From the Admissions Office

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Cody Dean, Government Concentrator in Mather House, Class of 2014

Veritas. Truth.  As our motto, it’s what we seek to discover and make known as a university. It isn’t tamed by mountains, impeded by deserts, nor deprived of its existence by institutions of our own creation.  Truth can solely exist and await its discovery. It is a universal language that knows no borders and serves as a foundation to our existence.  Sans the sensationalism, Harvard has proven to me that this truth exists in all places around the world and not just in Harvard Square.

Coming to Harvard from the small town of Crab Orchard in the great state of West Virginia, I thought I knew exactly what the truth was. I had preconceived idea of what the world was and how we relate with those whom are our brothers and sisters in humanity, but are distant cousins in culture.  However, looking back on that idea after my first year at Harvard, I could not have been more blinded. I had allowed my own experience to cloud my perception of the masses.

Harvard casts its net into the far reaches of our world and I have been given many opportunities to visit some of the most exciting places in that net during my first year. Over our extended winter vacation during the month of January, I took an opportunity to travel to the tiny fishing village of Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. Located about an hour outside of the city of Jeddah, Thuwal is one of the many villages along the Red Sea. The town consists of the university, a local fish market and souk, and seemingly endless expanses of desert on all sides.  While there, I worked as a coordinator for the Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology. A connection from a recent Harvard alumnus offered me the opportunity to experience a culture that, for many, remains a mystery.

 

Erected just three years ago, the university could be described as a fortress in the middle of a desert wasteland. While there, I worked as one of the program coordinators for the 2011 WEP. We brought in distinguished speakers from all walks of life to speak during the month long program and organized talks and symposia with topics including entrepreneurship, sustainable development, 3D animation, chemistry, and biological/marine sciences. I had the great pleasure of helping coordinate the multimillion-dollar program as well as the opportunity to meet and work beside distinguished guests such as Dr. Bengt Nordén, former chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee in Chemistry, and Maria Zuber of MIT and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. I also had to opportunity to experience daily life in the Muslim culture and saw a completely different system of government at work. I was challenged and at times overwhelmed by how much I once thought I understood about world religions, culture, and government. I saw the beauty of a religion that I had once dismissed as the opponent of my own and formed connections and friendships with people that I would have never encountered had Harvard not brought us together. I quickly realized that it is far too easy to categorize people subconsciously. It has been in the instances of complete immersion that I am constantly discovering what the truth is for me.

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As I write this today, I’m sitting in a café in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I am spending the summer studying the Argentinean flavor of the Spanish language and eating my weight in the local beef as part of the Harvard Summer School in Buenos Aires. (Seriously, the things I would do for a vegetable these days are astonishing!) I was able to attend the program thanks to the generous gift from David Rockefeller SB ’36, LLD ’69 via the international experience grant named in his honor. I am spending eight weeks traveling around Argentina and learning the culture and language. We live with Argentinean host families for two months and get hands on experience of what Porteño life is truly like. We signed a firm contract to speak only in Spanish for two months and that requirement is taken quite seriously. Throughout of the program, we will travel to many of the various provinces of the country to further appreciate the rural life that exists outside Buenos Aires. The academic elements of the program have proven to be quite rigorous, but the result will mean an entire year’s worth of Spanish language credit towards my language citation at Harvard. My fluency has improved immensely throughout the summer, and we have traveled to some of the most breathtaking locations in the world.  I have been amazed by the national addiction to fútbol and the expressive passion that is deeply embedded in the Argentinean culture. The program has given me a solid understanding of both the life and literature of Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and has highlighted the music, nature, politics, and religion of the Argentines. The intersection of language and culture has been perfect for my understanding of the value of other lifestyles and I can’t recommend spending some time abroad while in college highly enough. Whether it’s having your group bus break down in the middle of the Corrientes marshlands or getting lost in the maze of streets that form Capital Federal, Argentina is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

 

 

If I could leave you with one piece of advice, it would be to seize every opportunity and take time away from the place you know best to discover what life is like in another’s shoes. Best wishes as you continue through your high school career!

