Kate’s Blog

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Hello Everyone!


I actually only have 5 minutes in an internet cafe so this will be very short.  I am currently on Spring Break with some Harvard friends, and it has been fabulous!

First, I participated in Harvard Model Congress Europe´s conference in Madrid, staffing the National Security Council committee.  The delegates in my committee (shout out if you´re reading!) were AMAZING!  I had such a wonderful time getting to know them and listening as they dealt with issues surrounding Cybersecurity and Illicit Arms Trade.

Now, I am in the Canary Islands with some friends!

Must go (place is closing), but I will update next week!



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Hello all!

Signing in after what amounted to a very long sabbatical from writing.  I hope everyone is doing well through these colder months (Boston just got another big snow storm… typical), and that y’all have been finding some really awesome content on the blog!  I do have to say that the opportunity to write for you guys over the course of my now two and a half years at Harvard (OH MY GOSH!!!… time has flown!) has been an extreme honor.  It has helped me reflect on my life here and my development as a person.  And the opportunity to meet people who have read this blog, especially some you who are in the classes below me at Harvard now, is really mind blowing.  So thanks guys!

What has my life been since I last posted?  Well, it has been transformational.

It is interesting to be a college junior because it is perhaps the first time one can look back on their college experience and see growth—personal, academic, experiential, philosophical (and maybe around the middle if you’re not careful).  I look at pictures of myself as a freshman and see a younger version of myself today.  I reconsider my ideas and beliefs about life and see a thoughtfulness and regard for other points of view that I didn’t used to have.  I think back to all of the cool experiences that Harvard has given me and feel thankful for every day.

Me and a few friends back in September

Since last writing, I was elected as President of the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), the nation’s largest student-run public service nonprofit, and the bastion of community-based service at Harvard.  As a student-run 501c3, my position is technically President of the Board of Trustees, and from that office, I work with a team of student officers and adult staff to run 1,400 person strong organization.  Being in this position, while crazy and insane (I seriously have a full-time job while trying to be a student), has challenged me in ways I could have never anticipated and set me on a path I never could have predicted I would take.  From learning how to schedule every second of my day, to how to facilitate a good training/meeting, to how to contribute meaningfully to the Harvard campus and to the Greater Boston area, I have taken so much from this experience even as it asks so much of me.

Vice President of PBHA Sam Greenberg ’14 and me doing PBHA work

I love working with people.  I love thinking about team dynamics, appreciating the unique strengths of everyone in the room, and supporting people in a way that makes them feel valued and productive.  And I love especially working with the amazingly gifted students I find in PBHA.  Within our Officer Team this year (as we call ourselves, DreamTeam2013), each person arrives with a different story, and each person has new insights and thoughts to offer that challenge me to question my assumptions and consider sometimes things that are fundamental to our society – IT’S SO COOL!

A team circle-up at the end of our week-long PBHA Officer training — “Nonprofit Management Intensive” — back in January (I’m the one in the gray sweater).

Not a day goes by when I don’t find myself wondering, “Well, why is it that way?” Or “How do I reconcile these two conflicting ideals/experiences/philosophies in my life?”  And the confidence I have developed in understanding myself and my world strengthens daily.

Woah, I just got deep really fast there.  Sorry if that was a lot.

So for the sake of all of our sanities, I’m going to narrow this post down to what I did this past week, rather than try to cover months of lost time.

My schedule for last week

Allow me to refer to my handy-dandy Google Calendar!  Hmmm… let’s see.  Well, I went to a lot of meetings, as per usual.  With over 30 hours of PBHA “on the clock” time (as in, not including checking and sending emails, writing proposals, planning agendas, and all the outside work), it’s easy to see how it is my main thing.

I also went to class and had a paper due on Thursday!  This semester I am taking some really interesting classes – History 1280: History of the Soviet Union, History 1629: China and the Environment, Ethical Reasoning 24: Liberty, and Sociology 95: Research for Nonprofits.  I have found each of these classes to be fascinating and love the range of material I am learning.

Last week I also got to go to the celebration of Teen Empowerment’s 20 year anniversary where they honored Mayor Menino for his commitment and service to Boston’s youth!  It was so amazing to meet and see a lot of Boston’s major public service players, people who have committed their lives to making the world a better place and live passionately.

Finally, this weekend a friend of mine from back home in Pittsburgh came to visit!  It’s always the best to connect with people from home and talk about Pittsburgh-y things.  One thing that I have learned is that people from Pittsburgh will never shut up about how awesome Pittsburgh is (myself included).

This coming week is going to be a scary one!  I have so much to do to get ready for Spring Break and then BAM!— I’m off to Madrid for Harvard Model Congress’ Europe Conference!  I cannot wait to meet and work with all of the high school students I am about to coach through a mock National Security Council session!  And after the conference, some friends, and I are going to the Canary Islands where I intend to tan (let’s be real, I’ll really just burn) and soak in as much relaxation and Vitamin-D as I can before returning to the craziness of life here.

