much, but 60 minutes is huge when I think about all the sleep I didn’t get this week 🙁

Between midterms, papers, and that activity called eating on top of attending classes and lab, I’ve been beyond swamped – not only this week but the 2 previous weeks before too! Spring Break couldn’t have come at a better time! SUNSHINE HERE I COME

I’m currently posting from the Boston Logan airport and will update as soon as I can 🙂

Happy Mid-March yall!

 

**updated March 22, 2013

 

I’m back on campus now from a delightful Spring Break and am no longer in travel mode – still working on getting off of vacation mode though! I am blogging from a much better mental mindset now compared to where I was a week ago. Spring semester definitely gives Fall semester a run for its money in terms of fun festivities and enjoyment.

I’m definitely enjoying all my classes again and that includes both required and non-required/elective classes. Having the freedom for elective classes is a perk of being an upperclassman; but I’m taking 3 required premed/Neurobiology concentration requirements that people normally take their freshman and maybe sophomore year that I’m really enjoying too! When I tell this to people, they’re always surprised as to why I put off these classes, but that’s just how my schedule worked out because I front-loaded my organic chemistry (aka orgo) and physics series. Since the majority of my classmates are freshman, it’s funny to watch them Facebook or nod off during lecture because as an upperclassman (I’m guilty of all above too), I am much more cognizant of my ticking time as an undergraduate and really appreciate the great lecturers that are available to me. I literally sit in class, really excited about having the opportunity to sit there … and may or may not be fighting the urge to high five freshman among me. I’m just happy to be taught by professors who are excited about the material they’re teaching because back at my public high school, this was not the case.

Although I love my classes, the hardest aspect about them is that all of their first midterms were spread out. You typically hear of students complaining (whining) about how they have all their midterms in the span of a few hours, but midterms are a struggle regardless of when they’re scheduled. Due to my 1 midterm a week schedule, I lived a very extreme month. I would study haaard leading up to the test and then treat myself to probably more relaxation time than I actually deserved afterwards, and then I repeated this vicious cycle. On top of this, I was trying to manage summer applications: finishing personal statements up, collecting recommendation letters, interviewing, pondering about medical school, and all that mentally taxing business. All in all, I think I would pick spread out midterms over condensed midterms if I was forced to choose the better of two evils.

One of my goals for this blog is to show prospective students (and their families) that Harvard College students are of course academically focused, but that this studious rigor also applies to outside of the classroom as well. I’d be comfortable saying that all students have at least one activity they are 200% committed to outside of class – check out Meaks‘ altruistic arm and Scott’s passport stamp collection!

There are two highlights of my week beyond the classroom.

1. Faculty Dinner – a few bloggers have written about our experiences with faculty dinner. Basically, both freshman and upperclassman dining halls host these faculty dinners at least once a semester. It’s a casual setting over delicious food where students can invite a professor or teaching fellow (aka TF, usually a graduate student) so both parties can get to know each other better. Although nerve wracking, it’s a great opportunity that most university students don’t get, so I try to take advantage of it every chance I get. This spring faculty dinner in my upperclassman house, Mather, I invited my preceptor from two years ago! All freshman are required to take an expository writing class (colloquially called Expos 20) that revolves around different focuses. My class was called Tales of Muder and I absolutely attribute my affinity towards writing to this class. I loved this class because of the structure (or lack thereof!) and I still refer back to my notes when I hit a wall outlining papers to this day. My professor and I caught up over these last (and fast!) 2 years. I had such a great time and definitely walked away from dinner knowing I will always find a friend in my Expos professor!!

2. Research Presentation – I’m a research assistant at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Decision Science Lab which is part of a great program of “social science scholars” who are undergraduates working on a variety of projects at many different labs around campus. About once a month or so, the institute organizes a luncheon where one or a handful of students will present the research they have been working on. It’s always nice to attend these luncheons because a constant reminder that I’m a part of something bigger continues to motivate me. This month, a student presented his work on audio files from the Supreme Court and how he tackles this enormous data set to determine (vocal) emotions and how (or if) this affects their decisions/decision-making processes. I’m always amazed whenever someone is answering a question I have yet to think of!

 

Hope you all enjoy reading about everyone’s different Spring Breaks!

