Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Sammantha Garcia - Blueprint for Action

After the series of interviews I conducted, my recommendations are two-fold: a general recommendation for Harvard College and specific recommendations for each of the organizations I interviewed. 

Harvard College Recommendation 


My biggest recommendation is that the most effective method to centralize mentorship and extend it to all students at the college is through an office dedicated to mentorship. This office would be stand alone and would not be uniting with an existing office. The current advising programs office and pre-orientations programs would fall under this, but would serve solely as branches with their own missions to support first-year students. This office would include an adviser that would ideally support each class year. Given that first-year advising is mandatory, other students would be asked if they want to opt in to mentorship. If they do, advisers would guide them as they continue their year and begin to explore fellowships, internships, and career options. 

Given the multitude of mentorship programs at Harvard, the office would also support all the current mentorship programs sponsored by organizations if they choose to participate. One staff member would be appointed to help advise organizations if they need monetary support, alumni connections, or help expanding. One goal of this mentorship program would be to identify and localize all the current mentorship programs so they not overlap or lose institutional memory. If an organization does not want to participate in a mentorship program that would be okay. 

A great place to begin is to first identify all the existing mentorship programs and identify which ones would want to function under an Office of Mentorship. Next, it would be important to hire staff members that would support each of the classes as well as a staff member that would advise each of these organizations if they want to expand their mentorship program. As a whole, mentorship at Harvard needs to be more centralized, apparent, and supported. A dedicated office would serve as the beginning to place mentorship at the forefront and to begin supporting students throughout all their four years.

Specific Recommendations for Organizations

Peer Advising Fellows (PAF) Program:While there are currently many backgrounds and diverse identities represented in the PAF program, one recommendation would be to increase underpresented identites from Harvard. One way this could be done is by sending the application to organizations whose mission is to support underrepresentted identities at Harvard and asking them to send out the application to members. This may increase the number of Black, queer, and underrepresented identities. At the moment, PAFs are not allowed to comment on specific academic courses when speaking to their PAFees. While it is important to ensure PAFs are encouraging PAFees to explore courses at Harvard, it is imperative to allow PAFs to be honest about courses that significantly impacted their own academic experience at Harvard. This includes commenting on teaching styles, course loads, and instructors. Current entryway assignments are randomly composed of 20 to 40 first-year students. To increase the impact of mentorship, it would be important to allow PAFs to select 4 to 5 PAFees from the entryway who they believe they could help best. For example, as a first-generation and low-income student, I would select any other student in the entryway who identifies as such. To ensure that PAFs are still connecting with all first-year students, only half of their PAFee assignments would be chosen. Before the virtual school year, PAFs on campus were given a debit card with an allotted amount of money that is meant to serve as monetary funds to support meetings between PAFs and their PAFees. While this allotted amount of funds is helpful, it is important to increase the funds given in order to allow continous meet ups throughout the semester. The amount currently given would only fund small gatherings a couple times per semester. Before a student becomes a PAF, they are assigned their own Proctor and PAF. To allow for a meaningful mentorship experience that PAFs could benefit from, it would be helpful to increase entryway teams that pair Proctors with PAFs who were previously assigned their entryway in their first year or as an older PAF. This would create an opportunity for a PAF to work with a Harvard member for several years which can result in a meaningful mentorship.

First-Year Retreat Experience (FYRE) Program: While the FYRE program has now been insitutionalized for two years, there still has not been an appointed director who has been deliberately appointed for longer than one year. This has prevented the FYRE program to build a relationship with Harvard administration under the supervision of a FYRE director. By appointing one person as a FYRE director for several years, the FYRE program would remain functioning throughout the year. The current allotted FYRE budget only supports the three day format of the program. It is important to budget and give FYRE enough resources and funds to continue supporting term-time programming as well as tot serve as an emergency fund. In addition to giving the FYRE program an extended budget, it is imperative to appoint team leaders with the capacity to support their FYRE students year round. This would involve monthly meet ups and annual celebrations. The commitment would be no more than a couple hours a month and team leaders would be given a stipend per semestter. In order to continue supporting students throughout tthe year, it is imperative that the FYRE program start offering term-term programming that allows students to continue forming community with other FYRE students, team leaders, and administration. This programming can offer pre-professional resource help, study breaks, and informal events. 

Academic Resource Center (ARC):At the moment, the Academic Resource Center only has three academic coaches. While academic coaches can currently meet with students on a weekly basis, they cannot continue to support the same students for a long-time basis because of the need to support other students. By expanding the number of academic coaches, coaches would be allowed to continuously support students.

Latinxs in Finance and Technology (LiFT): The LiFT program created its first mentorship program in Fall 2020. To continue connecting students so that they can share career advice, LiFT should expand the mentorship program to functtion during the 2021 - 2022 year. Additionally, LiFT should work to continue to form community between LiFT Off members. 

First-Generation and Harvard Alumni Program (FYRE):

The FGHA mentorship program was first started to connect first-years with alumni. Recently the program expanded to connect upperclassmen with alumni so that students can connect based on grad school interests, career goals, and post-graduate plans. This program should continue in order to support older students as they get closer to graduation.The FGHA program has been connecting with student organizations on campus to offer their network as a resource in the past year. By continuing their partnership with student organizations, the FGHA mentorship program would be shared more to studens who may be interested. 

It is important to note that the organizations interviewed have successfully developed mentorship programs that currently support students as they navigate Harvard. These recommendations would only expand their infrastructure and functionality. 

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