So strap on your seatbelts y’all!  I’m back to posting every week, and this year is going to be a crazy ride.


Kate Meakem

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Hi everyone!

Summer has wound down to an end, and here we arrive at another amazing year at Harvard.  Sometimes I find that I get so caught up in everything going on in my college life that I forget how truly blessed I am to attend such a fantastic institution, one that offers me every opportunity if I only look for it.  But the beginning of the year is certainly an excellent reminder.

Even though I’ve been on campus all summer working for PBHA (Phillips Brooks House Association), there is something distinctly magical about Harvard at the beginning of the school year.  The air turns crisp, the sun is bright, and there is a charged atmosphere of excitement as new friends are made, old friends are reacquainted, classes are chosen, extracurriculars are comped, and dorms are unpacked.

Freshman exploring Green ’16 outside of Memorial Hall (photo courtesy of Google)

Before I started writing this blog post, I took some time to go back through my previous posts, all the way back to the beginning of my freshman year, and it is amazing to me how much/little time has gone by and all that has happened in the interim.

One post that is certainly missing, however, is one about my summer experience with PBHA’s Summer Urban Program (SUP).  I tried several times to write this summer, but shockingly working 80+ hours a week is not conducive to publishing anything of substance.  Opening lines of half-completed posts that I still have up on my computer (yes, I am one of those people who keeps up tabs and windows from months and months ago) include “You guys would not even believe how amazing this month has been!” and “Two weeks left of summer.  Two weeks left of the best summer of my life.”

My Full-Time SUPport clipboard!

And these lines are true, but they don’t do a great job of describing what exactly I did this summer, so here it goes.

This summer I worked for the PBHA’s Summer Urban Program (SUP) on its Full Time SUPport (hehe get it?) team.  Some background information – PBHA is a student led, student run 501c3 nonprofit organization that helps to run over 80 public service programs that reach out to over 10,000 people in the Greater Boston area.  At 1,400 student volunteers from Harvard, Wellesley, Tufts, Wentworth, and Boston University, we are one of the largest student-run organizations in Boston.

SUP is a huge part of what we do.  With twelve inner-city summer camps run throughout Cambridge and Boston, over 800 kids, around 80 college-aged Senior Counselors, and many more high-school aged Junior Counselors, in addition to the student Directors, the Staff, and the Full and Part Time SUPport teams, SUP is a large operation.  As a student Officer at PBHA during the school year and a member of the Full-Time SUPport team during the summer, I got to help run SUP at every level.

Color-coding and filing evaluations for every camp

At the organizational level, I was able to see the big picture of SUP, talk about its vision and goals, help enact and enforce its policies, and have input on the outcomes not only for that summer but in some cases for summers five years out.  At more of an operational level, each member of the Full-Time SUPport team had projects to complete over the course of the summer.  Mine were organizing two weeks-worth of Senior Counselor Training at the beginning of the summer, coordinating and leading the Community Cousins program (which I am continuing into the school year, so more on that later!), and carrying out all of the Evaluation processes that help SUP assess its programming and progress.  In addition, as Programming Chair during the school year, I also continued my responsibilities to what we call the “term-time” programs that chose to continue throughout the summer.

The van I drove all summer. We became quite close.

And at the most basic (and fun) level of SUP, I spent a lot of time leading camping trips in the Myles Standish State Forest, lifeguarding at the beach or the pool, substitute teaching, and driving a 10 passenger van full of children around to and from various field trips!  This was easily my favorite part of the summer because it meant that I got to know the kids.  Nothing made my day more than when I would pull up to one of the camps, and the kids getting into my van recognized and talked to me!  It was the time when I could look at them and know without a doubt that all of my late nights and early mornings and lack of weekends were absolutely worth it.

My tent while camping with the kiddos

On top of all of my SUP stuff, I also wrote two and a half briefings for Harvard Model Congress to be sent out to schools around the country for our conferences coming up later this year!

Just because I had to write briefings, didn’t mean I couldn’t do it sitting outside of Peet’s Coffee in Harvard Square while listening to live music!

Whew (taking a breath because I’m pretty sure I wrote all of that so fast I didn’t breath).  So yes, this is why I didn’t blog.

But lest you think my summer was horrendous, let me remind that it was the best summer of my life!  I didn’t complete any of the goals on my summer bucket list that I alluded to in my previous blog post, but that was only because when I made that list, I had no idea what kinds of opportunities would be open to me!  Rather than learning how to do a cartwheel (I’m starting to believe I might actually be hopeless), I learned how to lifeguard.  Rather than watch all of the Academy Award Best Pictures, I watched a Boston Public Schools community meeting in which parents, students, and teachers alike debated the current redistricting process.  And rather than eat at a cool new cultural food restaurant every Friday night, I found myself eating perfectly normal sandwiches from delis in Dorchester, the South End, South Boston, Mattapan, and Cambridge.

My best friend Jared and me at the City of Cambridge Summer Dance Party! It’s a giant party for all of the members of the Cambridge community, old, young, and in between, to come out and celebrate the start of summer.

I also did some really cool things like go to the Museum of Science, a Pawtucket Red Sox game, Canobie Lake Park, Lexington and Concord, Minute Man State Park, Cape Cod, and Washington D.C.!  Some of these were on my own time, but most were on field trips with the camps or with my Community Cousins program!

Some friends of mine and I also ran the Color Me Rad 5K!

I guess the bottom line is that while I was working all summer, work was fun, and I made so many friends in the process!  And as I am starting to think about my future for life outside of college, I’ve learned that any profession where I can gain new experiences, love my work, and make new friends (isn’t that wonderfully vague?) is exactly where I want to be.

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Hello friends!

Yes, it is I, after a very long sabbatical from writing, back to report to you about my life.

So wow, a lot has happened, but rather than bore you with a drawn-out narrative of the stressful end to my sophomore year (papers, papers, papers, Finals, Finals, Finals, PACK UP, MOVE OUT, OMG STORAGE IS CLOSING IN 30 MIN! AHHHHHH), I will share with you a few vignettes from my summer so far.  I have had some incredible experiences – some big and some small and meaningful.  But they foreshadow what I hope to be an amazing summer!

Before I launch into it, I’d just like to say that finishing my sophomore year has been a strange experience — I’M HALFWAY THROUGH COLLEGE!  What is this supposed to mean?  Do I even know what I want to do in life?  Am I ready to graduate in another two years?  Did I do enough with the two I just had?

As I contemplate all of these feelings, Bon Jovi’s song “Living On a Prayer” Living on a Prayer comes to mind, and that’s where I got the name of this post.


Take Me Out to the Ballgame

In celebration of being done with all of our final exams, my roommates and I treated ourselves to buying tickets to a RedSox game.  I had never been to a RedSox game before and one of my roommates had never been to any baseball game before so this was a big event.

It was a wonderfully warm summer night, and the Boston fans were out in full force.  The Sox were playing the Indians, but not a single Cleveland fan could be spotted (I mean, they would have to be pretty brave).  My roommates and I arrived at a packed T-station, sporting all of the RedSox paraphernalia we could find.  Thrilled by the combined sentiments of being done with finals, of being at a Sox game, and of finding great seats even though we had paid for standing room-only tickets, we were giddy as we dug into our cracker jacks and hot dogs.

One of my roommates and me at the RedSox Game!

But in the moments after the ballpark had stood up to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” I admit, the happy feelings began to falter a bit.  Our sophomore year was over!  We were now halfway through our college experience.  We weren’t going to see each other for an entire three months.  And in just another two years, we would be separated by wherever life took us.  Everything just seemed so scary!

And so, embarrassingly, we had one of those girly, sentimental moments – right there, in the middle of Fenway Park.  A few tears may or may not have been shed.  And I don’t regret it one bit.  In fact, I think it’ll be one of the moments I remember most fondly when I do eventually graduate and look back at my college experience.  Because I was there, surrounded by my closest friends. Together we had grown to be new people, together we would continue to change during the next two years, and eventually together we would face the world.  And it wouldn’t be so scary so long as we had each other.

And that might be the corniest thing I have ever written.

But I mean it.


So freaking Patriotic

I went home for a week around Memorial Day, which is a big deal in the town of Sewickley, PA.  We host a huge parade in which every pee-wee baseball team, every Girl Scout troop, every high school band member from every high school around, every greyhound dog owner (don’t ask…), every vintage car owner, and every firefighter troop and its trucks, not to mention every veteran from every war (including reenactments of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars) march, jog, trot, play, and drive through the town.  In addition, the middle school’s Clown Club always provides alternative modes of transportation to its members such as unicycles and pogo sticks.

Not only is Memorial Day a big deal to our town, but it’s also a big deal to my family.  My dad is a Gulf War I veteran and we’re all very proud of it.  My dad will usually organize a group or fellow-vets to march in the parade and host a barbecue at our house afterward.  This year, the town asked my dad to give the public address at the post-parade commemorative ceremony.

As my dad stood in his dress blue speaking about the heroism of those who fight to defend our freedom, I felt so proud and so loved surrounded by my family and my community.   It’s a feeling that I sometimes forget when I’m at Harvard, hustling and bustling from one activity to another.