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As a junior at the College, I live in the upperclassman house called “Mather,” also lovingly referred to as the concrete jungle.  We have a residential college system, where you live in The Yard – the heart of campus – during freshman year, then move into a House (dorm). Students remain in the same House – just different rooms – for their remaining time at Harvard (there’s also the option to transfer Houses though) so it’s very natural to gain tons of House pride and feel a strong sense of community. Even if you don’t know everyone in your House, you’ll definitely recognize faces. Mather has definitely become my home, meaning I think about my room (and roomies!) in Mather when I’m not on campus and homesick!

All my roommates from our first year in Mather – we don’t live in the same room this year, but we still call each other roomies <3

Housing Day, Spring 2012 – showing off our Mather spirit & swag

I spend quite a lot of time outside of Mather in different Houses – whether it’s psetting (the act of crushing problem sets with pure knowledge), catching meals or hanging out. I actually think I eat dinner more outside of Mather than in Mather! However, this week I’ve spent a lot of time in Mather. It’s been an awesome week of exciting events here!!

Mather Book Club

I definitely enjoy reading for fun! But I’ve had difficulty in “finding” time to read novels for pleasure and usually just spend hours procrastinating by reading random articles on my Twitter feed. This semester, I’m determined to find time for everything I want to do! I joined the Mather Book Club which meets monthly and I’ve really enjoyed it!

The Book Club is run by a student in Mather, supported by House Masters and Tutors, and definitely not limited to just students living in Mather House as all are welcome! We always discuss books over monkey bread and French pressed coffee – I would come without these incentives too though! 😉

For the month of September, we read Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and discussed the cleverly narrated novel. In October, we read Thérèse Desqueyroux which has a new movie coming out soon! I’ve enjoyed both books and I really look forward to our November book: The Year of Living Biblically, especially because it’s a book I recommended.

I didn’t anticipate how much I would like these discussions. I’ve never been super enthusiastic about English classes, but only because it’s hard for me to appreciate the laborious and time consuming task of writing papers when I could slightly less eloquently express my ideas to someone verbally much faster. However in Book Club, talking and joking about the psyche of characters and their interactions is beyond intriguing because it can either remind you of someone you know or open up a whole new way of thinking and understanding people.

I’m going to take this opportunity to go ahead and advocate for the liberal arts system of education because I feel so lucky that I get to concentrate in the sciences with regards to classes, but also have a plethora of opportunities to immerse my free time in other fields of study as well. As nerdy as that sounded, it’s true!! I’d pick a pset over a paper any day, but have me psetting most nights in a week and I’d be more willing to flirt with papers.

Mather Healthcare Discussion My Facebook newsfeed full of politically charged status updates definitely confirms it’s election season!

Certain issues may be dividing the country, but this is my first (and only) presidential elections during my time at Harvard and I feel like it has created a unifying atmosphere – all televisions across campus were tuned to the debates!

Most college students are eligible to vote, yet choose not to. To counter this destructive apathy, active Harvard students have been creating this huge movement to push students to register to vote by having voting and registration information available at all the upperclassman Houses’ dining halls during meal times and utilizing TurboVote. There’s even a House-wide competition where the House with the highest number of students who have pledged to vote get a cash prize dedicated towards activities intended to promote House spirit (i.e. seasonal House formals & class outings).

Mather held an informational/discussion event where politically active students and affiliates with the Harvard Kennedy School (i.e. Alum & Professors) came (with cookies!) to the Senior Common Room. They oriented us by laying out the healthcare plans of both Obama and Romney. Then questions were proposed to the presenters as well as the audience. One of the best debated questions was whether the government should focus on making healthcare more affordable or more accessible. When the issue was first presented, I had a clear opinion; but as I listened to others’ rational thoughts, I wasn’t so sure anymore!

I thought it was an extremely well organized event. The turnout was pretty small (less than 20 people) which made the environment much more comfortable to express opinions and ask questions. I’m definitely not one of the most politically aware people, nor do I take classes geared towards these topics, so I’m glad there are many other opportunities to become knowledgeable!  Healthcare is such a broad category which affects everyone so I really appreciate Mather making an effort to help students understand the current situation.

I was running meeting to meeting Tuesday night with tons of homework assignments lurking around in my mind, but I’m really glad I made the decision to make time (read: sacrifice sleep) for this event. My next Spanish composition prompt asks me to write a letter to a politician so attending this healthcare discussion has catalyzed my ideas for my next essay! I love when things come full circle!!

