Senior Class Committee

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It’s been a little over a month! So much has happened between Commencement and transitioning into the “real world” that it’s hard to remember every detail of the past couple of weeks. However, I’ll touch on some of the most memorable parts of my Commencement experience that made it so much more than anything I could have ever imagined. Here’s Part 1: Class Day.

As a member of the Senior Class Committee (SCC), I was able to help plan many amazing events for the Class of 2013. In particular, I was in charge of organizing Class Day, the annual gathering of the graduating senior class, as well as Harvard faculty, Housemasters, and the students’ family, friends, and loved ones. The ceremony is about two hours long, and features remarks from the Dean of the College, the Harvard Alumni Association President, graduating members of the Class of 2013 (4 selected student speakers, as well as student leaders on the SCC), and a special guest speaker. Myself and two other members of the SCC, Emily and Rebecca, worked together all year long to make sure this day was as special as possible.

The guest speaker whom we invited was Soledad O’Brien ’88. An incredibly accomplished journalist (she reports for CNN and HBO to name two) and philanthropist (she has a foundation with her husband that sends promising young women to college), we invited her because she pursued her passions of storytelling and followed an untraditional path after college. Today, she’s an incredible journalist, who has traveled the world telling stories of extraordinary people and circumstances. She sounds pretty awesome, right? Just wait until you hear the speech she delivered to our class.

Class Day Committee with Soledad O’Brien

Every year on the day of the event, the SCC is lucky enough to have a luncheon with the speaker. However, because these people are quite busy individuals, we were told that we shouldn’t necessarily expect to spend a lot of time with Soledad. And in past years, students have only been able to take one photograph with the celebrity. I can’t say that I was surprised when Soledad didn’t conform to these expectations. She arrived to the luncheon on time, and immediately started introducing herself to students. I thought this was weird because we obviously all knew who she was, yet she clearly didn’t think she was above shaking our hands and telling us her name just like any other person. Soledad was affable and down to earth. She was incredibly patient as she took individual photos with every single Committee member, which probably took a half hour–something that many people with an accomplishment list as long as hers probably wouldn’t stand for. She was quite the class act, and we all fell in love with her as soon as we met her. However, the most magical part of the afternoon happened when she took the stage. Soledad delivered a deeply personal and touching speech. I actually just watched it again last week, and despite the cliche message that one might expect from a Commencement address, her delivery was one of the most genuine things I have ever heard. See below. It truly made our Class Day one I will never forget, and she immediately became a role model whom I’m proud to be able to call our Class Day guest speaker. I know I’ll remember her speech forever.

Meeting Soledad O’Brien!

Presenting Soledad with a little gift from the Class of 2013 Senior Class Committee

Me and Soledad

Soledad’s speech (Keynote Address):

As Second Marshal (the equivalent of Vice President of my class–you see, Harvard has all of these official names, but it all means the same thing. Tuh-MAY-toe, tuh-MAH-to), I had the honor of closing our Class Day exercises. Speaking in front of an audience of 10,000 was incredible, especially looking out and seeing my family and friends in the sea of faces. It is definitely a moment I will cherish because I don’t think that’ll happen ever again.

My speech (Closing Remarks):

Keep an eye out for Part 2: Commencement. It’ll feature a special woman named…Oprah!

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Last week was Senior Week, which operates a lot like a high school senior week — a week of fun and memorable events just for seniors! My senior week in high school involved a Blue Man Group show, an honors and awards banquet, prom, senior breakfast and yearbook signing, and Relay for Life. Senior Week at Harvard is pretty similar, and I thought I would share our schedule events below:

Sunday, May 19 – Six Flags
Monday, May 20 – Scavenger Hunt
Tuesday, May 21 – Moonlight Cruise
Wednesday, May 22 – Senior Talent Show
Thursday, May 23 – Luau & Last Chance Dance
Friday, May 24 – Beach Day
Saturday, May 25 – Senior Soiree
Sunday, May 26 – Senior Olympics & BBQ

With friends for Senior Olympics!

I’ll be sure to post some videos from the Senior Talent Show as soon as we get them. We are planning to post them on our official Harvard 2013 YouTube channel. I did a hip-hop routine with Expressions Dance Company — we closed the show! It was so cool to perform on Sanders Theatre’s stage before graduating. Definitely one of the highlights of the entire week.

My favorite event was the Scavenger Hunt. I was one of the Senior Class Committee (SCC) members who planned it, and it was a lot of fun. Just as an FYI, the SCC is a board of just under 30 members of the senior class who plan events for our last year in college and make sure the transition to alumni life is as smooth as possible. The SCC tries to ensure that students remain connected to Harvard. Despite not participating in the Scavenger Hunt, my friend Nina and I got to make up all of the tasks and help score as people sent in their hilarious pictures and videos. We sent our peers off with over 60 tasks around campus and Boston, including taking pictures with tourists, conga lining down Newbury Street, and running around from freshman dorm to upperclassman house. There were some creative takes on many of the items on the list. It was pretty awesome to see how dedicated (and fast) people were. Two groups even got a Nobel Prize winner to do the dougie with them, which was a task that had one of the largest point values. We also didn’t think anyone would actually be able to do it!