My sister, my dad, and me after my dad’s speech on Memorial Day!

But as I watched the parade march by, the same parade I had been watching every Memorial Day since I can remember, and as I was feeling this great sense of family and community, I couldn’t help but also feel a sense of separation.  Less and less do I feel like Sewickley is my home, and more and more do I feel like its part of a very loving past.  It wasn’t a sad feeling, just a different feeling, one that I accepted.  I had been living at Harvard the past two years, Harvard was my home now.  And well, I guess that’s what you get after you finish your sophomore year.

My sides hurt from Cartwheels and Laughing

During the summer, when most Harvard students are off campus exploring the world, the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) suspends its normal programming and starts up twelve summer camps for low-income kids around Cambridge and Boston.  These twelve camps constitute PBHA’s Summer Urban Program (SUP).  Like everything else at PBHA, SUP is student-run, so I am working this summer on what we call Fulltime SUPport (get it?).  I like to tell people that the job is a combination of administrative work and manual labor.

We hauled 60 chairs from the Harvard Recycling Center to our Mission Hill Summer Program camp site for their classrooms. It was a 97 degree day. In the background is one of my friends cheering when we finished!

SUP is a great community of awesome students working together to change the lives of elementary and middle school students.  But beyond that, it’s a great community of friends.  We live in the Radcliffe Quad in Cabot House, and in the evenings, after camp is done for the day, we use the Quad to play soccer, run around and have fun.

This summer, I have compiled a short bucket list of things I would like to accomplish.  One of these things is to be able to do a cartwheel.  Now, I know this is a basic part of many people’s growing up, but somehow between my never-ending stages of gangly awkwardness, I never could quite get there.  I remember when I was probably three or so, my mother signed me up for a Gymnastics course, and at the end of the class while all the kids performed cartwheels and summersaults to the “Ooooo”s and “Ahhhh”s of their parents, my only contribution to the performance was a Donkey-kick… in which my teacher had to grab my legs and kick them up for me.

Yes, clearly I am gymnastically-talented.  So finally, at the age of 20, I am determined to accomplish this great feat.

With the help of a few good SUP friends, I practiced on the Quad Lawn for about an hour, slowly progressing, but never quite getting it.  By the time it started getting dark, I was sore all over from trying to propel my legs through the air (don’t laugh…) and from laughing with my friends at each of my awkward crashes to the ground.

I haven’t accomplished a full cartwheel yet, but it was a great evening, one I shared with close friends as we looked forward to what the summer would offer us.

And that’s all I have for now!  As you can see, I have some pretty mixed feelings about beginning the second half of my college experience.  A large part of me is screaming, “I don’t want to grow up!!!” while all the while, I keep looking around and seeing the ways I already have.  It’s a funny thing.  But you guys get to witness the whole process.  Should be interesting to look back and read all of these entries in two years.


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It’s that time of year…


When the seasons start changing and Mother Nature can’t make up her mind.  Case in point – early last week it was 80 degrees and sunny, then by mid-week it was in the 50s, then it went back up to the mid-70s, and now it’s back down to the 50s.  Hellooooo Boston.  The way I see it, though, there are two benefits to this kind of weather.  1) It never allows us to take the nice days for granted.  When it’s 75 and sunny, everyone is outside lounging away on beach towels in the Quad or down by the River.  2) It gives my sunburns a chance to heal… rough.

When classes start to wrap up.  Yes, that’s right, this coming Wednesday is our last day of class and then Harvard students around campus will enter Reading Period.  Reading Period can mean one of two things.  It can either mean a 10-day vacation if you’re something like a math or science concentrator, or it can mean a 10-day sleep strike if you’re a humanities concentrator and find yourself writing five papers.  Luckily, my schedule this year has offered me spread out Reading and Finals Periods.  I have a paper due this Tuesday, another paper due next week, and then two finals several days apart.

When stress and excitement levels run high.  There occurs this strange dichotomy where while I’m feeling incredibly stressed about major papers and finals, I am also feeling incredibly excited about the summer!!!  This summer I will be working for the Phillips Brooks House Association’s (PBHA’s) Summer Urban Program (or SUP).  SUP is a series of camps in neighboring communities throughout Boston that helps to fight summer learning loss in low-income children.  Just as PBHA is student-led, SUP is too, which means that Harvard students have been working their butts off all semester long getting ready for this summer.  I’ll be working Full Time SUPport (get it?), which means I’ll be behind the scenes helping out all of the camps.  Get ready for lots of blog posts in the coming months about SUP.  One final plug to the incoming freshmen – JOIN PBHA and then WORK SUP!!!!  I promise you it won’t be a decision you regret.

