Learning beyond the gates

first_imgMarcel Moran ’11, a biology concentrator, plans on a career in medicine. But last semester he stepped aside from problem sets and laboratory experiments to venture into a course called “Reinventing Boston: The Changing American City.”In a small way, Moran ended up reinventing himself, or at least changing the way he perceived the city across the river. His final project was a case study of the recently built Dudley Village Homes development in Dorchester, and how design — lighting, window placement, even playground layouts — can encourage community, reduce crime, and create a welcoming sense of safety.Moran, whose Boston ties had been limited despite growing up in Cambridge, told the story of his foray into design, sociology, and urban history at the winter advisory board meeting last Friday (Jan. 29) of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. The institute aided the course by arranging for local experts, many of them Harvard graduates, to be guest speakers.“This lets you see Boston happening in real time,” he said of the course, a Gen Ed offering that satisfies the “United States in the World” requirement. “There are no hypotheticals.”Moran was joined by two other students with similar stories.Stephanie Miller ’10, a sociology concentrator, wrote a paper based on interviews with the directors of three Boston theater companies. “This class gave you that opportunity to have that collective experience” of living in a city, she said. “It’s a wonderful way to learn.”And Hermioni Lokko, a third-year student at Harvard Medical School pursuing a joint master’s in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), teamed up with two others on an institute-aided project to assess emergency preparedness at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, a place Lokko said she had never been before.She co-wrote her fall paper for MLD-601, an HKS operations management course co-taught by Guy Stuart and Mark Fagan. (Stuart is an HKS lecturer in public policy. Fagan is a senior fellow at HKS’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government.) The course requires practical engagement outside the classroom.“It was,” said Lokko, a native of Ghana, “a wonderful way to get out of the Harvard bubble.”The Dorchester project was an introduction to the world of community health centers, she said, giving students a chance to apply classroom lessons in the real world and to learn what it takes to execute a project. Among the many unexpected lessons, said Lokko, is that data doesn’t always come in handy spreadsheets. She and fellow students, in assessing the center’s capacity, for instance, spent time counting chairs, observing client flow, and evaluating floor plans.Courses that blend traditional learning with hands-on experiences in Boston encourage “engaged scholarship,” said institute executive director David Luberoff, who co-taught the recurrent undergraduate course with Christopher Winship, Harvard’s Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology.“The goal is to take advantage of geography,” he said, “and give students the chance to better understand what they are learning in the classroom by having them see it and do it in the community.”The advisory board event also featured an overview of state and local fiscal issues by three officials, all of them former Rappaport Urban Scholars at HKS. They liked the idea of activity-based learning, a practical and positive facet of the town-gown relationship.“We’re getting great horsepower on issues” from students, especially in “decision-making support,” said Barbara Burke, a senior adviser to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. She works with the institute and faculty members to develop and carry out course-based projects.Burke called the students “neutral, smart, fact-based individuals.”A good addition to the concept would be a systematic view of Harvard courses that require on-the-ground projects in Boston, perhaps “mapped against” the policy needs of the city, she added. “You have a lot of assets.”Continuity from course to course would help too — with successive semesters of students building on each other’s work, said Rappaport advisory board member Tiziana Dearing, M.P.P. ’00. She is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, a client for several institute-supported projects.Like several other advisory board members, Dearing was a guest speaker in the Boston class, where the two weekly lectures usually featured local experts in areas including education, housing, the arts, public safety, business, social services, politics, governance, and public policy.Moran said the speakers helped to create a sense of excitement and vitality in the classroom. “There’s definitely a buzz about this course,” he said. “There’s a feeling this was something special.”“Engaged scholarship” widens a student’s sense of how and where learning occurs, and it also encourages pathways to public service, said Christine Heenan, Harvard’s vice president of Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, who attended the Rappaport meeting. Learning in the classroom alone, she said, “makes it easy to stay too close to campus.”In addition to the students and elected officials, the two-hour meeting in HKS’s Taubman Building included two more special guests, by way of a large-screen video link in the back of a fifth-floor conference room: real estate developer and philanthropist Jerry Rappaport ’47, LL.B. ’49, M.P.A. ’63, and his wife Phyllis.In 1997, they and other members of the family created the Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation. In 2006, the Rappaport family and foundation provided an endowment gift to fund the core operations of the Rappaport Institute. The Harvard-wide entity aims to strengthen ties among the region’s scholars, students, officials, and civic leaders.From the den of his Florida home, Rappaport said he was happy to see that Harvard’s students and scholars were helping local leaders address key issues. In so doing, he said, “the academic world has really benefited.”last_img read more