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Sue Brown, Resident Dean of Freshmen, Elm Yard

If you are an incoming freshman, first of all let me congratulate you on your accomplishment! Here at the Freshman Dean’s Office, we are very excited to meet you in August. You are probably engaged in one of a variety of activities (or several, as the case may be). You are working, traveling, backpacking through the wilderness (and likely not reading this blog), or just hanging out and gearing up for the big move. It’s an exciting time.

 You probably aren’t really wondering what we are doing in the FDO. Who are we anyway? Well, at our helm is the Dean of Freshmen Tom Dingman. There are four Resident Deans who oversee roughly 60 proctors. All of us live in residence with or very close to students. We have a fantastic Director of Freshman Programming (Katie Steele), an outstanding Department Administrator (Sheila Coveney) and a thoroughly amazing support staff (Julie Berenzweig, Brandon Edwards, Mary Lincoln, and Chrissy Spakoski). We hope you’ll come by and meet us in the fall!

So, what are we doing? Well, believe it or not, we are getting to know you. Most of the FDO is busy preparing in a variety of ways for your arrival. The four Resident Deans are housing you with your future roommates. You may or may not know this, but we do nearly all of it by hand. The only random bit is which dean you’ll work with (which puts you into either Elm, Ivy, Crimson, or Oak Yard). After that, we go through all the applications individually and match you based on a number of factors including the preferences you indicated on your housing applications. This process takes several weeks in the summer. Each of us has 400-450 students to fit into the spaces in each Yard (which are all very different!). In the end, we build entryways that reflect in some way or other the diversity of the freshman class. We’ll be finishing up and sending out your housing assignments next week!

How do we do this? Well, I can’t give away all of our secrets, and I can’t speak for the others, but I can share a little about how I do it. First I house the women and then the men. Each of you indicated your preferences for social and neatness levels in your suite, as well as how many students you would like to live with. This gives me a broad sorting mechanism. I then read through each application and note your interests and musical tastes and study your essay very carefully. Do you like art museums and coffee? Perhaps I’ll find someone from another country who also likes art museums and coffee to go with you. Do you like Broadway show tunes and country music? Maybe your roommate will, too. Do you have an adventurous spirit and a quirky sense of humor? Maybe your roommate will will have spent a gap year in Southeast Asia and want to write for the Lampoon. Do you like video games/not like video games? Are you particular about your bedtime? Do you want social roommates who hope to use the room to study and relax, while they socialize outside the dorm? These are just some of the many, many things that get taken into consideration when we match you.

Here’s what it looks like when we’re in the thick of it (imagine a very large game of Concentration):

In matching this way, we hope you’ll teach each other and share your life stories with each other. We hope you will broaden each other’s horizons and support each other. We hope you will be open to each other’s differences as you seek out your commonalities. Ultimately, we hope that you and your roommates will strive to enrich each other’s lives. This is what you tell us you are eager to experience.

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Sophie Fry, Government Concentrator in Adams House, Class of 2013

It’s always been my dream to spend a summer in DC. Although I’m from London, England, I am fascinated with American Politics. As a government major at Harvard, I have relished the chance to take classes such as ‘American Presidential Elections from 1960 – 2008’ and ‘The Supreme Court and American Politics’. Yet being in DC has exceeded all the expectations I had initially held from watching hours of the West Wing and films such as Dave and The American President.

This summer I am working at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), an organization chaired by Madeline Albright which works on promoting democracy in countries all around the world. With this being a topic at the forefront of everyone’s mind due to the Arab Spring, it has been a fascinating time to be working here. The work I do for NDI is varied, and it really changes day to day, giving the job an exciting edge of the unexpected. I attend regional team meetings and get expert information and updates regarding news from countries in every corner of the globe. Due to the international nature of the work NDI does, I also help organize a lot of travel (if you’re looking for a good hotel in Lithuania, or need to know the best way to drive from Bosnia & Herzegovina to Kosovo, I’m your girl), and many times have put together teams to go perform development work with political parties in countries such as Sierra Leone and Haiti.