When I’m starting to dread the prospect of packing up all of my stuff.  It took me long enough to unpack and make my beautiful single look just the way I want, and now I’m going to have to find some way of packing all of this stuff back up and sticking it in Currier storage.  I really don’t want to write anymore about it, it’s all too painful to contemplate.

When I begin to desperately text friends to grab a final meal or coffee before everyone leaves campus!  It’s that time of year when I’m looking back and remembering all those times I ran into “this person from class” or “that person from my freshman dorm” or “the person that OMG I love but I haven’t seen in AGES” and I’m realizing that I only actually grabbed my promised meals with maybe half of them.  This means that I still have a lot of people to go, and not a lot of time left!  Ahhhh!

When House formals go on the calendar!  Each House has its own Spring Formal, which, depending on who you know in which Houses, can mean a lot of formals to go to.  So much fun!


That’s about all I got, folks!  I wish everyone a very happy end of April, and to all of the pre-frosh – COME TO HARVARD!

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CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FUTURE CLASS OF 2016! With an all-time low acceptance rate of 5.9%, you guys are true all-stars.  No, but actually, I already feel intimidated by how awesome you all must be.

I remember getting my acceptance email – it was April Fools Day, and I was convinced that Harvard (or life) was going to play some sort of horrible joke on me.  In addition to my family, which is already quite large… I’m the oldest of five, my grandparents were in town, and so the whole house was waiting in anticipation for me to get my decision from Harvard.  Finally, I just couldn’t take the pressure, and I walked to the local public library, where (prepare yourself for the nerdiness to come…) I’d always gone as a kid when I needed to get out of the house/ relieve stress.

It was on the steps of the public library where I opened my acceptance on my phone and literally had a Rocky Balboa-on-top-of-the-stairs moment.  It was an awesome little celebration with me, myself, and I.

All this to say that you all should really congratulate yourselves.  Seriously, give yourselves a hug.  Take a moment to feel like the luckiest kid in the world.  You are one in a million…. Well, more like one in about 595,000 (about 17% of the world’s population of 7 billion is 18 and under… 2,032 of you got accepted into Harvard… you can feel free to correct me on the math).  You are literally more likely to die from slipping in the bathtub (one in 2,232), win an Academy Award (one in 11,500), or find a four-leaf clover on the first try (one in 10,000).

And speaking of celebrations, I had one of my own last week – my 20th birthday!  Now, I’d like to preface this by saying that I never make a big deal out of my birthday.  Quite frankly, I don’t really get it.  It’s not like I’ve been cruising along for an entire year and then CABAM!—all of a sudden, 365 days later I’m a year older, and I’m some how dramatically different than I was the day before.  I’ve been getting a little bit older every single day.  March 29th just happens to be another one of those days.  Plus, 20-years-old doesn’t mark much of anything other than the repeated comments from my younger siblings about how old I am now.

But March 29th came along and all of a sudden, despite the fact that I had told virtually no one about my birthday, I felt like a celebrity!  I awoke to flowers, courtesy of my friend Jackie, outside my door!  Next, I received a cupcake from my friend Elan, a chocolate decadence cake from my friend Cici, biscotti from my roommate Amy, sugar cookies from my grandma, and a yellow cake from my mom!  I also was stopped by multiple friends on the sidewalk for impromptu birthday hugs and congratulations!  I felt like I’d won the lottery by turning just another day older (and maybe I had… see the statistic above about dying by slipping in the bathtub).

Flowers left by my friend Jackie– there's a princess balloon!

So anyway, that was the big event of last week.  Otherwise, I just had my standard meetings and a Macroeconomics midterm on Wednesday.

Stay happy out there!

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Some days are just great days.  But one thing I’ve discovered about great days is they often require some measure of set-up.

For example, last night I finished my homework around 11:30.  I could have stayed up into the wee hours of the morning studying for a midterm I have this week, but I decided to instead go to bed early (we’re talking about college time, where midnight is just when things are getting started and 9 am is an ungodly time to be awake).  Once my teeth were brushed and my face washed and I was tucked comfortably into bed, I allowed myself to watch two episodes of one of my new favorite shows – New Girl — before drifting off to sleep.

I awoke at 8:30 am to a new special treat.  Over the weekend I had found an alarm clock app on my phone that allows me to wake up to my favorite radio show from back home in Pittsburgh – the 96.1 KISS Morning Freak Show.  Nothing quite wakes me up like the familiar voices of Mikey and Big Bob and the ridiculously funny things they say.

Next, I made it to my 9 am class (remember what I said about college time…) ON TIME, which is a big deal for me.  After learning about IS-LM graphs in Macroeconomics, I got to return home to Currier House for the afternoon!  This never happens in my schedule.  Living in the Quad with the busy schedule that I have, I generally leave my room sometime between 9-10am and don’t return until between 9-10pm.  The time I spend in between classes and meetings I spend either in PBHA or my sorority house!  Meals are usually grabbed in other dining halls (or dhalls) on the River.

