August 14, 2015
Dear Harvard College Students,
I hope that each of you is having a wonderful break, whether you are spending time with friends and family, pursuing an internship, or studying abroad. Time away from our everyday academic tasks can be remarkably restorative. I am hopeful that this time away from campus has been as invigorating for you as it has been for my family and me.
The start of a new academic year provides an ideal moment to reflect on where we have been and where we are heading. As you well know, last year was a remarkable time to be at Harvard College - from experiencing the re-opening of the Harvard Art Museums, to creating the College’s first Honor Code and the Harvard College Honor Council, to seeing each of you grow as individuals while finding your place as leaders in our talented and passionate community. These accomplishments are in large part due to your passion in making this place a great place to learn, to work, and to live. For your commitment, I am truly grateful.
But today, we must also look forward with excitement to the future and redouble our efforts to strengthen our beloved community. When I began my tenure as your Dean – a little over a year ago– it was my goal to work with you to ensure the College refocused on its important mission of providing a transformative experience – intellectually, socially and personally – for each of you through a liberal arts and sciences education. While we have made significant advances toward this goal, I know there are more opportunities for continued progress in the year ahead. Based on conversations this past year, I’d like to highlight a couple of areas that I’m particularly excited to address this year.
First, I am looking forward to the work we are doing to strengthen our already robust undergraduate education. The launch of the Theater, Dance, and Media concentration this fall is groundbreaking and innovative. This new concentration will have a rich variety of courses and will give each concentrator a strong foundation in theater arts through a liberal arts curriculum. In addition, the work being done by the General Education review committee will help us ensure that our program prepares you and your peers for lives of civic and ethical engagement in a changing world.
Second, we are increasing the resources available for House-based academic, social, and personal programming. Working with the housemasters, we’ve been able to increase resources to increase faculty presence in the Houses, support student initiated social events in the Houses, and create opportunities for shared reflections. For more than 80 years, Harvard Houses have been the cornerstone of a Harvard College education, and to ensure they remain so in the 21st century requires all of us to contribute to creating an inclusive community. I believe all of our collective work in this area is grounded in the shared belief that one doesn’t need to “comp” community. So, as you make your plans to return to Cambridge, please think about the important part you can play in strengthening our community. Take these last few weeks to consider what you’d like to see change, and what improvements need to be made to make your House communities more socially vibrant.
I look forward to seeing you when you return in just a few short weeks. I can’t wait to continue the work we have started together to build and strengthen this beloved College.
Danoff Dean of Harvard College