Guidelines for Schools’ conflict of interest policies

first_imgThe new Harvard University Policy on Individual Financial Conflicts of Interest for Persons Holding Faculty and Teaching Appointments (University Conflict of Interest Policy) is built upon 12 principles that establish a framework to guide the Schools in developing their implementation plans. The Schools’ implementation of the policy will be audited on a regular basis by the University’s Risk Management and Audit Services, and the audit reports will be reviewed by the vice provost for research and a new standing University Committee on Financial Conflicts of Interest.Among other elements, the Schools’ plans must:• Ensure that faculty members’ educational and research activities are motivated by a commitment to the advancement of knowledge and not compromised by their outside activities and financial relationships. A faculty member should avoid circumstances that reasonable observers would believe create an undue risk that the prospect of direct or indirect personal financial gain could inappropriately influence the faculty member’s judgment or actions in fulfilling his or her University duties.• Include a robust system of annual reporting by faculty members of their and their immediate family members’ outside financial interests that may be related to their academic responsibilities. Additionally, the plans must include provisions for the reporting of new potential conflicts when they first arise.• Require that written records be maintained by the School of the processes by which reported financial interests are reviewed and evaluated for the possibility of creating financial conflicts of interest that raise concern, and how such conflicts will be eliminated, reduced, or managed, as well as disclosed, to minimize the risk of undue bias of the faculty member’s research and scholarship, teaching, mentoring, and public service.• Ensure that faculty members’ outside financial interests not adversely influence their instruction, guidance, or supervision of students (including trainees and postdoctoral fellows). Academic assignments to students should principally serve their interests in learning, self-development, and satisfaction of requirements for academic advancement.• Provide for sanctions for failures to comply with the rules, reporting requirements, and other policy provisions.last_img read more

Opening Year Dialogue with President Faust and Charlie Gibson

first_imgPresident Faust and Charlie Gibson’s Opening Year Dialogue was held on Tuesday, September 21, at Sanders Theatre at 4 p.m.last_img