Photo with Senator Shaheen

I heard of this opportunity through Harvard’s Institute of Politics, an organization that I devote a lot of time to on campus. During the year, the IOP runs programs dedicated to getting students involved in politics and public service, and brings in some incredible speakers – this last year, I had the chance to meet and hear figures such as

former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and General Odierno speak on campus. On top of this day to day programming, the IOP also runs a fantastic internship program which sets up funded internships in organizations not just across America, but around the world – I have friends working in places such as the UK Houses of Parliament and the World Health Organization in Geneva!

Yet, my political experience in DC isn’t contained solely within my working hours. The Institute of Politics also runs a program called ‘Summer in Washington’, which organizes opportunities for Harvard students down in DC. Some of the coolest things I’ve had the chance to do so far this summer have included: going to see a taping of Meet the Press, featuring 2012 Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum, and the first debate between the chairs of the DNC and RNC, Debbie Wassernan-Schultz and Reince Priebus respectively; having lunch with one of Joe Biden’s foreign policy advisors and speech writer, Jon Finer; and having coffee on the Hill with Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Photo at the NBC Studios on the set of Meet the Press with host David Gregory

DC is a great place to spend summer – there are hundreds of college students in the Capital doing incredibly interesting things, and there is always something going on to keep you busy! Although I only have a few more weeks here at NDI, I know that I will definitely be back in DC in the very near future.

 

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We hope everyone is enjoying a fun and relaxing summer!  The weather is beautiful  here in Cambridge, and in the Admissions Office we’re enjoying the sun and gearing up for next year’s process and some exciting new changes, including the return of Early Action.  As our student bloggers are away on vacation, we’ve enlisted the help of some of our friends throughout the University to write as Guest Bloggers throughout the summer.  You can look forward to hearing from students, faculty, and staff who are  doing interesting things on Harvard’s campus and throughout the world this summer.  Stay tuned for updates!

Greetings from the Economics Department Advising Office.  As the largest concentration at Harvard, we in Econ have a dedicated team of advisors (a.k.a., The A-Team) to assist undergraduate economics concentrators.

What is the “advising office,” you wonder? With around 800 concentrators, doling out advice and helping said concentrators can be a bit daunting.  Enter: the Ec Advising Office, where some interesting people can help you find your way around our lovely Department. We also have a steady supply of coffee, tea, chocolate, and an occasional puppy.  Yes, that’s right—we have puppies.

Who is in the advising office, you wonder?  We have five dedicated advisors, our Undergrad Program Assistant Emily Neill (who doubles as a fashion consultant), and the Director of Undergrad Studies Professor Jeffery Miron.  Jeff doesn’t live in the advising office like the rest of us, but he visits a lot (…mainly for the coffee and puppies). 

What happens in the advising office, you wonder?  Our Advising Office is the hub of excitement in the Economics Department.  Throughout the year, we host a variety of events for concentrators.  On a typical day, we answer all sorts of questions, sign forms, engage in deep conversations about economics and the world, and help people select a flavor of tea.  Here is a non-random sample of our conversations with students this week.  For anonymity, names have been changed.

  • Jinyuan, a senior, wanted to know when he’ll get his honors exams result.  Patience, dear.  It’ll take a few weeks and you have papers to write. We’ll be in touch. 
  • Maria, a junior, wants to take some graduate level Ec courses during her senior year and wondered what math background she needs.
  • Guy-in-a-red-shirt couldn’t find the bathroom.  Out the door, to the left, then a quick right at the elevators.  No worries.
  • Josh, a grad student (gasp!), came by to steal some coffee.  It’s not even that good, dude!
  • Brian, a junior, wants to write an honors thesis and was wondering what he can do over summer break to prepare.  We had a lovely talk, and he is pumped to get started on research.

 Throughout the academic year, we get a huge variety of questions.  Some A-Team favorites: 

  “OMG am I, like, totally going to be lost in the sea of Ec concentrators?”  Well, you could, like, totally get lost in the shuffle… but you don’t have to get lost in the shuffle.  You can absolutely have meaningful interactions with faculty, get to know them, and have them get to know you. 

In fact, many Econ professors’ office hours are often empty.  Most professors enjoy interacting with students. You should totally take advantage of office hours.  You can invite your favorite prof to a faculty dinner and have a nice chat over a delicious meal.  You can attend one of our many weekly seminars and chat with a prof afterward. 

  • Does being an Econ concentrator mean I have to work on Wall Street after I graduate?”  No.  While many of our students pursue careers in finance, so do many students from other concentrations.  You can focus on any of a number of Ec subfields: game theory, labor, development, environmental econ, political economy, health, psych and econ, and more.  Or, you can study Ec while you’re a student just because it’s super fun, and then do something completely different when you graduate!
  • “What GPA in Econ will guarantee me an awesome job when I graduate?”  First: relax.  Consider taking up yoga.  Second: no GPA can guarantee anything.  When you look for a job someday, you are a package; your GPA is only one part of that.  You also have a personality, interests, extra-curricular accomplishments, character, hopes, dreams, and more.  Don’t get so focused on a number.

So, there you have it: a glimpse into the Econ Advising Office.  Why do we all spend our time here, you wonder?  Economics provides a fascinating way of examining the world.  It’s a way of thinking about how people, companies, and countries work, and why we observe certain phenomena.  There are many opportunities here at Harvard to learn economics from some of the world’s best economists.  There are also many opportunities to put what you learn into action via student groups, studying abroad, interacting with amazing visiting speakers, researching questions important to you, and much more.

Our office helps students interested in Economics make the most of their time here and get ready for life beyond Harvard.  That’s a pretty neat thing to be a part of, and is why we’re all here (…though we like the coffee and puppies too).

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Katie Gunn, senior, Sociology, Adams
Kappa Kappa Gamma  www.krimsonkappas.com)

Entire Chapter in Nantucket

I never thought that I would join a sorority when I went to college – although friendships have always been a huge part of my life, I guess that I unknowingly accepted far too many stereotypes of the Greek system and did not want the type of drama that I envisioned came with being a sorority member as part of my college experience. But, when I came to Harvard for Admitted Students Weekend (now Visitas!) and met many of the girls in my host’s sorority, I began to question those stereotypes. Is being in a sorority really like in the movies? That’s like asking if Harvard is really as it is portrayed in Legally Blonde – and the answer is a resounding no.

Chapter at Recruitment Outside with Kappa Signs

Kappa at Recruitment with Banner

 I went though recruitment, which happens in the beginning of the second semester, sans most of my best freshman year friends and not really knowing any of the current sorority members. I took a leap of faith, but discovered after the first day a group of girls that I instantly clicked with. The first member of Kappa Kappa Gamma that I ever met was everything that I admired – intelligent, driven, passionate, friendly, confident, and above all, a leader in the Harvard community. This was like a dream come true! The ladies of Kappa at Harvard are a group of women who all share these traits in common – they are funny, sincere, driven, sociable. They have fun social events, sponsor philanthropy events on campus, form class study groups, host a professor’s tea at the faculty club, and have sisterhood dinners and study breaks weekly. Kappa is an all-encompassing experience that provides you with a loving group of sisters who not only support you in your personal endeavors but also enrich your life through Kappa events.

