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Sherry L. Deckman, Senior Resident Tutor and Sophomore Advising Coordinator, Adams House

Okay, to call myself an “undergrad” is a bit of an exaggeration—given that when I was an actual undergrad the internet was just gaining popularity and it was possible to have a decent social life without having a cell phone, let alone a “smart” phone.  However, through Harvard’s unique college house system wherein graduate students live among and advise undergraduates, I have had a chance to do some of the undergrad experience over again.

One of the most important lessons that I’ve taken away from this time is about the power of play.  It’s easy to get caught up in the feeling of constantly needing to do school work or to devote oneself to extracurricular and leadership activities.  But, now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience undergraduate life for the second time, I can assure you that while we’re all here at Harvard to work hard and to learn, play is an important part of that process.  The lessons learned outside of the classroom from your neighbors and peers might even be the most valuable that you take with you from your four years here.

You’ve probably heard this sort of thing before, maybe from your parents or older siblings.  And, you may be thinking that this all sounds fine in theory, but still be wondering how you can actually go about applying this idea to your Harvard experience.  I suggest pushing yourself in two ways:

1) Do something you never thought you’d do (at least once a semester); and

2) Do it with someone you’d never thought you’d do it with.

For me, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this has involved lots of costumes!  I can assure you that costumes were sadly lacking from my first four undergraduate years and have truly enriched this one.

Here I am donning formalwear and a tricorne hat with some Adams juniors at our House dinner to celebrate Harvard’s 375th anniversary this past year.

In this photo, I’m posing with our Adams House Master and the House Committee Co-chair, at a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the House Masters’ residence.  Everyone wore colonial garb and we had a parade around the block with a fife and drum band.  For those of us with neither a fife nor a drum, we played gold-colored kazoos.

While this may seem a bit silly and nonsensical even, by letting our guards down and forgetting about classroom stresses and work obligations, through laughing and playing, we at Adams House come to know each other on a deeper level and forge close bonds.  It may also be due to the whimsical nature of some of these interactions that we are emboldened to make connections with people we never imagined we’d connect with.  I mean, it’s hard to take yourself—or anyone else for that matter—too seriously when you’re wearing a 12-inch tall wig and playing a kazoo.

These boisterous times can turn into long conversations after study breaks, like this one in my Resident Tutor suite:

And these conversations turn into friendships that can transcend your time at Harvard.

Here I am at our Adams House champagne toast for graduating seniors in May with some students who came from across the U.S. and the world and became friends here at Harvard.

Not everyone has this amazing opportunity to have a second undergraduate experience.  So, remember to make the most of your time at Harvard by doing things you never knew you were capable of and meet someone you never could have met if not for this shared undergraduate experience.  You will learn so much about yourself and the world.  And, if you ever need to borrow some costumes, just visit us at Adams House!

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Hello everyone!

GOOD LUCK ON YOUR ACCEPTANCE LETTERS(if you’ve received your emails/letters by the time you’re reading this, congrats)!!!!!! Last year, this time, I was freaking out the entire day at school, biting my nails and checking my email virtually every two minutes, counting down the time until 5pm. AND THEN MY ACCEPTANCE EMAIL wasn’t sent out until 6:45pm! So good luck!

Sorry that I missed my post last week; I was really busy until Friday came ’round, and it was already too late ): Right now, I’m at the Greenhouse Café, one of Harvard’s many dining locations, sipping on a soy chai latte and editing a few of my essays for Friday. Last night I had not one, but TWO rehearsals for The Nostalgics (at the quad) and for SOL Cupsi (in Kirkland basement), which meant I had to miss out on a lovely Indian-food study break (wop). However, I love both of those activities, so it was fine with me!  CUPSI will be going to LA in late April (yay! lot’s of fundraising to do) and The Nostalgics will be competing for the opening of Yardfest on Friday (ahh). Check out the poster I made in my printmaking class for this event!

Yardfest is a huge celebration and music concert in April, and this year The Cataracs and Das Racist will be playing; hopefully my band will be opening for them, in front of everyone! Last year Far East Movement, Sammy Adams, and White Panda came; this year’s lineup isn’t too exciting, compared to U-Penn’s Tiesto and Yale’s T-Pain and Passion Pit lineups. But what can you do…except get someone better for next year! (Beyonce, anyone?)

I’ve been relatively busy this week, and will be next week, as it is Advising Fortnight for the freshmen, which primes us for our concentration decisions. My calendar is full of fun events, such as “Cool Cupcakes and Hot Munchies” from the Anthropology department, a dinner with the African and African-American Studies department, Romance Languages and Literatures meet&greet, and Enviro-Sci and Public Policy tea! I’m really excited to decide on my concentration (major) and secondary (minor), but I have a while (luckily we declare next November) because I have no idea what I am going to do! It’s not like I don’t have ideas; I’d love to do Franco-Italian Studies, Environmental Studies, African Studies, Anthropology, and Architecture, but sadly I can’t “double major” or “joint concentrate,” as we call it here, in many of these concentrations. There are just too many requirements that I’d have to complete by the time 2015 rolled around. Also, Environmental Studies is not a real concentration here; it’s part of the Visual and Environmental Studies concentration, but is not a fixed path and varies widely based on what you’d like to study within that concept. And architecture isn’t a “real” concentration, either; there’s History of Art and Architecture, which does not prepare you for Architectural studies. So I am going to have to do some research to create my own path here, and I will have the resources if I put my mind to it.


Panorama from top floor of William James Hall!

As hectic as this will all be, I’m very excited to have a set direction for my academic studies. It will definitely constrict me, and I’ll have to make some hard decisions, but I will end up with a concentration that I enjoy. (And if I don’t, there’s always petitioning for a change of study and grad school!) Joint concentrations are pretty difficult to make work, but if my so-called “electives” (aka the language courses that I’m obsessed with) count towards my requirements, I’m set! I just have to do what I love, and make my huge dreams a reality. It’ll happen.

Speaking of making dreams a reality, I will be going to Paris this summer!!!!!! I received a huge Rockefeller grant for summer study, and will have a crucial jump on my concentration requirements by studying in France! I’ve never spent the summer in a city, but I’ll be home for a few weeks in June and a few in August to get a breath of country air and swim in the river near my house. I’m going to have to get into a good athletic schedule so that I don’t become too heavy from all those pastries … yum. Also, two of my really good friends will be spending the summer there, one interning in a Neuro lab and the other doing the Columbia-Penn French program. (Oh so fun.) I can’t wait! I have yet to receive another very important grant from the Romance Language department, but it should show up tomorrow as a lovely birthday present. (I’ll be 19, yay!) Check out what I could design with my potential future concentration in my potential future city!


So, that is all for now 🙂

Happy spring!




PS Check out some Harvard Talent, for those of you who are still unsure of whether or not Harvard is the right fit for your artsy-selves.

(Leah Reis-Dennis from my band!)

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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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