Art for art’s sake

first_imgLeave it to Harvard students to stay busy even during a nominal break from school. Undergraduates took advantage of myriad offerings during the recent winter recess, including the arts intensives centered at Arts @ 29 Garden.Utilizing the University’s newest arts space, students explored their funnier sides, tapped out poetry on machines, danced, fused architecture with fiction writing, and tried the stage.Arts @ 29 Garden is a new initiative born out of the University-wide Arts Task Force that two years ago called for Harvard to further integrate the arts into its curriculum and everyday life. The new space on Garden Street is aimed at promoting creativity, collaboration, art making, and experimentation among faculty, students, and visiting artists.With Harvard’s new academic calendar, many students now have more time to explore areas of interest that they might not have been able to fit into their busy schedules during the fall and spring semesters. For many students, the restructured winter break gave them a chance to experiment with their inner artists.Freshman Ginny Fahs took a weeklong creative writing workshop that connected her to her poetic side in a relaxed, informal way.“I love to write, and I don’t have the time to do it. This week was just so unstructured and free, and our activities were unconventional and fun. A lot of it felt like play. I felt like I had time to actually develop my ideas and develop my writing.”As part of the class, students typed out strings of letters on paper towels using old typewriters in an effort to connect the characters to the visual arts. They also wrote poems on pieces of cardboard boxes, read a book about Buckminster Fuller, the Harvard-educated engineer, author, inventor, and futurist, penned works inspired by Fuller’s poetic style, and traipsed off to see the recent play “R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe,” at the American Repertory Theater, along with students from all of the intensives.“It was a very process-driven workshop,” said poet and visual artist Jen Bervin, who ran the creative writing intensive. “The aim wasn’t really to create finished work but to create new thinking about page space and composition and approaches to writing … to activate a lot of different learning and thinking at once.”The monthly salon series at Arts @ 29 Garden, “Salon @ 29,” held on Feb. 3, focused on the January Arts Intensives held in the space. During the evening, students and their instructors discussed their workshops.Freshman Angelique Henderson, an economics concentrator who plans to pursue a secondary concentration in dramatic arts, said the intensive theater program, which included sessions on monologue work, auditioning, and the business of acting, “was a blast.” She said she developed “a close bond” with other students in the theater group.That work has already paid off; she was recently cast in “for colored girls/for black boys,” a March production of the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club.“I felt like it was a real test of what I had learned,” said Henderson.Sam Weisman, an artist with the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training who was an instructor in the theater intensive, said it was “refreshing” to work with the students.Older, more experienced actors tend to hold onto preconceived notions and are protective of what they have learned, said Weisman. But his Harvard students were eager and willing to experiment.“Everyone gave themselves over to everything they were doing in a tremendously constructive way, which as a teacher I found very refreshing,” said Weisman.Some students opted for laughter, taking a workshop with comedians Jimmy Tingle and Jane Condon. Students who wanted to move more took a dance intensive with Liz Lerman and Dance Exchange artists Keith Thompson, Vincent Thomas, and Sarah Levitt.Others explored the nexus of architecture and the written word in a class geared toward helping them learn the basic concepts of architectural design and representation.Jawn Lim, a doctoral design candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), ran the course. He and course co-creator Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor in Architectural Theory and associate dean for academic affairs at the GSD, challenged students to consider concepts like architectural structure. The class fused architecture with fiction.“We sought structural and spatial potential that is found both in text and architecture, and in so doing pushed the students to invent visionary designs by identifying organizing systems that parallel both architecture and text,” said Lim.Students first wrote a brief story describing an architectural scene. They then reworked their texts based on small plastic models they created. The students also developed stop-motion animations of their constructions and listened to lectures on concepts like utopia and Fuller’s architecture to help inform their designs.“A lot of them showed that they were meant to be designers … they were hungry for the opportunity to think with their hands, to design something,” said Lim of students whose concentrations ranged from economics and philosophy to physics and comparative literature.He called the concepts learned during the workshop invaluable.“Even if they end up working as a surgeon, they think in three dimensions now … they can imagine space and form a little more fluidly. If they end up in government, they think in systems, they think in processes. The way they can apply the experience to their future careers is unlimited.”“Those few days of intense studio work have shown me the power of pushing the boundaries of my imagination,” said sophomore Yuanjian Luo, a visual and environmental studies concentrator and participant in Lim’s class who is considering a career in graphic design.For Lori Gross, the associate provost for arts and culture who helped to coordinate the program, which was aided by the Office of the President and Provost, the Dean of Arts and Humanities, and the Office for the Arts, the intensives allowed students to explore and experiment with new artistic practices.“There was a lot of crossover. Students in the theater track danced, and the dancers quoted Shakespeare. Participants created a new community of artists by working across disciplines they may have never before encountered or studied.”last_img read more

Economic growth fails to remedy undernutrition in India’s children

first_imgGrowth in India’s economy since 1992 has not ended undernutrition among children in that country and may require the Indian government to directly invest in appropriate health interventions such as food aid, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. The study was published online March 8, 2011 in PLoS Medicine.S V Subramanian, associate professor of society, human development, and health at HSPH and the study’s senior author, and Malavika Subramanyam, lead author, postdoctoral fellow at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, and an HSPH alum, analyzed economic and children’s growth patterns in the Indian states. The data came from the National Family Health Surveys on 77,326 Indian children surveyed in 1992-93, 1998-99 and 2005-06. The children’s nutritional status was classified as underweight or stunting and wasting, based on the World Health Organization Child Growth Standards. Children with a weight that is less than the median for their age and gender were classified as underweight. Similarly children whose height was below the median for their age and gender, and whose weight was below the median for their height and gender were considered stunted and wasted, respectively.While the researchers found the prevalence of undernutrition decreased slightly during the study period, the decline did not correspond with the increase in economic growth.It should be noted that economic growth in India is largely driven by the service and technology sector, which is largely composed of the privileged sections of Indian society, and not by the majority of the population, which is engaged in farming or manufacturing, Subramanian told the New York Times. It may, therefore, require India’s government to use its growing tax revenues for direct aid like food or food stamps in order to substantially reduce child undernutrition, he said.Previous studies have shown that educating women and reducing birth rates are more helpful in keeping children nourished than macroeconomic growth, the authors said in the PLoS study.last_img read more