Kappas in Nantucket at Dinner

Kappa – Harvard UNICEF Event

Most of all, the women of Kappa Kappa Gamma provide a family, a support system that you can lean on in times both good and bad. I immediately share my most exciting accomplishments with the chapter but also turn to them when I am too overwhelmed to continue or am disappointed with something that has happened. I laugh with them, cry with them, and they are always there for me to support me no matter what. At every basketball game, there is a section of Kappa girls, cheering on their sisters as they rule the court; no matter what the event is – an a capella concert, a charity event, a study panel – you always have sisters there to support you in what you do. Even better, from teams to pre-professional societies, from community service clubs to theatrical productions. the members of Kappa are student leaders across campus. That is part of the reason why being in Kappa is such an inspiring experience – we are all so different and have amazing passions to share with the chapter, yet we are all united under our love for Kappa Kappa Gamma.

Kappas at a formal event
Kappa Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) Philanthropy Event

I could go on and on about my love for Kappa Kappa Gamma, but I’ll end here, leaving you with one thought: “The ties that bind me to my sisters are not wrapped around my wrists, but rather are fastened to my heart.” Being part of a sorority here at Harvard is not an omnipotent part of my college experience. I am a leader in three other student groups; none of my roommates are members of Kappa. Being in a sorority simply provides another option for support, for friendships, for sisterhood, for opportunities to grow, and for leadership; but, for me, joining Kappa has been the most important decision I have made since choosing Harvard.

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Der Manuelian 

Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology 

Way back around the Third Dynasty, I was an undergraduate at Harvard. This was before cell phones, the Internet, electricity. Okay, we had electricity. But even in those days, I was obsessed with Egyptology, the study of the civilization of the pharaohs. I arm-twisted my professor, who seemed to know every ancient language ever devised by man, into creating a special concentration within the Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC). You see, Harvard had no formal Egyptology major. This was strange, because the University had made one of the greatest contributions to the field ever: the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition, an archaeological dig that from 1905 to 1947 excavated no less than twenty-three different sites along the Nile, in both Egypt and Nubia (ancient Sudan). “Harvard Camp” was the name of the dig house, located just west of the famous Giza Pyramids, outside of modern Cairo. As a result, ancient masterpieces, statues and inscriptions, expedition archives, human skeletal remains, and objects of daily life started arriving in Boston, where they filled the galleries and storerooms at the Museum of Fine Arts, and at Harvard’s Peabody Museum.

After a seventy-year hiatus since those glory days, Harvard has once again taken up the cause of Egyptology, and I am pleased to be the first holder of the new Philip J. King Professorship of Egyptology, in both the NELC and Anthropology Departments. So once again there are courses in Egyptian hieroglyphs, archaeology seminars on selected Egyptian sites, and classes in ancient Egyptian literature in translation. One course that I greatly enjoy is the undergraduate introductory survey called “Pyramid Schemes: The Archaeological History of Ancient Egypt.” We explore the many millennia of ancient Egyptian civilization, tour the Pyramids and temples of Giza virtually in a special visualization room complete with 3D glasses, visit the outstanding Egyptian galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, and create short iMovie videos on different ancient Egyptian research topics. This Gen Ed (General Education) course (Societies of the World 38) has a video “trailer;” just click this link http://www.generaleducation.fas.harvard…. if you want to check it out (President Faust makes a cameo appearance). Freshmen are most welcome.

 

We are looking forward to the growth of ancient Egyptian scholarship at Harvard. For example, the Giza Archives Project (www.gizapyramids.org) is a great way for students of all ages to get involved in a real-world archaeological technology project, and there may one day be new Egyptian fieldwork opportunities sponsored by the University. Believe it or not, the original HU–MFA Expedition left a lot of work unfinished, so come join us.

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Sanyee Yuan, junior, special concentration, Eliot

It was raining.

It was raining outside and I had no idea how I was going to lug what felt like ten tons of video equipment down five long blocks. Squinting through the glass doors of Eliot House, I shifted the heavy black tripod case from one hand onto my shoulder and moved the sturdy video camera bag into my other hand. The rain drizzled in a thick mist and the gray clouds overhead threatened a heavier shower any minute.

“You ready to go?”

My two block-mates appeared behind me, materializing magically. One held an umbrella ready over our heads and another took the video-camera bag from me. My roommate pushed the door open, lugging a brown box which contained a long paneled wooden screen over her head.