Mather Faculty Dinner

Harvard hosts a Faculty Dinner every semester. This is an opportunity for students to invite a member of the teaching faculty – whether this be a professor, graduate student teaching fellow (TF), an adviser, etc. – for a more casual setting for lively conversation over delightful food. If your head is screaming AWKWARD, you can silence it by finding comfort in the fact that you can invite one faculty member with a group of students.

Freshman all share one dining hall: Annenberg, so freshmen and their invited faculty all congregate here for a marvelous dinner, after a reception in the basement of Annenberg also known as the Queen’s Head. The lines are usually ridiculously long but it gives you a chance to break the ice – or create more ice haha. Freshman fall, I invited my Admissions Officer and then my Expos 20 (Tales of Murder) preceptor in the spring.

Each upperclassman House holds their own Faculty Dinner each semester with an earlier reception in the Master’s House. Dinner is always pretty fancy as there are table cloths and people serve you – how exciting! If you choose not to participate, the House asks you to eat dinner in another House for the night. During my sophomore fall, I invited my advanced Neurobiology professor with 3 other students in Mather. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend in the spring when I was taking organic chemistry (orgo) and physics – 2 classes with time consuming labs!

This semester, I invited my Neurobiology Tutorial professor, Dr. Barak Caine. I’ll be his student for the entire year so I figured I’d try to get to know him better sooner rather than later. My friend in Mather is in the class with me so I reached out to her and we sent him a joint invitation. We had a great dinner without even one lull in conversation. He received his Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego (my hometown!) so we had lots to discuss and I even learned so many fascinating tidbits about my classmate 🙂 It was definitely one of those nights where I eat 2.5x my body weight and didn’t regret it one bit – in other words, it was definitely a great night.

Snaps to Mather!

Although my week was pretty sleep deprived, it set up a good weekend. Get excited for Head of the Charles in my next post!

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Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of Dunster-related activity in my life: between Housing Day, room selection, and faculty dinner this past week, it’s been great to have excuses to get involved with the House.

First up: Housing Day. As many of my fellow bloggers reported, Housing Day is truly one of the most exciting (if not THE most exciting) day on campus, and I’ve found that the tradition has only gotten more fun as an upperclassman. Dunster, like every other house, starts the day early with breakfast in the dining hall – we all get decked out in new Dunster “swag” (this year we got tanks and sunglasses) and start getting ourselves psyched up for the critically important task of welcoming new freshmen into the House. This year, I had the important responsibility of sporting one of the moose costumes – mine was an inflatable moose head, which looked TOTALLY ridiculous on me but was a complete blast to wear.

Me (the moose!) with the Pforzheimer House polar bear

While Housing Day was a blast, I was also super excited to undertake the process of finding a room for senior year. Admittedly, I was a bit freaked out that I was looking for my senior suite, because it’s just further evidence that I’m starting to get old, but it was nonetheless fun to spend time with my blockmates finding the perfect room. While freshman blocking groups get randomly assigned to a house and then placed in a suite over the summer, upperclassmen are given the opportunity to hand pick their specific room. It is, of course, a privilege to have some say in what room you end up living in, but it also ends up feeling like an enormous responsibility – I’m in charge of my own fate! This year, as seniors, we weren’t going to take any chances and the process was undertaken with extreme precision and care.

The first decision we made was to join up with other girls from our blocking group, such that we’re living in a “quint” as a group of five (rather than in a triple, like this year). We then spent HOURS poring over the floor plans for the house, comparing common room size, bedroom layout, window views… We were so indecisive that the night before the lottery happened, we went and visited our top four picks, sinking so low as to knock on the doors of current seniors’ rooms at 11 pm the night before the lottery to settle any debate about which room was our first choice. We even hunted down the four groups who got to pick their rooms in front of us, to figure out which suites they were going for – this kind of information is important! Ultimately, all of the preparation made for a smooth lottery overall, and we got our first choice room – it has a SWEET view of the river!

Fourth Floor Plan

This week was also Dunster’s Faculty Dinner, and I invited Dr. Andrew Berry, a professor in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology department, along with two other undergrads from the House. It’s always such a great opportunity to have dinner with your professors – being able to interact casually with them makes for a really interesting interaction. One of my favorite traditions at Harvard!