But Currier dhall is by far my favorite, and it is soooo nice when I get to come back to my house during the day.  Sure, some people may say it looks like a retirement home (and it really does), but Currier dhall boasts a super social environment where people eat, do work, and hang out all at once.  And what can I say, there’s just no place like home!

This is a picture of the Currier House dining hall — courtesy of my phone

So basically my day so far has been awesome, but it took a little bit of work.  I got myself to bed at a decent hour, got over eight hours of sleep, got myself out of bed this morning, etc.  And it was all SOOOOO worth it!

The rest of my day is not going to be quite as relaxing.  After dinner, I have meetings until 10pm.  Ugh.  And I have a midterm and pre-paper due on Wednesday.  But with the sun shining through the skylight in the middle of my dhall, I can’t bring myself to be stressed out about it.

Hope your lives are going well!  Happy Spring!


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It has been WAY too long.  Some of you may have been wondering where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.  My answers to these questions are, “I don’t know, and EVERYTHING!”

So to catch you up from the beginning:

Last time I posted, I talked about joining the Officer team at the Phillip Brooks House Association – a student-led 501c3 nonprofit based on Harvard’s campus that supports more than 85 programs, 1,400 student volunteers, and 10,000 low income people in the Boston area.  Since then, I have come to know a team of twenty amazing individuals who are devoted to public service and making the world a better place.  I have learned from their ideas, their passions, their anxieties, and even after only three months, I feel that I have come to know and trust these people explicitly.  The other thing I can honestly say about PBHA – I have learned more in my three months as an Officer than I have in my entire time at Harvard.  Not that classes here aren’t amazing or anything, but if you read on you’ll see what I am saying.

Over January break, we all came back a week early to go through NPMI (Non-Profit Management Intensive), where we learned about everything from budgeting to meeting facilitation, from student development to strategic management.  To say this was a crash course would be an understatement.  This week culminated in a final Officers Retreat we took in Maine, where we were greeted with plenty of snow, plenty of hot chocolate, plenty of Apples to Apples, and plenty of meetings.

Me in a PBHA van in Maine! photo cred: Alan Silva

At the same time we were putting our new found skills to the test by planning Cabinet Retreat – a meeting off campus with all of the directors of the 85 different programs for an entire day.  This is the largest thing I have ever organized.  It also involved me writing my first ever training, leading my first ever training on Volunteer Management, speaking perhaps in front of one of largest audiences I have ever spoken in front of, and writing the largest check I have ever written for the rental of the space: Hibernian Hall.

But the day finally came on January 28th when we bussed everyone over to Dorchester, and it went GREAT!  Better than great, in fact.  The facility was everything we had hoped and more, our fledgling Officer team put its heart and soul into making sure everything ran smoothly, and the feedback from directors was overwhelmingly positive.  This was by far my proudest moment since stepping onto Harvard’s campus a year and a half ago.


A picture I snapped on my phone of Cabinet Retreat!

But with that accomplishment behind us, we now faced the obstacle of scheduling.  As I have said before in one of my blog posts, scheduling at Harvard is a nightmare.  Even friends are forced to stop each other on the sidewalk and write in dining hall meet-ups into their phone calendars.  So to try to schedule three major meetings a week (two of which I lead with my co-chair Winnie) was soooooo stressful.  In the end we got it down, and let me say, leading multiple two-hour meetings a week teaches you a thing or two about flip charts, agendas, and organization.

Since January, our team has done so much and led so many tough conversations – we have organized another Cabinet meeting and we have our third one this Thursday night, we have talked the need for Programmatic Quality Standards, and Director Accountability, we have organized Director-Officer Teams (or DOTs) to grab dinner together and create more community among volunteers, and we are in the process of creating a new database and hiring a new Deputy Director.

In short, PBHA has taken over my life – but in so many positive ways!  I can think of nothing I would rather devote my time to, and I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many great people who are devoted to such a great purpose.

Other things I have been doing include serving as New Member Director for my sorority on campus – Kappa Alpha Theta!  We run our Recruitment process at the beginning of second semester, and it was so much fun to meet so many awesome girls and bond with the other women in my sorority.  Our very own blogger Jeanie is in Theta with me, so we were sure to take a picture for you guys!

Jeanie and me during one of our rounds of recruitment!

Since Recruitment, I have been leading meetings for the new members to introduce them to Theta!  It has been amazing (and yes, I have brought my PBHA meeting facilitation skills, flip charts and all, with me to Theta meetings).

