Dear Members of the FAS Community,
I hope that you have had a chance to read the report from the Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging that President Faust shared earlier this week. The Task Force did thoughtful and thorough consultation, engaging each of Harvard’s Schools to learn from all their many programs and approaches, structures and committees, challenges and successes. Their report speaks eloquently to what we have long known to be true: that academic excellence requires diversity—of perspectives, methods, and experiences. It also requires an environment characterized by the free exchange of ideas. These principles are fundamentally linked and mutually reinforcing.
The work to strengthen Harvard’s capacity to pursue excellence on a foundation of inclusion is a long-term project, one that stretches into our past and that must continue in every generation. From the $5 classes at Harvard Extension School that offered new opportunity to women in the 1950s, to the Harvard Foundation’s 40 years of programming on our campus, our roots in this important work run deep. I am enormously proud of those who have helped to shape the Harvard of today and are impatient for us to be the Harvard of tomorrow. Those efforts bring about the reinvention that is essential for an institution to remain vibrant, even after hundreds of years in service to our mission.
Here’s a sample of some of the work underway today, across the FAS:
- Persistent attention to diversity, at every stage of each faculty search, is a constant theme in our search policies and procedures, and in conversations between the deans and departments, and within departments and search committees. The advice in “Recommendations for Ensuring the Integrity of Faculty Searches,” which is sent to search committees with every search authorization, is increasingly becoming an ingrained part of FAS culture. FAS asks departments to thoroughly canvass the field to build the most inclusive candidate pools, and to deploy best practices in reviewing candidates, conducting interviews and campus visits, and reaching a final decision. To better support faculty once they are here, the FAS has increased attention to mentoring and is expanding programming for faculty members’ professional development.
- The Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs (ODMA) in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences hired two Diversity and Inclusion Fellows this academic year, who serve as liaisons between students and GSAS administrators with the goal of better serving our students. For a number of years, ODMA has also managed several outreach programs at the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate level designed to help underrepresented students enhance their research experiences to increase their competitiveness as candidates for graduate school. These programs help Harvard faculty recognize the breadth of backgrounds and academic institutions talented students can come from, while also helping students to see themselves at Harvard. The Office of Student Services also launched “You Are Welcome Here,” an initiative designed to engage the GSAS LGBTQ population; this initiative has been replicated by other Harvard Schools.
- Working collaboratively with students, including leaders of the First Generation Student Union, Harvard College is developing a new pre-orientation program dedicated to student empowerment, resource connection, and community building. The new program, known as the First Year Retreat & Experience (FYRE), will launch August 2018 for the Class of 2022.
- Harvard College’s Diversity Peer Educators (DPEs) are a group of 20 undergraduate students hired by the Office for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) to foster values of inclusion and belonging across the College’s diverse student body. DPEs receive specialized, weekly training throughout the academic year to strengthen their knowledge around concepts of power and oppression and to develop their skills in group dialogue facilitation, conflict resolution, and bias intervention. DPEs lead peer-to-peer dialogue groups, develop interactive workshops, and implement events in their residential Houses and the Freshman Yard that address a wide range of issues related to diversity and inclusion. They will also soon be training the FAS Academic Planning Group, which is the academic senior leadership team of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
- The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, under the auspices of the SEAS Standing Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, has launched BRIDGE Week, which stands for “Building Relationships, Increasing Diversity, and Growing Engineers.” A committed group of SEAS students, faculty, staff, and postdocs has organized a week of activities to celebrate diversity in STEM, to promote open dialogue about important issues affecting campus climate, and to provide practical advice on how we can all be active participants in creating a diverse and inclusive place to work and study. BRIDGE Week kicks off on April 2 with an undergraduate banquet featuring NASA Astronaut Stephanie Wilson, S.B. ’88.
- Now in its ninth year, the FAS Diversity Dialogues lecture series, co-sponsored by FAS Human Resources and the FAS Dean’s Office, brings together perspectives with the goal of learning from difference. This year’s theme is Storytelling to Enhance Inclusion. Three sessions will explore the role of contemporary narrative in understanding and claiming multiple dimensions of identity and in creating understanding, connection, and the conditions for positive change.
- Since 2010, FAS has partnered with Year Up, a nationally recognized program, in an effort to develop a wider pipeline of exceptional talent from underrepresented groups for a range of FAS roles. During this period, FAS has placed over 45 Year Up interns within FAS, with over 20 interns transitioning into regular positions within Harvard. Additionally, dedicated diversity recruiting resources within FAS HR work with managers to recruit for positions across the FAS. Benefiting from this additional support and focus, the number of diverse hires has steadily increased within FAS from 18% (FY14) to 35% (FY17).
- Growing out of recommendations from the 2017 Harvard Athletics culture review, which collected feedback from 570 student athletes and 136 Athletics staff and coaches, FAS Human Resources facilitated a series of ten 2-hour workshops for 144 Athletics colleagues (including coaches, assistant coaches, athletic trainers, volunteer coaches, and administrative staff) between January and March of 2018. Topics included implicit bias and recruiting and retaining a diverse work force, among others.
- Advancing inclusion for non-traditional learners at Harvard, The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) has for years educated a wide range of ethnically, geographically, economically and age-diverse students through hundreds of open access courses. The DCE’s open enrollment policy affords these students the opportunity to study part-time at Harvard while continuing to work full-time. DCE is focused on enhancing belonging for students who are not part of a full-time residential experience. This involves ongoing experimentation in building digital communities.
This is just a small sample of the efforts happening across the FAS. Overall, we will continue efforts to reflect the issues and priorities highlighted by the Task Force in our strategic planning and assessment activities. You will hear more over time from the Schools and units of the FAS in the course of their work.
I am extremely grateful to the Task Force for their powerful insights and for the shared experience and best practices that have been the result of the process they have undertaken on behalf of our community. I also want to acknowledge and thank the people across FAS who work for our students, staff, faculty and academic personnel to be integrated into our community in ways that permit them to do their best work. These efforts really matter to who we are and what we contribute to the world, and it’s important that we get them right.
Michael D. Smith
Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
John H. Finley, Jr. Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences