Students Push For New Secondary Field

The student committee advocating for the creation of an Innovation for Social Change secondary field will submit the first draft of the proposed curriculum this Friday to the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Noel Bisson.

The secondary concentration, according to the students spearheading the proposal, aims to “provide students with an interdisciplinary approach to thinking critically about solving societal problems using focused learning, action, and reflection.”

Following the draft submission, the Dean and the student committee will work together to achieve a final curriculum, which they hope to complete by the end of the school year.

A team of students, former School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti, and Physics Professor David A. Weitz are currently working together to draft the proposal by the end of the week.

On Monday, four leaders of the student group met with University President Drew G. Faust to pitch their idea, gain Faust’s support, and ask for advice. According to the head of the student committee, Emily K. Harburg ’11, Faust encouraged the students to continue their efforts, and the president said she plans to help them connect with faculty members relevant to the field.

Since their introductory meeting on April 7, the students have assembled a standing committee of 11 faculty members to present their plan to Bisson, exceeding their original goal of 10 members. The committee includes faculty from the psychology, anthropology, and sociology departments as well as several departments across the humanities.

“We are honored to have the support of these faculty members, who are devoted to working with us and getting this proposed secondary passed,” said Kara M. Kubarych ’13, the chair of the faculty outreach sub-committee for the group.

Kubarych added that the group is “confident that the faculty will champion this ground-breaking new program for Harvard undergrads.”

Three faculty members on the standing committee who have formally announced their support are Anthropology Professor Mary M. Steedly, Psychology Professor Ellen J. Langer, and Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development at Harvard Kennedy School.

“They’re defining their future and the least faculty can do is give them the benefit of the doubt by lending their support,” said Juma, who has previously worked with students from other universities on similar initiatives.

SEAS has also been a key supporter of the students’ efforts and will likely be the administrative house of the secondary concentration, Kubarych said.

On April 10, the Undergraduate Council passed legislation in support of the secondary concentration.

After the group finalizes the curriculum, the students will submit their program to the Faculty for a final vote. Harburg said she hopes the final vote will take place as soon as next semester.

—Staff writer Melanie A. Guzman can be reached at melanieguzman@college.harvard.edu

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