The final big activity I am doing on campus is serving as a Fundraising Director for Harvard University Women in Business.  So far this semester, we have devoted our fundraising efforts toward the New York Trip that we sponsor every year for Harvard women to visit some of NYC’s top companies.  Soon, we will be switching gears to the effort I am directing – Intercollegiate Business Convention fundraising.  IBC is a HUGE conference HUWIB hosts every fall for women’s business organizations from colleges across the country.  I will be sure to write more about it in the future, when my blog post isn’t so long 😛

Finally, I am still volunteering for my original PBHA program, Elderly 1-2-1, and of course, I am still a student at Harvard taking classes (though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it)!  This semester, I decided to take only three classes – History 97, which is my sophomore tutorial, History 1433: American Populism, which traces American history through a Populist lens, and Economics 1010b: Macroeconomics.

Oh, and before I forget, other great news this semester – I moved into a single (pictures to come when my room isn’t quite so messy)!

That’s all folks!  And don’t worry, I will be posting regularly from now on, so check back!  I’ll leave you with a picture from my spring break at home in Pittsburgh!

Me at Fort Duquesne in Point State Park, Pittsburgh



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So one topic that I’m kinda shocked I haven’t discussed yet on this blog is my involvement with the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), especially since it’s a BIG part of my life on campus!

The Phillips Brooks House is an umbrella organization at Harvard that supports 86 volunteer programs (now 87 with the inclusion of a new program aimed at helping Alzheimer’s patients) in the Cambridge and Boston areas.  We pride ourselves in the diversity of both our constituents and our volunteers, meaning its all one big family devoted to public service and social justice!

I became involved in PBHA the October of my freshman year when I signed up to participate in Elderly 1-2-1, a program that pairs up student volunteers with senior citizens in the Cambridge area and supports them in fostering friendships!  Basically that is just a more official way of saying we visit senior citizens in the area and talk to them, read to them, walk with them, and generally hang out with them.  It’s really fun and has been something that has made a HUGE impact on my Harvard experience.

Starting the second semester of my freshman year, I took over as Director of Elderly 1-2-1, which has been a BIG job but super rewarding!  Nothing makes me happier than when I go on our introduction trips and witness a volunteer’s first meeting with his/her participant!  In what other venue would I get to witness the start of long-lasting friendships over and over again?

As the director of Elderly 1-2-1, I have responsibilities including recruiting both student volunteers and community participants, maintaining relationships with social workers and other community organizations that have similar goals, arranging volunteer-participant pairs, evaluating the effectiveness of our program, leading meetings and reflections, and basically staying on top of things.  It’s really an exercise of human relations and organization.

In addition to the responsibilities I have to running the Elderly 1-2-1 program, I also have responsibilities to the greater PBHA organization.  To that end, I go to Cabinet meetings once a month (a gathering of all of the directors) to go over mission statements, vote on important decisions, and learn how to better lead my program.  I also participate in fundraising campaigns like the Phone-a-thon, interviews of officers, cleaning efforts of the Phillips Brooks House (yes, we are actually housed in a house – it’s in the Yard and is super gorgeous), and much more!

This is the Phillips Brooks House!

A few weeks ago, Cabinet met to elect our new PBHA student officers – those that make everything PBHA does for the community possible.  After a lot of thought and consideration, I decided to run for Programming Co-Chair – one of the two people that makes sure that all of the programming in PBHA (meaning all of PBHA’s community efforts) runs smoothly!  And guess what? I WON!!!! That’s right, you are now reading the blog of Kate Meakem, Programming Co-Chair of PBHA.  It’s a huge job, but I feel ready to take on the challenge!  So be ready for MANY more posts on the workings of PBHA, because starting next semester, it will be by far my largest extracurricular activity.

But this post has two parts to it – the first to tell you about the marvelous-ness of PBHA and my involvement in it, and the second to talk about finding my “place.”

I think a large part of my college experience thus far has been finding my “place” or identity on campus.  When I was in high school, it was easy for me to identify myself to people – “Hey, my name is Kate Meakem, and I am the oldest of five kids” or “…the Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook” or “… a smart student working really hard to get into college.”  I felt like I was passionate about my activities as was indicative of the amount of time I devoted to them.

Since coming to Harvard, a lot of me has felt sort of lost.  A big question I’ve been asking myself has been, “Do I know who I am if I don’t have a defining activity that I’m passionate about?”  So far I’ve been all over the place in my extracurricular involvement – PBHA, Kappa Alpha Theta, blogging, Women in Business, working at Lamont Café, acting in plays – and up until now, no one thing had taken me captive.

And I think that’s all part of the growing experience of college, or really any major transitional period in life.  For me, the answer was running for an officer position in PBHA because in my mind there is no greater way to spend time than to try and better the world we live in.  But I also know other sophomores who are finding their niches in their social organizations, their houses, the Crimson, the Institute of Politics, or any other number of activities.

