Houses at Harvard are far more than just buildings. They are the locus where teaching, learning, advising, and vibrant community all intersect.
Drew Gilpin Faust
President of Harvard University
The residential House system is a cornerstone of the undergraduate experience at Harvard. Born out of a partnership between Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell and donor Edward S. Harkness, the creation of the Houses in the late 1920s utterly transformed undergraduate life at Harvard, and set the standard for residential liberal arts education in the United States. Almost one hundred years later, Houses remain integral to the Harvard undergraduate experience, providing a multi-generational, faculty-led community of living, learning, and personal development.
Consistent with President Lowell’s founding vision, the broad goals of the faculty-led Harvard House system are:
- to scale the larger university down to a more manageable, personable size, where college services are readily accessible to students;
- to create smaller, inclusive communities where peers can interact with peers of different backgrounds;
- to provide face-to-face social and academic support networks;
- to allow for the informal interaction of undergraduates with faculty, other scholars and professionals; and
- to provide an enriching residential community culturally, intellectually, and socially.
In addition to faculty House Masters and Resident Deans, a unique feature of Harvard’s House system and Freshman Dormitories is the presence of Tutors and Proctors, drawn from Harvard’s graduate and professional schools. Through this staffing approach, Harvard’s House system provides a uniquely strong support system for students as they confront intellectual, academic, social and personal challenges and look ahead to life after Harvard.
Innovative House programming makes the Harvard House experience the envy of its peers. In the data collected from across our peers by the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, Harvard remains consistently strong in questions that relate to the student experience within undergraduate Houses. Harvard ranks first in satisfaction with “student housing office/services” and has been consistently ahead of peers on this item.
Though people are undoubtedly at the heart of the House system at Harvard, renewal of the Houses for the twenty-first century means creating physical structures that support and further Harvard's extraordinary House programming and meet the needs of the modern student. House Renewal offers Harvard another opportunity to again be visionary, and to set the new standard for residential education.