“You guys are awesome.”

Although I had gotten a mere four hours of sleep the night before, adrenaline pumped through my body and I could barely contain my excitement.

I had been named producer of the campus reality dating show, Love@Harvard, the spring of my freshman year, right before the senior producer had graduated and during my first few weeks of sophomore year, I had been living and breathing television production.

After becoming a full-fledged producer through the Harvard Undergraduate Television Network, the Vice-President of Show Development—a senior English concentrator who was working on a screenplay for his thesis—had run through the details of putting together schedules for my show. From coordinating the shoot location and accruing my cast members to reserving the school’s equipment to planning ahead for the extensive amount of post-production with editing and publicity efforts, I soon realized that producing a show on campus was no simple feat.

I had begun by scouting for crew members—seeking everyone and anyone who could lend a helping hand and show dedication to reviving The Dating Game on campus. Eager freshmen who were enthusiastic to give their (still-bountiful) time to an activity. Senior concentrators in the Visual & Environmental Studies department who had ample knowledge of the editing process with Final Cut Pro, a seemingly daunting program that I had only heard about and not yet laid hands on. I soon found out that the former was more open to joining my team, and one of the freshmen from the dorm for which I was a Peer Advising Fellow expressed great interest in being a part of the magic of creating Love@Harvard.

He became my right-hand supporter—taking on the roles of Director and On-set Photographer, as well as working on the publicity for the show through managing the Facebook and Twitter. We scheduled our first shoot, getting ready for the premiere episode, which would conveniently be themed “The Roommate Episode,” because it featured three bachelors who were roommates.

Two days before the shoot, I spent my entire morning and afternoon running across campus to gather our equipment. The cameras from one of the HUTV members’ rooms. The clip-on microphones from one of the other shows. The screen which would separate the bachelor and bachelorettes from the storage basement. The Christmas lights that we had decided would make for good decoration and soft lighting from my former freshman year roommate. The cassette tapes for filming, from another show’s recycle bin. And just as I had wrangled all of the equipment, the bachelorette canceled on me.

On such short notice, I called the Director in a confused daze, unsure whether to push the shoot back another week or to start the frenzied search for a replacement bachelorette. Disappointed, he said that he would go through his Contacts and see if he could find another willing girl. I agreed and started texting away through my Address book as well. That night, just as we were about to give up on the search, one of my friends’ Facebook statuses popped up on my computer screen. Complaining about the lack of a dating scene at Harvard, she bemoaned how she had gotten dressed up on a Friday night and had received no attention whatsoever. I instant-messaged her right away, and got an okay from her within only two seconds of convincing.

And two days later, I found myself happily lugging my equipment through the rain with my block-mates behind me, getting ready for my first Love@Harvard shoot. The whole process of setting up the shoot really encapsulates the Harvard experience of putting any production together: the willing help from numerous fellow students, the need for resilience and flexibility when plans go awry, the dedication from self-motivated staffers, and the incredible support from friends on campus.

At the end of the day, I realized that I had found love at Harvard. My love for television production on campus.

To see how the Love@Harvard shoot turned out, visit: http://hutvnetwork.com/shows/loveatharvard

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Sarah Esty, senior, pfoho, social studies
former vice president, current student advisory committee member at large.

One morning last spring, my alarm went off at 7:45AM. Happily, I wasn’t getting up for class (I don’t do morning classes – my earliest is normally at 11), and I also wasn’t madly finishing a paper due that afternoon. Instead, I was heading to a breakfast at the Institute of Politics with Michele Pierre-Louis, the former Prime Minister of Haiti. She was a visiting fellow for the week, in town to talk to us in a whirlwind of events from giving speeches in front of large audiences to having small personal conversations with small groups of students. I had heard from friends who had lunch with her earlier in the week (we joke that all IOP events seem to revolve around food) that she is fantastic, so I was very excited. She didn’t disappoint. Our hour-long breakfast rans twenty minutes over because we were all so interested in hearing first hand about the situation on the ground there, and about the major issues Haiti has been facing since long before the earthquake (I was shocked to find out that only 11% of schools in Haiti are public…talk about an education crisis). The most exciting part of the talk was finding out that she was going to be back in the fall for the whole semester as a residential fellow, leading weekly discussions and bringing in interesting guests to talk to us.