SCC with our best blue steel faces!

Nina and I on Scavenger Hunt day!

It’s such a different feeling being on campus with nothing to do and a goal of simply having fun. I think every class should have a week dedicated to themselves at the end of the year, but perhaps that would make the final Senior Week less special. And of course, all good things must come to an end. Senior Week has come and gone, with a quick turnaround to Commencement Week, which included some of the most memorable and magical days of my life. Commencement warrants its own post entirely, so I will make sure I do that sometime soon. To give you a preview — I had lunch with Soledad O’Brien; I cried in front of, talked to, and hugged President Faust, Dean Hammonds, and Oprah Winfrey; and, most importantly, was awarded my diploma surrounded by my family and friends. There were so many emotions running through my head and it all happened too quickly. Luckily, it was well documented in photos, which I will post in my next blog entry.

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Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s my first post in 2013. I graduate in less than 5 months! I’m currently at home relaxing for a week before I head back to campus. I just returned to the States from South Korea on Thursday. I was in Seoul promoting the documentary I’ve been a part of for the past 9 months. You can read more about it in a post I wrote back in June, but to get you all up to speed, here’s a quick recap: “Homo Academicus” is a new documentary series that I’ve been hosting in between school and other commitments since the beginning of summer in 2012. Along with 3 other Harvard students (Brian ’14, Jenny ’13, and Lilli ’11), I traveled to various countries around the world to observe how cultural differences, privileges, and inequities affect education and styles of learning. Between the 4 of us, we’ve traveled to China, Japan, India, Israel, South Korea, and Uganda, visiting schools, interviewing students, and immersing ourselves in the rich culture of each of the countries. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for which we’re all incredibly grateful. It won’t be released until March 2013 on the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) and possibly BBC, but I thought I’d share a sneak peak of it with you all. I’ll have to try to find some online videos on YouTube or something, but in the meantime, check out the video below.

The trip to Korea was over a span of 5 days, including travel. The flight itself is about 14 hours, so we weren’t there for too long. The morning after we landed, we had a publicity blitz consisting of a morning talk show, as well as interviews and photoshoots with 3 different magazines and a newspaper. Some of the footage in the YouTube video above is from this week. Many of the interviews included questions about each of our upbringings and our road to Harvard. It’s fascinating how different all of our experiences were while growing up, and I learned new things about Brian, Jenny, and Lilli as we answered each interviewers’ questions. Many of the magazines also asked us our thoughts on the education systems of the countries to which we traveled. We mentioned some key takeaways we realized from traveling. I think one of the things we all agreed on is that we’ve been quite fortunate here in the United States, not just at Harvard, but in the education system in general. We’ve been able to study what we’re passionate about, which isn’t always the case in some other countries due to family expectations or boundaries that are set upon children at birth. We also agreed that we learned a lot more than we expected. Education isn’t the first thing you think about when considering cultural differences; it’s usually the language, food, social structure, etc. that come to mind. However, we all learned firsthand that the approach and attitude towards education vary from country to country and region to region.

This is one of the best examples of a neat opportunity I’ve had just by virtue of being a Harvard student. This project definitely would not have presented itself if it weren’t for Harvard, and all 4 of us agree that we’ll never forget this experience.

What am I doing this week? Well, I’m currently transferring files from my old laptop to my new one. My first computer was on its last leg during the fall semester, so I purchased a new one, but didn’t have the time to migrate photos, music, and important documents. Therefore, I’m doing it now–what I consider a great use of my January break. Unfortunately, I forgot my external hard drive at school in my dorm room so I’m currently using a 16 GB flash drive. It’s quite a slow process, and I’m driving myself nuts. It’s such a mindless process, though, that I really don’t mind it all too much. I just get nervous that I’ll end up missing a file that I really need.

I’ve also been working remotely from home with tons and tons of emails and Google Hangouts regarding things pertaining to the senior class. I’m a Marshal for the Class of 2013, which is probably best explained through the Harvard Alumni Association‘s website:

“Each senior class will elect eight class marshals. The first marshal is the Harvard College equivalent of class president and the second marshal is analogous to vice president, with the remaining six marshals serving as Class-wide representatives. Class marshals are elected by all senior class members eligible to vote, with the top two vote-getters earning the designation of first and second marshal, respectively.”

The Class Marshals make up 8 positions on the larger Senior Class Committee, which is a group of 29 seniors who work together to make senior year and beyond awesome and memorable. You could think of us as The Party Planning Committee if you’ve seen The Office. I’m pretty sure I’ve used that analogy when talking about House Committees in a previous post, but we do a lot of similar things–just on a larger scale! We’re currently working on a merchandise order, as well as planning parties, innings (around campus), outings (in Cambridge or Boston), service trips, and Senior Week in May. We actually just launched our official website––so be sure to check that out!

I’m off to migrate more files. Take a look at our new Twitter layout for 2013. I’m no pro, but I try. We received some new followers after early admit decisions came out last month, so I’m trying to use my time productively and make it stick!

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