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Hi everyone!  This week has been uncharacteristically warm for this time of the year in Cambridge.  I feel like the sunny weather serves as a reflection of my current mood, because I have some great news to share with you all!  I have officially completed New Year’s Resolution #4.  Looking back on my post about the New Year (#auldlangsyne), you might remember that my fourth resolution was to attend at least one Office Hours session for each of the classes that I am taking this semester.  Well, I am happy to report that I have officially accomplished that mission.

Actually, I like to think that I went above and beyond my set goal.  A few weeks ago, I went to Office Hours for my English Seminar on the Civil War, taught by Professor John Stauffer.  I was incredibly excited about our meeting, because he is one my favorite professors at the college.  In fact, I took a lecture course with him in the fall called American Protest Literature, but I never took the time to speak with him outside of lecture.  Since I was already stepping outside of my comfort zone by attending Office Hours, I decided to “go big” and invite him to join me for the Pforzheimer House Student Faculty Dinner.

Every semester, Harvard students have the opportunity to invite a professor, advisor, or teaching fellow (TF) to a Student Faculty Dinner.  For the freshman students, the dinner is hosted in Annenberg Hall (the freshman dining hall).  However, for upperclassmen, the faculty members are invited to dine with you in your respective house.

Unfortunately, he was giving an evening guest lecture on the date of the dinner, and so he had to decline my invitation.  However, in an unexpected (but welcome) turn of events, my professor suggested that we make separate plans so that we could still have a one-on-one discussion.  We decided to meet for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the Square, and the English Department was kind enough to sponsor our outing.

I have to admit that leading up to the dinner I was a little nervous about how things would play out.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hold up my end of the conversation, or that the discussion would be inorganic and awkward.  It turns out that I had nothing to fear, because my professor was as dynamic one-on-one in a casual setting as he is in the classroom.  We were in the restaurant for about two hours, and in that time we discussed my academic interests, my plans for my thesis (talk about thinking ahead), and he even offered me some course suggestions for next fall.  More importantly, he took the time to get to know me as an individual.  We shared stories about our backgrounds, touching on our families, hobbies, and other interests.  It was an incredibly positive experience, and my only regret is not reaching out to a professor earlier on in my college experience.

Meeting with my Professor for dinner was, without a doubt, one of the best experiences that I have had in my time here at Harvard.  It’s reassuring to know that even though a lot of the professors here are well known (and tragically busy), they will still take the time to get to know their students.  That being said, I realize that I may have never had this memorable experience if I hadn’t taken the initiative to go to Office Hours, or if I hadn’t taken a risk and invited my professor to the Faculty Dinner.  Hopefully I will continue to reach out to my professors and teaching fellows, so that I can have similar experiences in my future at the College.

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Normally, I have pretty good weekends. Sometimes it rains, which I like (but not whilst parading around Cambridge); sometimes I have a huge exam at 8:30 AM on Monday (cough cough…LPSA); and frequently there are fun fiestas to be attended. However, this was the best weekend I have had in a long time. Why, you may ask? Read on!

 

Thursday Night:

We didn’t have school on Friday, due to Veteran’s Day. So, I didn’t have to wake up for my 9 AM class!  (Fun fact: you may think waking up at 8 is fantastic in high school, as I did, but in college it seems that nobody goes to bed until 3 and everyone wakes up at 10 and I am cursed. Though most people [my roommates] do follow that schedule [as I do on Tues/Thurs mornings], I am pretty lucky to wake up at 9 so I’ll stop whining.) Also, it was FACULTY DINNER, which is an incredible experience. Da ‘Berg is officially transformed into The Great Hall and HUDS prepares an extravagant meal to impress our profs, TAs, proctors, and the like. Although I like Annenberg a lot, I hold no deep feelings of love for it except for during Faculty Dinner! My lab partner and I invited our lab TF, Greg, and dressed to impress before gorging ourselves on mushroom ravioli, some meat thing (is it obvious that I’m a vegetarian?), roasted root veggies, and cake. Carrot cake, chocolate raspberry cake, cheese cake…. Yummmm. Knowing the food would never again be this exquisite, I ate way too much and stumbled out of Memorial Hall with a rather large stomach. It was worth it, by the way.

