Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Perspectives from the UMRP Community

Research Questions

This page looks at the stories of the UMRP student coordinators, addressing the following questions: What has been the impact of the UMRP's efforts in recruiting a diverse population of students to Harvard? What are some of the main challenges it faces, from the perspectives of UMRP student coordinators? What can be done to improve the UMRP, or are there other initiatives outside of or in cooperation with the UMRP that can be created to further the diversity of the student population? On a secondary note, how has this role shaped the way student coordinators viewed their own personal experiences at Harvard outside of the admissions office? What skills and knowledge did students in this role gain from their experiences as a UMRP coordinator? How does it shape their career and lifelong ambitions post-Harvard? I want to better understand why students are motivated to serve in this role and how they are shaped by their service roles as UMRP coordinators as well. I will be focusing on the personal experiences and motivations of the coordinators. To do this, I conducted interviews with three fellow student coordinators at the UMRP, one of which is an Asian American coordinator like me, one who worked as a summer-time coordinator before becoming a term-time coordinator, and a senior coordinator who is in his second year working at the UMRP.


Interview 1

Maria, a term-time student coordinator who joined the team at the same time as I did, shares her experiences at the UMRP. She serves in the Asian American division. 

Interview 2

Alexa, a former summer-time coordinator who also became a term-time coordinator this fall, shares her experiences at the UMRP. She serves in the African American division.

Interview 3

Noah, a senior term-time coordinator in his second year at the UMRP, shares his experiences at the UMRP. He serves in the Native American division.


Common Themes from the Interviews

Personal Motivations for Joining the UMRP:

All of the coordinators cited a personal connection to the UMRP prior to working there that encouraged them to apply for the UMRP student coordinator role. For example, Noah, who identifies as Objiwe, first heard about the UMRP when he got an email from the Native American coordinator at the time encouraging him to come to Visitas and offering to pair him with a current student from a similar background. He said that "the UMRP was large in his [college] decision-making process to come to Harvard," so he wanted to do the same for prospective students by becoming a student coordinator himself. Like me, he wanted to give back to the program who helped him so much as a high school student. 

Passion for Diversity and Inclusion:

All of the coordinators spoke about how important diversity is on campus, especially racial and ethnic diversity, which is a main part of the reason why they continue to work at the UMRP. Maria said in her interview,

"I don't want minority high school students to think that at Ivy League colleges, or just colleges in general, they're not meant to be there because they're not part of the majority [of the student population] and they don't see people who look like them walking around on campus."

She cites this as the reason why she wants to be the

"resource that bridges the gap between the perspectives of prospective students and the reality of current college life."

She says that while there is still much progress to be made, there is definitely a presence and community for all kinds of diverse backgrounds at Harvard, but there is still a need to raise awareness about it to prospective students. She wants to slowly break down the stereotype that Harvard is only full of wealthy, white elites by answering questions with personal experiences drawn from her life at Harvard as a student of color. By doing outreach to students of color, she is simultaneously changing high school students' perspective of Harvard and increasing diversity at Harvard by encouraging more students to apply, hopefully increasing the matriculation rates of students of color.

Impact of the Work at the UMRP:

Alexa spoke about how rewarding her work was by telling a story of how a student she had mentored through the UMRP actually matriculated to Harvard. When she saw his name on the Visitas hosting list, she exclaimed with surprise and realized that the work was really meaningful and made a real difference in high school students' lives. She said that these successful results were the most fulfilling parts of her work because many of her students told her that

"I would not have applied if you hadn't reached out to me."

In her opinion, the fulfilling aspect of the end result was not only to encourage them to apply to Harvard, but to encourage them to apply to higher-education in general, whether that's other Ivy League or state colleges. 

How This Affects Personal Being at Harvard and Future Career Plans:

Alexa and Noah both cited that working at the UMRP has exposed to diverse perspectives not only in their interactions with prospective students, but with other student coordinators as well. Since there are many different divisions represented in the UMRP, they have formed friendships with people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds that they would never have interacted with in the first place at Harvard because they would be part of different cultural affinity groups on campus. Because student coordinators hold their working "office hours" in the same office, they often overlap and spend their time together in the office. In this time, a lot of meaningful and thought-provoking conversations occur between student coordinators of different backgrounds. Noah hopes that there will be more informal social events for the student coordinators to facilitate even tighter group bonding and intercultural dialogue outside of the office. 

Challenges and Limitations for the UMRP:

Maria and Alexa both cited one thing that they would change or expand on within the UMRP is connecting with admitted students even after they come to campus. They both reflected that while the UMRP is a great resource for prospective and newly admitted students during their high school years, the office does not do much to make sure that students are acclimated and well-adjusted to the campus after they come to Harvard. They both said that the UMRP can do more to smooth that high school to college transition by providing events for minority students to meet up and share their common experiences, resources for getting help on issues minority students face, and raising awareness of diversity on campus by serving as a more active liaison between new students and cultural affinity groups on campus. While the UMRP states that part of its mission is to promote diversity on campus as well, the focus has mainly been on outreach to prospective students of color. 

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