Honoring a tireless advocate

first_imgClara Goldberg Schiffer took adversity in stride. When she was in her 70s, the Radcliffe alumna altered her diet and joined a gym after learning she had heart disease. She was determined to remain active in the many causes she held dear, and was committed to her longtime goal of improving the lives of working women.Born in Brockton, Mass., to Jewish immigrants, Schiffer learned the importance of hard work early, taking intense Latin classes so she could apply to Radcliffe College. She worked in a leather plant and a candy factory to help pay for her studies and graduated cum laude in 1932. She moved to Washington, D.C., to work on New Deal programs benefiting workers, women, children, and health. Schiffer supported similar causes well into her 90s. She died in 2009.A group of scholars and professionals involved with the labor movement, workplace law, and social policy gathered at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Sept. 9 to pay tribute to Schiffer’s life and accomplishments and to explore both the legacy and the future of working women in the United States.The event, “The New Majority? The Past, Present, and Future of Women in the Workplace,” also recognized a recent bequest from the Schiffer estate to the Schlesinger Library that will support processing five collections that document the lives of working women. The collections include the records of two organizations that looked to improve working conditions for women; the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers; and two Massachusetts vacation areas for working women.Harvard President Drew Faust said the history of women has “served as such an important point of inspiration, change, progress for the ways women’s lives have been transformed in our lifetimes.”“What can be more important than making resources available and transparent and accessible to those who wish to understand them and make use of them?” asked Harvard President Drew Faust, who helped to introduce the event.Faust, a Civil War scholar and Harvard’s Lincoln Professor of History, said the history of women has “served as such an important point of inspiration, change, progress for the ways women’s lives have been transformed in our lifetimes.”In brief opening remarks, Schiffer’s daughter, Lois Schiffer, a graduate of Radcliffe College and Harvard Law School, as well as a professor of environmental law at Georgetown University, referenced the current high jobless rate in the United States and the “grave challenges” faced by women workers.“It is now for all of us to stand on [my mother’s] shoulders,” she said, “and move forward with the task that is not yet complete.”Political action and labor organizations are still important in improving the lives of the working class, especially of the women, said panelist Heidi Hartmann, an economist and president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Another concern, she said, involves America’s corporate culture.“We need to control and exact some obedience from corporations,” said Hartmann, noting that in Germany workers are frequently members of governing boards of large companies. “We need to find ways for our workers to influence what goes on.”Radcliffe College graduate Marsha S. Berzon, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, discussed some past legal cases that were chilling by today’s standards. The lawsuits involved companies that required women working in or around toxins to be sterilized to keep their jobs. Other cases involved firms that treated pregnant employees unfairly.“These stories hopefully seem somewhat shocking to the young people in the room,” Berzon said.The cases represented important turning points, said Berzon, as women stepped forward to fight for their rights. The few female labor lawyers who helped to argue these cases began to mentor the next generation of women pursuing legal careers, while female law professors, including eventual Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg, addressed the issue of pregnancy in the workplace.Yet despite enormous gains made over the last century, women in the workforce still face many challenges, said Nancy MacLean, a history professor at Duke University. MacLean argued that the prolonged recession in the 1970s led to a “vast restructuring” of the American economy. That combined with a conservative movement determined to roll back gains made by labor, leading to a “deepening inequality” for women who work.“The changes that we need to make the most of the new possibilities for women are not going to come easily,” said MacLean. “We face deep structural obstacles, decades in the making, and it will take lots of creativity, commitment, and coalition building and a lot of organizing on the part of more people” to improve the situation, she added.Some items from the Schlesinger collections were on display in the Radcliffe Gymnasium during the discussion. In an essay from 1891, Lucy A. Warner, an advocate for working women, made a poignant plea: “Dear sister workers, we who work in shop and store and factory, and in countless homes all over the United States, if it is because we work that people look down on us, then let us pray that the Lord will change their opinion.”last_img read more