After that, I went to the IRC semiformal with my roommate, Rachel, as her plus-one. She is some spiffy chair for H-MUN (Harvard Model United Nations), whereas I know nothing about this political smorgasbord. Luckily, we mostly danced. After going to the penthouse of the Cambridge Hyatt (here’s a lovely image) via taxi, we danced the night away until the wee hours of the morning. (Actually, I ended up splitting a cab with some people and leaving at 10:30, in preparation for Friday.) When I thought it couldn’t get any better, along came Friday.

 

Friday in the Lighter Hours

After parting ways with my cozy, cozy bed at 10:30 on Friday morning, I suddenly remembered that my AWESOME band (The Nostalgics) was scheduled to record our Holiday album from noon to six that day. Really, my email alerted me about this, in addition to telling me about a sweet deal at B. Good, this incredible burger joint near the Holyoke Center. UC Restaurants offers great savings on restaurants on some Fridays, so I went down and got 20% off of my mango shake and West-side veggie burger. After eating my second great meal of the weekend with three of my bandmates, I walked to the Quad and entered my favorite building on campus, the SOCH. (I’m not really sure if it’s my favorite building, but it’s very underused and underrepresented, so I have adopted it.) Some fancy event was happening, which is a rarity at this unfrequented 50,000 square feet of space, so we went up to the PentHouse where the recording studio is. Due to a recording malfunction, our recording session soon morphed into a practice session, with some fantastic originals coming together, as well as “All I Want For Christmas,” everyone’s favorite x-mas song. After figuring out some rippin’ horn lines and baller vocal backgrounds, we felt satisfied and packed up to go. Sadly, we got locked into the Emergency Stairwell, which we did not know was alarmed until we were inside. However, one guitarist had left early and saved us from a sure death, and we celebrated life at Pfoho dining hall, eating another fantastic meal, though I soon learned this was not good Chinese food. Expecting to not eat again, my chipmunk-storage complex switched on and I filled up on tofu and mini-corn. Little did I know, this was not the end of my Asian experience.

 

Friday Night

On the shuttle back to the yard, one of my band-mates asked me to go to Chinatown with him in celebration of a friend’s birthday. Although I was full and had little desire to eat, the draw of novelty appealed to me, so I immediately accepted. After taking the T to Park Street, we made our way to Hot Pot Buffet, whose two floors were, to our dismay, completely full. The walk was in vain, I feared. However, my friend was a lot more innovative, and decided we’d go to the Harvard Club of Boston. It’s really lovely, I soon found out, and is full of history, much like its namesake. In the Library, there’s a gorgeous pool table and loads of reunion books, dating back to 1900. My grandfather, whom I never had the chance to meet, went to Harvard for undergraduate and medical school (I think). I quickly (slowly) calculated his year of graduation, found the 10th anniversary book, and read about his life. My mom was just two years old when he wrote the report! This discovery really threw me for a turn, and I was flooded with thanks; perhaps a little premature, but we’re all really lucky to be studying here, and to be part of this history that, for me, binds me to my unknown ancestors.

 

Saturday Day

After again having a tearful departure from my bed, I set out on another lovely escapade. I walked down to Blodgett pool, which is across the river, and took pictures of our men’s swimming and diving team for the Crimson. My freshman class really shone, with Michael Mosca setting a school record in diving in his first meet and the freshman swimmers securing 1st place for Harvard. Here’s a photo:

Blodgett

Then, what did I do? More photo!!!! (FUN) I claimed a really amazing pitch (story) for FM, which is the Crimson’s magazine. What is this amazing pitch? Is the suspense killing you? Well, I will ruin the surprise– I GOT TO TAKE PICTURES OF GUACAMOLE!! Yes, that is right, I spent my entire afternoon sampling and photographing the delicious mush. More good food! My writer and I went to Chipotle, Qdoba, Boloco, Felipe’s, and Border Cafe. The last two were by far the best, which is good, because they are local restaurants, unlike the 3 other chains. Here’s a picture:

¡Guacamole Olé!

 

 

 

Saturday Night:

I continued in the spirit of photography as the sun set, presenting my photo essay to other compers (comp=competitor, but it’s no longer competitive, just an anachronism) at The Crimson.

