Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Behind the Scenes of FOP: The Story of Steering Committee

Who We Are and What We Do

Steering Committee (SC) is the leadership group of FOP, a position that is selected and turned over each year. SC’s main task is to recruit, select, and train a new cohort of FOP leaders, as well as to oversee the day-to-day functioning of an accredited experiential learning program. We deal with both philosophical and programmatic questions about the future of the program and incorporate those into our initiatives, but also oversee plenty of logistic tasks: holding office hours, having weekly meetings, planning events/workshops/trainings, etc.

The Challenges That Steering Committee Faces

Creating a diverse trainee class
: the outdoors tends to be accessible to a largely wealthy, white demographic. One of the challenges that every SC tries to tackle is creating a diverse training class that is representative of the larger Harvard demographic

Garnering “buy-in”: FOP is inherently a pre-orientation program, meaning the bulk of the work put in by leaders happens in August. Steering Committee members, though, deliberately choose to spend a massive chunk of their time to FOP. This can create a disconnect between initiatives and projects SC wants to run, and the leader support throughout the year that we get.

Coming together as an SC: Steering Committee members are usually a cohort of very different people with varying years of experience in the program, who all have strong opinions about different issues, and have their own vision of where the program will go. Every SC has their own journey to growing together as a group, but it is surely one of the more challenging things that each group deals with.

Transitioning onto SC: Steering Committee is a position where you mostly learn by being thrown into the fire. There are benefits to this and for the most part it all ends up being okay, but it is a general challenge in transitioning into the position; incoming members are thrown a lot of information at once, and you are just kind of expected to run with it. There is definitely a challenging adjustment period.

The Timeline of Steering Committee

Below is a cyclical timeline of what a term on SC consists of (including the major tasks they are responsible for throughout the year). The cycle starts at the top with the completion of FOP trips.

How Steering Committee is Selected
  1. Interested FOP leaders submit an Application Letter explaining their vision and goals for SC to the Steering Committee Selection Council
  2. Steering Committee Selection Council, a group consisting of the outgoing SC members and three to four other FOP leaders, read application letters
  3. Every SC applicant is offered an interview – members of the Selection Council that have significant relationships with an applicant are recused from the interview and evaluation process
  4. Steering Committee Selection Council deliberates about each applicant
  5. The next Steering Committee is selected, which consists of between five and eight FOP leaders


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