Finding a place in research

first_imgThree years ago, I knew nothing about Toni Stone or the Negro League. I didn’t know a thing about baseball’s racial history, with the exception being a vague familiarity with the legacy of Jackie Robinson, the African-American player who broke the major leagues’ color barrier.  I certainly didn’t know about gender in baseball.But a year later, I held in my hands a copy of “Curveball: the Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, the First Woman to Play Baseball in the Negro League.” The author, Martha Ackmann, a former Augustus Anson Whitney Scholar in non-fiction at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, was my research mentor in what would become one of my most valuable experiences at Harvard.Since my freshman year, I have worked at Radcliffe, researching alongside visiting fellows on a slew of projects. I am always impressed by their range, the scope of which is revealed during an annual celebratory dinner. Scientists, musicians, writers, and artists work with students, mentoring in their respective fields and researching side by side. The research element has been fundamental in my development as a student.As a perhaps-too-confident freshman, I thought that I was well versed in research, until my fellow encouraged me to explore the abundant Harvard resources. We are all told from the outset of freshman year that Harvard has unparalleled resources: the largest collegiate library; large collections of bequeathed journals and letters; nearly 17 million volumes. Spending hours tracking books in Pusey Library or gently leafing through originals in Houghton, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the immensity of Harvard’s holdings. Working with the Radcliffe fellows has allowed me to develop relationships with great thinkers and navigate the wealth of historic and literary sources.More than the research, however, I have come to value the essence of cooperation that the Radcliffe Research Partnership epitomizes. Learning from people who have been trailblazers in their fields is an opportunity that few receive. Further, the administrative support at Radcliffe from both Sharon Bromberg-Lim and Marlon Cummings is extraordinary. Acting as radical activists on behalf of all researchers and fellows, they organize a remarkable program for those involved. The program is creative, dynamic, and vibrant. When I was a freshman, my desire to be involved in research was limited by my own imagination. Having had little experience with research tools, I could not imagine the possibilities that Radcliffe encourages.As researchers guide students through their projects, they simultaneously act as mentors in various capacities, both academic and professional. I dread the day when my ID no longer gives me access to Harvard’s resources. Nevertheless, the hours spent researching for Radcliffe crafted me into a better thinker and writer than I ever hoped to be. Though I have not completed the fabled three things before graduating (nor is that likely), I am delighted that my Harvard experience has invited the intimacy of library research and the thrill of new discoveries shared with the fellows.If you’re an undergraduate or graduate student and have an essay to share about life at Harvard, please email your ideas to Jim Concannon, the Gazette’s news editor, at Jim_Concannon@harvard.edu.last_img read more

Glamour honors Ryu

first_imgHarvard College student Annemarie Ryu ’13 was honored on April 4 as one of Glamour magazine’s Top 10 College Women. A native of Rochester, Minn., Ryu is concentrating in social anthropology. The competition has recognized 10 students from across the country for the past 55 years for their campus leadership, scholastic achievement, community involvement, and unique, inspiring goals. The 10 winners are also profiled in an editorial feature in the May 2012 issue of Glamour, which hit newsstands nationally on April 10. Ryu has installed latrines and water-purification units in the Dominican Republic, created a text message appointment reminder system for pregnant women in India, and is starting a company that will sell south Indian jackfruit in the U.S. to benefit farmers in India.last_img read more

Desert mystery

first_imgThere’s a mystery in the Syrian desert shielded by the conflict tearing apart the Middle Eastern nation.In 2009, archaeologist Robert Mason of the Royal Ontario Museum was at work at an ancient monastery when, walking nearby, he came across a series of rock formations: lines of stone, stone circles, and what appeared to be tombs.Mason, who talked about the finds and about archaeology at the monastery on Wednesday at Harvard’s Semitic Museum, said that much more detailed examinations are needed to understand the structures, but that he isn’t sure when he will be able to return to Syria, if ever.Analysis of fragments of stone tools found in the area suggests the rock formations are much older than the monastery, perhaps dating to the Neolithic Period or early Bronze Age, 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. Mason also saw corral-like stone formations called “desert kites,” which would have been used to trap gazelles and other animals. The region is dry today (“very scenic, if you like rocks,” Mason said), but was probably greener millennia ago.It was clear, Mason said, that the purpose of the stone formations was entirely different from that of the stone-walled desert kites. The kites were arranged to take advantage of the landscape and direct the animals to a single place, while the more linear stone formations were made to stand out from the landscape. In addition, he said, there was no sign of habitats.“What it looked like was a landscape for the dead and not for the living,” Mason said. “It’s something that needs more work and I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.”The monastery is home to many frescoes — some badly damaged— depicting Christian scenes, female saints, and Judgment Day.In a talk in 2010, Mason said he felt like he’d stumbled onto England’s Salisbury Plain, where Stonehenge is located, leading to the formations being dubbed “Syria’s Stonehenge.”Mason also talked about the monastery, Deir Mar Musa. Early work on the building likely began in the late 4th or early 5th century. It was occupied until the 1800s, though damaged repeatedly by earthquakes. Following refurbishment in the 1980s and 1990s, it became active again.Mason thinks the monastery was originally a Roman watchtower that was partially destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt. The compound was enlarged, with new structures added until it reached the size of the modern complex, clinging to a dry cliff face in the desert about 50 miles north of Damascus.Mason was searching Roman watchtowers when he came across the stone lines, circles, and possible tombs.The monastery is the home to many frescoes — some badly damaged — depicting Christian scenes, female saints, and Judgment Day. Mason also explored a series of small caves that he believes were excavated and lived in by the monks, who returned to the monastery for church services.Mason said that if he’s able to return, he’d like to excavate the area under the church’s main altar, where he thinks there might be an entrance to underground tombs. He’s already received the permission of the monastery’s superior, who was recently ejected from the country.last_img read more