Then, I sprinted to Holden Chapel, which is a beautiful and tiny space hidden in the Yard. The Speak Out Loud club was hosting a Poetry Slam, which is basically a spoken-word competition. (Think rap battle minus the hip-hop tracks, plus scores.) Eleven poets slammed their AMAZING poems, and I was lucky enough to compete against them. The place was totally humming with energy, as the crowd really participates in poetry through pounding their feet, clapping, and encouraging the poets as they perform. The first round, we slammed a 3 minute poem each, and mine was a story about a cabin I love in Vermont. The next round was the lightning round, where we’d slam a 1 minute poem, and I slammed about my love for poetry. Our scores were added up, and the top 8 moved on to the final round after a brief intermission. My jaw dropped as I found out I’d moved on; I thought those incredible poets had me beat for sure. We had another 3 minutes to get the highest score we could (which is a 30); the top 5 scoring poets became Harvard’s Poetry Slam Team! I slammed about coffee (as a metaphor for something else), and LOVED it, because the packed audience was awesome. At the end, we all lined up and five names were read. I’ll be competing in April at CUPSI along with my four other team-mates! More updates on this soon, and if you want to know more about poetry slams, here’s a great link. (To hear some awesome slam, here’s another.)

I went out and celebrated with my friends afterwards, and caught up on all my work on Sunday.

 

This weekend, I’m not going to Harvard-Yale; instead, I’m going to visit my grandparents and have a pre-Thanksgiving with them! Then, I’m covering the Tail of the Charles (men’s crew invitational) on Saturday, so I’m really excited to see what this new weekend brings!

 

All the best,

-Reid

 

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First off, congratulations to all of the newly admitted students! Students on campus are really eager to meet all of you for Visitas, Harvard’s prefrosh weekend.

There’s been a good amount of discussion around a recent article from US News & World Report (and a rebuttal published as a staff editorial in The Crimson representing the opinion of many students on campus). The debate surrounds the issue of student and faculty interaction at Harvard. I remember having questions on this myself before coming to Harvard, having heard both sides of the debate then. Thus, I thought I’d provide my perspective on the question, “Do Harvard students and faculty interact?”

The Good:

There are plenty of opportunities for student-faculty interaction, hands down. Just last night, six students and I invited the three professors of my Computer Science course on Privacy and Technology to my house’s faculty dinner: FAS Dean Michael Smith, Prof. James Waldo, and Prof. Latanya Sweeney. The course is just 30 students, and with three professors, we’ve been able to really get to know the professors and vice versa; in such a small setting, they get to know us by name. Over dinner, we talked about the work they’ve done in research and their career; for example, Prof. Waldo was involved in the creation of the Java programming language while Prof. Sweeney has been involved in a number breakthroughs in demonstrating holes and privacy issues surround common security practices in technology and biometrics. They also got to know us and our interests.

Beyond faculty dinners, there are also plenty of opportunities to get to know faculty members. We can take any faculty member to the dining hall at no charge for any meal. Almost all hold office hours just for students to get to know them. There are plenty of small classes after the introductory courses, which give you more opportunities to meet faculty; my research tutorial this semester has just ten students. Of course not all course are small, but there are plenty to choose from for those who are interests including plenty taught by senior faculty and about 130 Freshman Seminars just for first-years (mine was On the Origin of Morality, Rights, and Law with renowned Prof. Alan Dershowitz). Research and departmental jobs on campus also provide opportunities to interact with faculty in an alternate setting. And finally, every senior is offered the opportunity to write a thesis of original research (or creative work in some departments) under the close supervision of a faculty members; my concentration, Social Studies, actually requires this and is one reason why I’m excited for next year.

The Challenge:

I came from a small, nurturing high school. My largest class was about 20 students. It was hard not to get to know the faculty members just because of the close environment. Harvard, like any university of its size, is certainly different.

