Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Getting the Info - Methodology

I used qualitative data from an interview set of 4 students and 5 administrations. The students were all members of the steering committee (James Bedford, Lisette Leon, Alyssa Britton, Daniel Rodriguez, and myself), and administrators (Katherine Steele, Sade Abraham, Dean Jasmine Waddell, Dean Thomas Dingman, and Dean Rakesh Khurana) who were heavily involved with the process.  Unfortunately, I was unable to formally interview the fifth member of the steering committee, Francisco Cernada, but through informal conversations with him, I was able to gather his thoughts and implement them in my action page. 

The steering committee played an integral role in the development of the program, specifically the co-chairs James Bedford and myself. The steering committee, excluding the co-chairs, was chosen through a pool of 33 students with 10 being interviewed, and 4 selected. The steering committee, excluding the co-chairs, lacked ethnic diversity with 3 members being Latino and 1 being white, yet had an equal representation of men and women. All members identify as first-generation and low-income.

As for the administrators, Mrs. Katherine Steele, Director of College Initiatives and Student Development, oversees all of the pre-orientation programs and constructed an administrative recommendation for this pre-orientation. Ms. Sade Abraham, the Program Director and First-Generation, Low-Income Student Advocate, works with the co-chairs to develop the new pre-orientation program, and throughout the year, serves as a point person for first-generation and low-income students. Dean Jasmine Waddell, Elm-Yard Residential Dean, focuses on marginalized students in her work by working with the student advocate and the steering committee. Dean Thomas Dingman, Dean of Freshmen and Interim Dean of Student Life, controls the Freshman Dean’s Office, which is the office that the new pre-orientation program operates under. Dean Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Harvard College, and his office along with the FDO fund the pre-orientation program.

I conducted these interviews in reserved, private spaces on campus so that my participants did not have to worry about someone walking in during the interview. I have a set of questions that I used to ask students (which can be found in the appendix section), but I did implement a semi-structured style for the interviews. I asked the participants to allocate 45 minutes in case we dive into different topics while using the questions as guidelines. Most of the questions that I came up with came with my experience with the pre-orientation program, and I used my initial research question as the grounding for my questions. I did, however, use the literature to develop further questions for the interviews. During the interviews, I wrote down the notes, e.g. general trends, that I noticed. I did visually and audio record the interviews to then be able to refer to them with accuracy (which can also be found in the appendix section). Understanding the political weight that interviews have on the public perception of administrators, I allowed for administrators to tell me information both on the record and off the record so that I have all the information that I need for my action plan.

To analyze the vast amount of data, I decided after the fact to focus primarily on two of the questions that I asked the interviewees. In doing so, I significantly cut down the amount of data I had to analyze. For my action plan, I primarily focused on the data that I received from the questions regarding how student-admin partnerships function at Harvard as well as whether FYRE is student-run or not. While the other questions were interesting, they did not prove fruitful in helping me develop my action plan; however, the full-length interview videos will be helpful in preserving the memory of FYRE.



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