Aligning with the Mission
Based on the information that this project has presented, this specific page serves to provide recommendations that the society could enact to improve. Before we can consider how the Harvard Computer Society can advance in the near future, we must revisit its mission and ensure that the blueprint for change that this project proposes continues to align with the core values and mission of the society. As we have seen, HCS has grown into a hub of entrepreneurship and innovation over the course of just a few years, and the inventive spirit that the society manifests is ultimately what attracts many individuals to the society in the first place.
"HCS is a student organization at Harvard devoted to promoting community around computers, technology, good technology policy, and the study of computer science." - HCS mission per the HCS website
At the same time, HCS places a significant amount of attention to community and guaranteeing that anyone interested in joining can do so, regardless of gender, race, and/or technical background. It is important that our members feel supported and, most importantly, comfortable when participating in our events and initiatives; therefore, balancing entrepreneurship with community and ensuring that our members are getting the best of both worlds will be the biggest challenge that HCS faces going forward.
Addressing StructureAs we have seen with MIT's TechX, there are large benefits to the subcommittee structure, which not only allows for more organized operations for individual projects, but serves as another means by which HCS members could get involved with the society. However, having an overabundance of committees has proven to take a toll on an organization as a whole, since the different committees can become polarized due to lack of exposure to the entire group.
Taking these factors into account, it would be interesting to see the addition of one more subcommittee into the HCS system. This new committee would be in charge of activities that would help promote entrepreneurship and innovation within the society, such as hosting a hackathon, running projects for members, or creating positive change in the community through computer science. This would give members another means by which to get involved with the society and increase the feeling of belonging to an organization that members care about. The committee would be elected during the same time that the regular board elections happen, and once the first committee is established, the members of the committee would be in charge of succession from that point on. If HCS chooses to create another subcommittee, it should limit it to only one new one, so as to avoid the problem of polarization that we saw with TechX.
Furthermore, Datamatch should be integrated more into the HCS community, since these two entities are experiencing their own levels of polarization. We have already done a lot to integrate Datamatch members into the HCS community, such as allowing them to bypass the bootcamp system so that they may become members automatically and officially placing the team leader on the HCS board. To build on top of this, HCS should also have joint community nights with both Datamatch and HCS compers, so that it can create a higher sense of unity within the society's comp process. We are one society, and the competent leaders of HCS are more than capable of a stronger integration of Datamatch and another subcommittee into the HCS conglomerate, so as to improve the professional and social experiences of HCS members.
Improving AccessibilityCreating the tools to promote innovation is half the battle; the other half takes the form of ensuring that these resources; accessibility is as high as possible for everyone on Harvard's campus. Specifically, the perennial issue of female representation in STEM fields is something that the society must help to address. According to a study that the Harvard Women in Computer Science (WiCS) Advocacy group conducted, only about 18% of all bachelor degrees in the United States are earned by women, and this issue affects the accessibility to the society. For instance, in one HCS survey that was sent out to our members, we received feedback stating that "Lack of female representation in attendees slightly discouraged me from coming to future events". The HCS board takes feedback like this very seriously. Creating an environment in which everyone feels heard and respected is HCS' main priority.
A means by which HCS can attain increased levels of accessibility is through more collaboration with Harvard's Women in Computer Science. As per their website, WiCS' is "dedicated to building a community of technical women at Harvard and beyond", and HCS has already collaborated numerous times with WiCS. For example, at the beginning of each semester, the two organizations host a Live Q-Guide, in which a panel of students from both organizations answer questions from an audience about what certain computer science classes are like, which helps students decide what classes to take. Also, recently both clubs hosted a similar styled event that focused on helping students navigate the internship and start-up scene. Through collaboration with WiCS, we are able to reach a population of women who are interested in building projects and creating an inclusive community.
One thorough collaboration effort that HCS and WiCS could conduct is a joint comping process. This would allow prospective members of both organizations to intermingle and experience what both clubs have to offer. Understandably, HCS and WiCS would want to have some independent comping events, but by slightly merging the two comp processes, WiCS (who just recently in 2017 started their comp) can use HCS' already existing comping infrastructure (bootcamp lectures, homework assignments, company lecturers, etc.) and HCS can diversify its membership pool.
Faculty InvolvementHarvard's faculty has the potential to provide a significant amount of aid to HCS' efforts in the form of mentorship and funding. Many of the professors and teaching staff on campus have had experience in the technology industry prior to entering the world of academia, making them experts in navigating the professional world. This knowledge would be more than helpful to students just beginning to learn about computer science; therefore, it would be in HCS' best interest to connect members and faculty.
With this in mind, one way to ease into this could be by having a professor give a fifteen minute tech talk on a topic that they're interested in during one of the community nights. HCS has already introduced this idea into the community nights this year, but members of the society are the ones giving the talk instead. This weekly event could introduce members to a faculty member in a comfortable setting, while not putting to much strain on the speaker, who most likely has a busy schedule on their hands. Students would be more than welcome to talk to them afterwards and, perhaps, open new intellectual doors.
Harvard faculty could also lead to seed funding for various projects and events. As of yet, the society pays its bills primarily through company sponsorships, and we have been able to subsist on this monetary system for over four years. Nevertheless, HCS could use more funding for member projects. SEAS offers grants to clubs who are having any kind of event at this website, and it would be a great way to save money for all of the community nights that the society hosts. There are also other kinds of grants, such as project and scholarship based ones, that one can find on the website. If one were to peruse through the SEAS financial offerings, one would be surprised by how much there actually is!