Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

2021 Recommendations to the Harvard leadership team on public service and student leadership development


Written by (in alphabetical order):
Aisha Abdelhamid ‘23 (FYRE, Harvard Islamic Society, PBHA, Peer Advising Fellow, Harvard Undergraduate Arab Professional Network)
Shivani Aggarwal ‘21 (Harvard EdPortal, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Emerging Leaders Program, Harvard Dharma, EXPOS40 Peer Speaking Tutor Program, COOP Board of Directors, Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, Undergraduate Council, Senior Class Committee, Harvard Art Museums student board)
Abel Berhan ‘22 (Harvard Black Men’s Forum, David Walker Scholars Program, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau)
Daniela Castro’ 22 (Harvard College Act on a Dream, PBHA, BRYE (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment ) Tutoring, Radcliffe Emerging Leaders Program
Lucas Chu ‘23 (Harvard Economics Review, Harvard Political Review, metaLAB, FAS Standing Committee on Public Service, Innovation Labs, Memorial Church Community Tree Steering Committee, Voters Choose, Undergraduate Council, assistant {Opportunity Insights, HKS, HMS, HBS, Ed Portal, Cabot Library}, HUML, Asian Baptist Student Koinonia, Active Minds, Erevna)
Rachel Eason ‘22 (Harvard Women’s Tennis, Women in Business, Smart Woman Securities, Y2Y)​​​​​​
Jessica Edwards ‘21 (Harvard College Faith and Action, Kuumba Singers of Harvard College, PBHA (Y2Y Homeless Shelter), Teaching Fellow (CS, GOV, and EE departments), Women in CS)
Laura Frustaci ‘21 (On Thin Ice, Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club, Harvard Student Agencies, Derek Bok Center, Student Advisory Committee for Ed Secondary, Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Harvard College Stand-Up Comics Society, Harvard College Children’s Stories)
Sammantha Garcia ‘22 (Peer Advising Fellow, Harvard Latinxs in Finance and Technology, PALABRITAS, Sociology Department Research
Olivia Graham '21 (Harvard Callbacks, PBHA (Chinatown Citizenship), Research Assistant @ HBS, Teaching Fellow in CS, Harvard Student Agencies, Women in CS)​​​​​​
Alexa Lagunas ‘23 (Latinas Unidas de Harvard College, Fuerza Latina, Women in CS, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers)
Romina Lilollari ‘21 (Harvard College Debating Union, Harvard Urban Debate League, CIVICS)
Truong Nguyen ‘23 (Harvard Vietnamese Association, Harvard College Japan Initiative, Harvard Undergraduate Studies in Education, Harvard Associate for U.S. and China Relations, Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment, Harvard Ed Portal, Harvard Visitor Center, Student Advisory Committee for Ed Secondary)
Thu Pham ‘23 (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment, Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, Harvard Vietnamese Association, Harvard Noteables, Course Assistant, Research Assistant)
Avery Robinson ‘23 (Harvard Black Men’s Forum, PBHA, David Walker Scholars Program, Omo Naija x Wahala Boys, FYRE, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Peer Advising Fellow)
Iris Su ‘23 (Harvard Student Agencies, Harvard College Faith and Action, Harvard Women’s Ultimate Frisbee, Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship, Harvard Yearbook Publications)​​​​​​

