Gov Dept, IOP To Bolster Collaboration

In an effort to bridge the activities of the Government Department and the Institute of Politics, the two groups have embarked on a move toward greater collaboration that would bring more students to events and more guests into classrooms.

In a preliminary meeting on Monday, leaders of the IOP convened with Cheryl B. Welch, director of undergraduate studies in the government department, and Karen Kaletka, the department’s coordinator of undergraduate studies, to synchronize long-term collaborative efforts between the two organizations.

The Government Department and the Institute of Politics have traditionally been viewed as distinctly separate groups, despite the apparent overlap between their academic and intellectual interests.

“The thinking is that we at the IOP serve a lot of undergraduates with a very active interest in politics and public service,” said Kenzie Bok ’11, president of the IOP student advisory committee. “The Government Department is serving undergrads interested in the same things.”

IOP Director Bill P. Purcell said that the meeting made clear that better communication with the government department could yield more opportunities for students, such as bringing guest speakers into classrooms. Purcell cited the time that Government Professor and Dunster House Master Roger B. Porter invited IOP fellow Peggy Noonan to a class last semester.

“When we have people here, we can do more to project those people into the Yard,” Purcell said. “We can do more so that government students know who’s down here, so they make it clear who’s available.”

Purcell said that most of the gains from the increased collaboration will be seen in the future, noting that the summer months—when the IOP finalizes its forum options for the upcoming year and the government department determines its course offerings—is an opportune time for coordination.

The IOP occupies a unique space on campus, considering that comparable government departments at Harvard’s peer institutions will often take the role of hosting government officials when they arrive on campus, according to Welch.

Students at Harvard consequently experience a disconnect between the IOP’s offerings and the Government Department as a distinct academic unit, Welch said.

“The IOP provides a different division of labor,” Welch said, adding that it also has a larger budget which expands the pool of people the organization can invite.

Some students interested in politics echoed Welch’s sentiments, stating that  the government department’s lack of similar offerings detracts the sense of unity among concentrators, and that the dearth of communication deters them from attending IOP forums anyway.

“I think maybe if I’d heard about the [IOP] events a little more I would have gone,” said Anne K. McNerney ’10, a government concentrator, adding that she would have been more likely to attend IOP events had she known that some were relevant to her areas of academic interest.

—Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumar@college.harvard.edu.

—Julia L. Ryan can be reached at jryan@college.harvard.edu.

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