What is the HAA?The Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) exists to "promote the welfare of Harvard University and to establish a mutually beneficial relationship between Harvard University and its alumni" (About the Harvard Alumni Association). While other schools at Harvard University maintain their own associations, the HAA serves as the primary alumni organization for graduates of Harvard College and welcomes and includes alumni from any of the other schools at Harvard University. The HAA as it exists now, originally known as the Associated Harvard Alumni, was formally incorporated in 1965 as a conglomerate of the Harvard Alumni Association and the Associated Harvard Clubs, established in 1840 and 1897 respectively. The offices of the HAA are located at 124 Mt. Auburn Street, where it shares office space with the Harvard College Fund, the primary alumni fundraising arm of Harvard.
How does it work?Great question! I'm still trying to figure that out myself sometimes, good thing I've got some time before I'm an alumnus...
The Harvard Alumni Association's membership includes graduates of all Harvard schools, members of all University Faculties, and non-graduates who appear on alumni records, who are associate members. While philanthropy is always a periphery goal of engaging alumni, the HAA does not target alumni for donations at all, and leaves that work up to the Harvard College Fund. Rather, the HAA works to connect alumni to each other and the University through Club activities, continuing education programs, online services, and alumni events. Beyond that, the HAA is also tasked with a few organizational responsibilities, which include nominating candidates for the Board of Overseers (made up entirely of degree holders), conducting the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association (which takes place after Commencement), and administering the Harvard Medal award and the HAA Award.
The Alumni Association Board of Directors, which meets three times a year (Fall, Winter, and Spring), convenes over 350 alumni leaders at the Charles Hotel to "guide and carry out the programming and direction of the HAA with the goal of engaging and maximizing the participation of all alumni in the life of the University and the opportunities it affords for lifelong learning." Each weekend is packed with meetings, networking, dinners, award presentations, updates to the alumni community from Harvard officials, and of course, a little bit of fun as well.
And what work does it do?The work of the Association is carried out by different committees of the Board of Directors. These committees oversee reunions, Harvard Clubs and Shared Interest Groups, commencement (known as the Happy Committee), educational programming, graduate school alumni, communications, and recent alumni and undergraduates (where I come in!). The HAA breaks down alumni groups into different age cohorts, known as CAPs.
CAP 1, which includes undergraduates through 5th year reunion, is known as the Building Community Committee, which I am a member of. Our committee has two chairs, one who is a recent alumnus and the other a current undergraduate, and our committee is broken down into three subcommittees based on the work they are tasked with. I'm a member of Activities and Reunions, but we also have a committee tasked with Communications and Technology, and another focused on Leadership and Governance.
Some of our current projects include Sophomore and Junior Class Programming, Student-Alumni "Coffee Chats," a review of Harvard traditions, and creating a "How to HAA" manual for new undergraduates that make their way onto the committee. Sophomore and Junior Class Programming is the long-term project that I've taken up (the term we use on the HAA is a "parking lot" project, one that will sit in the parking lot for another year), but at the moment, I've been drafting up publicity materials and structure documents for the Coffee Chats, which we hope to launch in April 2018.