Public service for Harvard students

Issue: More than half of incoming Harvard students state that they’re interested in public service yet only 3-6% of graduating Harvard students actually end up in public service/non-profit work (Class of 2019 By the Numbers, Class of 2020 By the Numbers)
  1. Create an infopoint - a portal for all public service opportunities
    1. Ensure that students/student organizations can post their opportunities - > co-managed by students and administrators.
    2. Harvard Serves Everywhere newsletter is currently kind of inaccessible and bimonthly. At the same time, the PBHA mailing list has over five emails a day. Combining them into a central webpage/database that allows outside organizations and student organizations to add opportunities and sign up for opportunities with an embedded mailing list and office hours would be very helpful. 
    3. Connect PBHA, IOP, etc to pre-existing Harvard Serves Everywhere so everything is centralized.
    4. Solutions: Slack, Airtable, Notion, or bespoke platform with embedded funding and advising mechanisms like
  1. Improve first-year advising on public service
    1. Adapt a similar structure to public service representatives/public service tutors for the first-year dorms or yards.
    2. Advisors in my.harvard portal (so students have explicit reference to reach out to). 
    3. Expand undergraduate advising through a first year center.
    4. Connect advisors with PBH Center to include resources for students to engage with student organizations and faculty.
  1. Consider a mandatory public service requirement:
    1. For example, require students to attend one Day of Service.
    2. Classify Minidich classes as a Ethics & Civics class and encourage students to pursue independent study.
    3. Provide an online module or online materials with information about the communities and neighborhoods that surround Harvard so that students can be informed members of their new communities.
    4. Pilot programs like project groups, journal clubs, and public service fellowships during the semester.
  1. Consider pedagogical training for instructors on how to integrate public service dimension - engaged scholarship - into everyday teaching
    1. Improve the public service/citizenship education in the Ethics and Civics GENED courses
    2. Offer a workshop for all faculty within humanities/social sciences about potential ways to incorporate public service and engaged scholarship. 
      1. Additionally, incentivizing faculty in some way to pursue engaged scholarship (additional compensation, special recognition, etc.)
    3. Have a certain amount of required engaged scholarship gen-ed courses that are offered per a semester 
      1. and/or more courses that give students more exposure to public sector (e.g. GENED 1076)
    4. Have two days per semester (maybe a Tu/Wed) where every social science/humanities course incorporates public service/engaged scholarship in some way. It could be called “Putting things into perspective” 
    5. Requiring every student to take at least one engaged scholarship/public-service course during their time at Harvard
    6. Encourage and share Bok center and SICI programming
  1. More financial support for FGLI students who want to be involved in public service
    1. Expansion of Priscilla Chan Stride Scholarship and post graduate fellowships (more long-term public service)
      1. Expansion to other public service opportunities, like IOP
    2. Improve and raise more awareness about the Fong Family Winternship Program
      1. Increase $750 stipend to $1,000
      2. Have more workshops and more guidance and resources to assist students to write their proposal and come up with ideas.
    3. Classify programs within PBHA under work-study for low-income students
    4. Reduce application requirements
    5. More financial support and simplify the reimbursement process for volunteers
      1. Alternative to reimbursement -- provide pre-paid charlie cards for volunteers to use
  1. Improving culture/attitudes towards public service in general, especially long-term career goals for students – give students a more well-rounded view that there are financially sustainable options in public service 
    1. Diversify OCS workshops, fairs, etc.
    2. Allow Gap Year Students to be a part of public service student organizations
    3. Student prize for public service
    4. Expand Mindich and Fellows at the forefront
    5. Expand talks with people from Harvard alumni who went into public service fields
    6. Inviting more public sector organizations to recruit at the college
      1. They should be given the same priority as McKinsey, BCG, etc.
  1. Expanding spring break/summer public service-oriented options for public service -- expanding beyond Boston and the USA
    1. SPARK – allow more students to be a part of it
      1. Not just for incoming first years
      2. There are funds for upperclassmen, but provide mentoring as well

Student Leadership Development

Issue: In order to promote student leadership and development at Harvard College, there is a current need to improve workshops, training, and networking opportunities. By using our suggestions, we sincerely believe that Harvard College students will improve relationships with administration, grow their organizations, and develop critical student leader qualities. 
  1. Improve student leadership development workshops and create more tailored organization-specific experiences
    1. Better tailored training for different sized organizations
      1. The semester-ly student leaders conference hosted by the SOCH is targeted more towards larger organizations- perhaps creating two separate conferences, one for orgs over 20 students and one for organizations with fewer than 20 students, and then adjusting each workshop to discuss more specifics about comping processes, equitable decision-making, organization structure, leadership succession processes, etc. 
      2. Or, conversely, could be adjusted based on comp process- if organizations are open to all students/drop-in based, they might have  different components form organizations with semester-long comp processes, or auditions or submissions-based entrance processes. 
    2. Offer at least one kind of student leadership development workshop per semester targeted to student members who are interested in learning more about strategies to engage and contribute, demonstrate leadership qualities, even without holding a leadership position. 
    3. Tailor workshops for different types of organizations. Consider holding these leadership conferences for subsets of student organizations groupable by a common theme - e.g. Academic and Pre-Professional Groups, Cultural and Religious Groups, etc (the categorizations already in use during the Student Activities Fair) so that leaders can drill down more specifically on common challenges. 
      1. For example, cultural, public service, political and pre-professional orgs all have different structures and would benefit from leadership training designed specifically for their group 
  1. Create networks of support and communication between leaders of student organizations
    1. Time spent at this conference could also briefly review the Hub trainings, which aren’t necessarily helpful or applicable to student leadership practices as its own event 
    2. Create leader buddies with student leaders of similar organizations, so students have a support network of peers experiencing similar problems or challenges
    3. Send out a monthly newsletter to student leaders featuring best practices from other student leaders, tips, and relevant deadlines. 
  1. Institutionalize financial compensation for student leaders that are in financial need 
    1. Structure a fellowship program that is similar to the Priscilla Chan Stride Scholarship  (i.e. students should  be given financial priority for engaging with cultural, academic, and advocacy related extracurricular opportunities) 
    2. By doing this, students from low-income backgrounds would feel less pressure to find outside employment opportunities and would thus have more time and space to devote to their organizations 
  1. Prioritize diversity & inclusion, self-care, and honest conversations about failed leadership experiences in leadership trainings/conferences when hosted by the college 
    1. This would increase transparency, institutional memory, and awareness regarding student organizations within Harvard’s campus 
    2. In addition, discuss the ways that administration has successfully supported or failed to support organizations when there was an unforeseen and unfortunate event 
  1. Invite all newly elected student organization leaders for an optional 1-on-1 brief 20 minute chat with an administrator in the Dean of Students Office to build relationships, help leaders brainstorm for their work ahead, and provide familiarity with resources available. 
    1. Assign mentors if student leaders request one
    2. Administrators at Dean of Students Offices should have student leadership/support office hours, open to all current student leaders, so they can sign up + drop in and check in (also eliminates the formality/distance that comes with requesting meetings)


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