Instead of having teachers come to me, at Harvard I had to take the initiative to go seek out professors during their office hours or make a consorted effort to get to know them. As a freshman, this was certainly intimidating; it’s natural to question why someone who won a Nobel Prize or who worked as the President’s top economic adviser would want to take time to speak to an undergraduate who certainly knows very little on their subject of expertise. But once I realized that they’re at here in part because they want to work with students and it’s part of their job, it became easier. Last semester, I took a course on econometrics with about 200 students. I met the professor for lunch a few times, went to his office hours, asked for his advice on my post-graduation plans and on research, and by the end of the course felt we got to know each other. I would feel comfortable going to his office hours in the future to just chat, and I could say this for all the professors I’ve had for larger lecture courses where I made an effort to meet them outside of class and for all the professors I’ve had for smaller courses and seminars.

Certainly, it’s hard to meet every single one of of your professors between course work, extracurricular activities, and other time constraints; not all students necessarily see this as a priority amongst the other on-campus opportunities. However, if you make an effort to get to know at least one or two faculty members a semester as I was advised freshman year and have tried to do, you have the opportunity to see inside some of the brightest minds and gain access to ideas, opportunities, and friendship from a set of people who really care about students.

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The tall, vaulted ceiling, the warm glow of the overhead chandeliers, the wood paneling, the largest secular collection of stained glass in the world, the “OMG! This looks exactly like the Great Hall at Hogwarts!!!!!!” – it was all old news.

I turned to my guest. “Welcome to Annenberg Dining Hall, where I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday.”

[This isn’t exactly true.  I never eat breakfast.  I simply cannot motivate myself out of bed in the morning to go grab the most important meal of the day when stuffing my face with a cereal bar as I run to class is an option.  I also sometimes take naps during lunch… you can see where my priorities lie.]

My guest looked impressed.  “You mean, you have white table cloths and flowers at every meal?”

“Um… no.  That’s a treat for the Freshman Faculty Dinner.

The Freshman Faculty Dinner is one of those special opportunities provided by Harvard to encourage students to really get to know their professors.  Oh sure, you can ask professors to dinner any time, you can go to their office hours, you can even approach them after class, but for we freshmen sometimes all of this can be intimidating.  So, the Freshman Dean’s Office, in an attempt to shove us out of the nest, organizes dinner for us.

Students and faculty gather in the Queen's Head Pub for a reception prior to the Freshman Faculty Dinner hosted in Annenberg Hall.

My guest, as it turns out, was Professor Simon Innes of the Celtic Languages and Literatures Department.  Why the Celtic Languages and Literatures Department, you ask?  Well, that is actually an interesting story.

So I arrived here on campus in August with zero idea of what I wanted to study.  I knew that I was interested in something to do with Government… or Economics… or Social Studies… or Sociology… or Anthropology… (need I continue, or do you get the gist?).  The sheer volume of fascinating-looking courses that Harvard had to offer overwhelmed me (there are over 3,500).  I decided on taking a few basics – I knew I was interested in Government, so why not enroll in an Intro to Comparative Politics class?  Economics 10 (the famous Greg Mankiw course) was next on my list.  Then for fear of losing all of the hard work I put into the Spanish Language during high school, I decided it would be best to take the placement exam and enroll in Spanish 40.  Great.  But I still had an extra class slot to fill… hmm…

And that’s when inspiration struck.  I thought, “Wait a minute… I love history… and I’m Irish… but I know nothing about Ireland… ” So I enrolled in Celtic 118: The Gaelic World from the 12th to the 17th Centuries.  It was the best decision of my life.

Here I am, one of the luckiest girls on the planet for having gotten into Harvard, and in my first semester I get to be in a class of two students (yes, TWO STUDENTS) sitting across from one of the most knowledgeable people in the world in the field of Celtic history!  HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!  I get to ask as many questions as I want, offer whatever opinions I may have, and engage in stimulating conversation on a topic that really interests me.

Since there are only two students in the class, my classmate Katherine and I decided to invite Professor Innes to the Freshman Faculty Dinner, as sort of a ‘thank you for being so awesome.’  And if we thought our classroom conversation was interesting, dinner did not disappoint.  We got to learn why Professor Innes decided to concentrate on Celtic studies as a profession, what life as a professor at Harvard was like, how his childhood was in Scotland, and what he was like as a person, beyond just our professor.

As I walked back to my dorm after dinner with a sea of other freshman, I couldn’t help but feel excited.  I had reached out and gotten to know one of my favorite teachers on a more personal level (plus, the food was amazing).  And I think based on the loud voices, the chorus of laughter, and fast-talking going on around me, the other freshmen felt the same way.

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