            One of the best parts of Harvard is that events like this are an everyday occurrence at the Institute of Politics. The IOP brings in heads of state, political figures, journalists, and experts from all over the world and the political spectrum for everything from major speeches to intimate discussions – it’s a normal day at the IOP when you get to hear Felipe Calderón or Michael Steele speak, or have dinner with David Plouffe. I’m still sad I wasn’t at Harvard yet when Stephen Colbert came in 2007. And the IOP isn’t just a place where you can go to hear cool people to talk or get a political internship (though I had a fantastic experience at the one the IOP helped me get with the Political Department of the DCCC last summer); it is also a home for students interested in politics and public service. A few days later, a group of us cooked brunch for the whole IOP, and bonded over politics, fruit salad, and chocolate French toast (I wasn’t kidding about the food thing). The IOP is a truly unique feature of Harvard, and is an amazing resource and community for everyone with an interest in politics – from the kid who can name all the Vice Presidents and Secretaries of State in reverse order (yes, one of my friends can do this) to someone who knows almost nothing about politics but wants to find out more.

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Carolyn Chou, sophomore, Pfoho, Sociology
PBHA Afterschool Program Group Officer

Hi, my name is Carolyn Chou and I am a sophomore from Lower Merion, Pennsylvania.

When I arrived at Harvard the fall of my freshman year, I expected to do some community service, but I did not expect public service to become the largest component of my first year. After participating in the First Year Urban Program (FUP) before orientation, I realized how important it was to me to prioritize service during the year. I learned about the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) and found out about the countless service programs run through the organization.

When I walked in to the Phillips Brooks House (the home of PBHA) for the first open house, I didn’t expect to become so involved so quickly. The open house was overwhelming (PBHA runs over 85 programs!) and I didn’t even know where to start. However, after talking to different people, I decided to get involved with a few programs that work with recent immigrant youth and gender issues. I now participate in both mentoring and tutoring programs, and I love working with kids of all different ages and both teaching them and learning from them.

PBHA is an amazing organization on campus; it is a student-run nonprofit that works in many different communities in Boston and Cambridge and has programs focusing on all kinds of different services from afterschool programs to environmental advocacy programs to teen mentoring programs to spring break trips (I got to go to the Mississippi Delta on one of these trips last year!), PBHA really has a program for anything you could be passionate about.

PBHA has provided me with an outlet to both do service work and think and talk about what that service work means to me and how to do it most effectively. PBHA has really pushed me to think critically about my role in service work and has supported me in really thinking about the work I am doing. Because of this, I decided I wanted to get more involved with the organization, so I ran to be an officer at the end of my first semester. It has been another really rewarding experience so far!

Along with becoming an officer, I also became a director of a tutoring program with recent immigrant and refugee youth in Boston. Being a director means that I help coordinate the program and make sure everything is running smoothly. I love getting to get off campus and explore a new part of the city while working with kids and other volunteers. Directing has taught me a lot about running a program so far, and while it’s been a lot of work, it has been really valuable.

For example, we had a field trip for our students one weekend, and it was so much fun! We brought them to campus to watch the Harvard men’s lacrosse team play Dartmouth. It was sunny but cold so, after the game, we made hot chocolate and played soccer together. All of the volunteers and the kids had a great time, and it was nice to bring the kids to our home and show them around!

Hanging out at the lacrosse game during our field trip with Elizabeth and Tai.

PBHA has been a huge part of my time at Harvard so far, and it has been a great way to make friends who share my passions, explore Boston and meet people outside of Harvard, and work toward social justice.

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