Dear Harvard College Students,
Today I announce that starting July 1, 2018, we will integrate the functions of the current Freshman Dean’s Office (FDO) and the current Office of Student Life (OSL) to create a new Dean of Students Office (DSO). The DSO will be led by Dean of Students Katie O’Dair and staffed by current administrators in the OSL and FDO. This new office will centralize services that are currently offered by both the OSL and the FDO in a way that ensures continuity in the extensive support systems – both academic and residential – that are available to all students.
By uniting the services provided by the OSL and the FDO into one office, we will be able to:
- link each student’s first-year experience with their sophomore year experience in an intentional way;
- align support throughout a student’s entire four years at Harvard in order to reduce barriers to academic learning; and
- provide leadership and experiential learning opportunities that span a student’s entire College experience.
This new structure addresses student feedback to enable a smoother transition from the first-year dorms to the Houses, and it will enable us to facilitate additional connections between first-year students and upper-class students.
The College recognizes that a structured, intentional first-year experience provides a critical foundation for student success, and is the entry point for the entire four-year student experience. With that in mind, the DSO will build upon the work that the FDO and the OSL are currently doing for both first-year and upper-class students in the following programmatic areas:
- Residential Life: The DSO will lead efforts to provide a structured first-year residential experience for students with strong, dedicated academic support and advising, through Resident Deans and Proctors. The DSO will provide support to the residential Houses, including programmatic and operational support to enhance House life and academic success.
- Student Experience: The DSO will oversee student engagement to incorporate Opening Days, College traditions, class-based initiatives, and student organization and event support.
- Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: The DSO will oversee the Office of BGLTQ Student Life, Diversity Education and Support, Title IX, and the Women’s Center, and will contribute to improved support that spans all four years of a student’s experience at Harvard.
- Student Advising: The DSO will also work closely with the Office of Undergraduate Education on advising and academic support in both the Yards and Houses.
In the coming months, Dean O’Dair will work with staff in both the FDO and the OSL to build this new organization, and she will announce further details in advance of its July 1st launch. In the meantime, I want to again thank Dean of Freshmen, Thomas Dingman, for his leadership and his service to Harvard College. While I will miss working with Dean Dingman after he retires, I am excited about the new possibilities that will be created by the DSO. I am confident that taking this step will boost the College’s efforts to support a residential and social experience that is welcoming, open, and accessible to all students.
Danoff Dean of Harvard College