The answer that experts would probably give to my above question – Can I know myself without a major activity to define me? – is probably a resounding no.  And I would agree with them.  I certainly know important things about who I am outside of what I do.  But what we do is really important in shaping our self-conceptions and the way other people view us.  So I guess it has to be at least kind of important, right?

Obviously, I’m still trying to sort all of this out, but I am really pumped to be joining the PBHA Officer Team.  If we really are what we do, I can think of no better person I’d like to be or any better thing I’d like to do.

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Sometimes I feel that as Harvard students, we learn to over-plan our lives.  We live by online apps like iCal or Google Calendar, forcing our days into orderly columns filled to the brim with overlapping boxes (color-coded, of course) each standing for classes, extracurriculars, interviews, meetings, deadlines, and of course the eternally vague “others” – those events that annoy our neurotic minds because we cannot fit them neatly into a colored category.  On top of this, we program our calendars to send us reminders on our phones of where we need to be and at what time, ensuring that we stick to schedule and never stray off course.

Schedule of my week… note that I write down EVERYTHING

To see two friends frantically pause on the sidewalk, whip out their phones, check their calendars, and rattle off mutual free time slots in which to schedule “catch-up coffee” or “lunch in the dhall” (lingo for dining hall) before rushing off in different directions because said phones have alerted them of their next commitment is maybe one of the most common sites at Harvard.  I, for one, have become a pro at what I call the “walk-and-shout.”  Here’s how it works: Sally is speed walking in one direction while her friend Joe is speed walking in the opposite direction.  In their hurry they look up and recognize each other, but neither having the time to stop, they strike up their shouted conversation 10 feet away.  As they get closer, neither’s velocity changes.  Instead, once they pass each other, they each turn around and continue their conversation walking backward until neither can hear the other.  Such a conversation is usually ended with a “let’s grab lunch!” followed by one or both parties checking their calendars.

The perk of scheduling – efficiency.  Ever since the doodles of dogs, smilie faces, and hot air balloons in the margins of my notes turned into scrawled hour-by-hour breakdowns of my day, I’ve been able to fit a whole lot more in.  And then as I’m falling asleep at the end of the day, I have fewer of those heart stopping “OMG I forgot to do X, Y, and Z!!!” moments, and therefore I sleep better knowing that I haven’t let the day go to waste.

But is there a moment when scheduled can become over-scheduled?  Have days become 1”x 5” rectangles in our calendars rather than portions of our lives?  By becoming obsessed with not missing a scheduled moment, are we actually missing out on life?

The weekend of the Harvard/ Yale game, I had it all figured out.  I was riding down to New Haven on the Theta bus, getting in touch with my friend from prefrosh weekend Larissa, and following her around for the night.  The next morning, I was going to wake up and hit the game with a bunch of my Theta sisters before returning with them on the bus.  But when a few kinks in the plan emerged (Larissa had an International Relations something-or-other to attend), and I was forced to sort of float… which led me to running into a super old friend and “catching-up”—not in the Harvard, frantic sort of way, but in the real, let’s have a meaningful conversation sort of way.  And when I ended up going into the Game alone the next afternoon because I’d lost my friends in the crowd, I had the opportunity to sit with a friend and her new boyfriend (who it turns out wasn’t new at all… I just hadn’t seen her in a long time), and then later sit with some old friends from Pennypacker (my totally amazing freshman dorm).

It’s interesting how if you were to ask me what I’ve done in the days since Harvard/ Yale, I would have to refer to my calendar from those days to tell you anything except for the one thing that wasn’t on my calendar – the Penguins hockey game I was spontaneously able to go to last night.  There I was, sitting with my two little brothers and little cousin in the best hockey seats I’ve ever had in my life (right behind the goal), NOT writing the history essay I have due tomorrow at 5 pm, NOT writing this blog entry which is horrendously late, NOT calling the friend I was supposed to get in touch with, and having a fantastic time!

It was as the final goal in overtime sounded a Pens’ defeat, as I went home that night and allowed myself to watch a few old episodes of Glee before going to bed, as I ate Thanksgiving dinner with my family this afternoon, that I came to appreciate the ability to slow down and not be over-scheduled.

Breaks are meant to be breaks in our schedules.  And yes, while I may have been scheduled to finish this blog post five minutes ago, and I am going to need to write my history paper before tomorrow morning so I can get up and enjoy all of the early-bird Black Friday specials with my sister before noon, and then I have to meet with some high school friends over dinner and a movie, then meet with another friend for breakfast on Saturday so I can get my haircut Saturday afternoon, before going to dinner with my family and spending time with another friend Saturday night, before returning to Harvard on Sunday and starting up with exams… there is something to be said for taking things as they come.

Maybe this is something that I can be more mindful of in the coming weeks as we close the semester.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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