Cooperating in educating

first_imgThis is the first of four reports echoing key themes of The Harvard Campaign, examining what the University is accomplishing in those areas.While achievement and excellence have always been Harvard hallmarks, sharing knowledge and new insights across the University’s Schools, centers, and institutes has not always been easy. But that has been changing rapidly, as faculty and students have embraced new collaborative and innovative approaches set to reshape education and learning in the 21st century.“We live in an era when knowledge is growing in importance in addressing the world’s most pressing problems, when technology promises both wondrous possibilities and profound dislocations, when global forces increasingly shape our lives and work, when traditional intellectual fields are shifting and converging, and when public expectations and demands of higher education are intensifying,” Harvard President Drew Faust said during her opening-year address before last weekend’s launch of The Harvard Campaign. “I see many unprecedented opportunities in these developments, opportunities for our teaching, for our research, and for our global connections and reach,” she said.Indeed, new opportunities for collaboration among faculty and students are blossoming in every corner of Harvard and touching virtually every discipline, from the sciences and business to theology and the arts.Making scientific research — and scientists — better understood has been a priority at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.  Robert A. Lue, the Richard L. Menschel Faculty Director at the Bok Center, uses elaborate videos to help illustrate the complex inner workings of cells for his students in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. He encourages students in the sciences to foster better communication with their colleagues and the public by using interactive multimedia to tell compelling stories about their research. The effort is designed to engage students, prompt deeper learning, and ensure that the public will continue to understand and value publicly funded scientific research.“When you look at the national landscape, the traditional mode of lecturing, while still important, is clearly not the only way to teach,” Lue said in an earlier Gazette interview. “Increasingly, faculty members are exploring new ways of using technology and new ways of engaging students. I’ve never seen this level of broad-based interest in creatively rethinking teaching and learning among both faculty and students, so it’s a tremendously exciting time to be in the classroom.”In the international realm, earlier this year nearly 50 Harvard professors, students, researchers, and doctors from the Graduate School of Design, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard School of Public Health, and the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights traveled to India to attend the Maha Kumbh Mela, an eight-week Hindu festival that occurs only every 12 years. The festival is a mass gathering of ritual bathing that also incorporates commerce, politics, public health, and other services of interest to academics in many fields. Afterward, the group convened to discuss the many findings they unearthed from the trip, including a massive data set of cellphone usage that will help those studying ways to overcome the challenges of curating, storing, analyzing, and sharing “big data” collections.Closer to home, at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), local high school students recently have tackled the complex issues surrounding the Civil War — such as freedom, civil rights, and social justice — in a pioneering and artistic way. The students researched the war and then wrote and produced “The Proclamation Project,” with the help of A.R.T. fellows and education staff who brought history alive.With the success of edX, Harvard and MIT’s joint online education platform launched in 2012, HarvardX continues to expand the ways in which traditional course offerings can be reimagined for the global classroom, and also help with in-class learning at Harvard.This fall, the Harvard Kennedy School will launch its first HarvardX class on national security issues and the civil war in Syria. Co-led by Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and David Sanger, chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, the class will include “brick and mortar” graduate students as well as 500 virtual students who will get to audit weekly lectures, complete assignments, and participate in student-run strategy talks in the cloud.HarvardX has also prompted new alliances between the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and Harvard Business School (HBS).Newly appointed as vice provost for advances in learning, Peter K. Bol, the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, has partnered with William C. Kirby, T.M. Chang Professor of China Studies at Harvard University and Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at HBS, to offer a history course this fall on China. Most of the videos, maps, text, illustrations, recordings, and photographs that current students will use were originally produced by students enrolled in Bol’s innovative Chinese history class last spring.Elisa New, Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at FAS, is readying her first online class, a survey of early New England poetry and Walt Whitman. To best reach far-flung students and to visually enrich the study of historic words on a page, New has produced a series of video lectures about 17th-century Puritan poetry that were shot at key locations throughout New England and New York City, with the help of some undergraduate and graduate students. It’s an exciting way to approach literature, New said, and one she has eagerly embraced, since, “I love being part of an experimental startup project where we figure it out as we go along.”last_img read more