This Month @ Harvard: May 2017 Parents Connection



Dear Harvard College Parents and Guardians,

The 2016-2017 academic year brought great successes and new opportunities to work together as a community and advance our academic mission. I am also immensely proud that nearly 84 percent of students admitted to the Class of 2021 have chosen to matriculate at Harvard College. Now that I have had the chance to reflect on all that we have faced and accomplished together this year, I write to share some highlights with you.

The Freshman Seminar Program

This year, we expanded the reach of our Freshman Seminar Program. Through active recruitment efforts and partnership with the administration and department chairs, the Freshman Seminars roster offered even more opportunities for our students to interact with diverse faculty within the College and Harvard’s other professional schools, including medicine, law and business.

General Education

The renewal and reinvigoration of the Program in General Education has also progressed significantly this year. After soliciting extensive feedback from faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and administrators on its interim report, the General Education Review Committee submitted a final report to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).  FAS faculty subsequently voted in March to update the General Education requirements for undergraduates. The new requirements combine courses explicitly focused on the principles articulated by the General Education committee with distribution requirement across the three divisions. I encourage you to view the new requirements.

The Honor Code

In its third year, the Honor Code has become an important part of the fabric of Harvard College. For the second year in a row, first year students attended a joint student-faculty presentation on the Honor Code.  In October, the Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct released the first annual Honor Code report, helping to raise awareness about the importance of academic integrity within the Harvard College community.

Public Service

The College made exciting progress in expanding its commitment to public service and integrating community engagement with the academic mission of Harvard College this year. The Phillips Brooks House, which coordinates programs in public service for our students, focused many of their efforts on improving coordination and collaboration among our public service offerings and academic programs. During the Freshman Day of Service, more than 400 students devoted a Saturday to preparing Boston Public Schools for their first day of classes by providing cleaning and landscaping tasks. This event sent an important message to entering students that service to society is a norm and expectation at Harvard College.

Student Leadership

This Spring, Harvard College hosted its first ever Student Leadership Recognition Awards Reception to promote and institutionalize leadership development on Harvard’s campus, as well as to challenge the conventional definition of “leadership” in hopes that more students will be encouraged to take stake in our campus culture. The College honored students for their contributions to all parts of campus and student life, including: work with student organizations, intercollegiate and intramural athletics, house committees, orientation programs, community service, the arts, and student governance. We hope that by acknowledging student efforts, both in title positions and otherwise, we sent the message that the College cares about the individual and group efforts to better our campus, and that there are numerous ways to do so.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion also worked diligently this year to promote diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Harvard College. This Office supported a variety of initiatives to help serve our diverse community through programming in the College and in the Houses. In addition, we focused our attention on the challenges that undocumented students faced. Over the course of the semester, a Working Group for Undocumented Students, consisting of both undergraduates and university administrators, has convened regularly to appraise current student resources and research additional recommendations for the College. This working group has focused on identifying the best means to communicate with students, providing legal support for DACA applications and other legal questions, assessing what resources current students most need, and learning about initiatives offered at peer institutions. 

While not an exhaustive list of every effort we pursued this year, I hope the highlights above give you a window into the great work that was undertaken this year – much of which was led by our students.

I have greatly enjoyed the many opportunities I've had this year to engage with and learn from your students. I look forward to our continued engagement in the fall. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me this summer with any feedback at [email protected].


Rakesh Khurana
Danoff Dean of Harvard College