When Paul J. McLoughlin II came to Harvard as a counselor in the Office of Career Services, he was, at 26, just a few years older than some of the students he advised.
Within just a few years, he moved up Harvard’s ladder, becoming assistant dean of student life—and the youngest administrator at the College, beating out other administrators at the time by 18 years.
Soon, he climbed higher, becoming an associate dean and senior adviser to the dean when Evelynn M. Hammonds took over as the College’s top administrator. As Hammonds’ closest confidante, he has had his hand in every major College project over the past three years.
But after ten years at Harvard, McLoughlin, 36, announced this summer that he was ready to step down.
As this influential and at times controversial figure leaves Harvard, many administrators and student group leaders say that McLoughlin has been a consistent advocate for students in University Hall even if some of the projects he has led—like the construction of the Student Organization Center at Hilles—have come under criticism for failing to address student needs.
Without McLoughlin standing behind her, Dean Hammonds might now make changes to her staff structure that reflect her transition to leading the College with three years of experience at its helm from the new dean who invited McLoughlin to move up in the College along with her.
SHAPING THE COLLEGE
When Hammonds became dean of the College in 2008, she appointed McLoughlin as her right-hand man.
In that role, as well as in his earlier position in the Office of Student Life, he has played an important role in initiatives like expanding social space for students, re-envisioning the College’s winter break, and enlivening opening week programs.
He was the project manager for the creation of the SOCH in 2006. Five years later, the space hosts numerous events and houses student group offices but is commonly derided for its remote location in the Quad.
Looking back on the project now, McLoughlin acknowledges that the building is not as popular as he would like it to be, citing it as proof of the adage about “location, location, location” being key to success in real estate.
But he noted that moving student organizations to the SOCH freed up spaces in the basements of freshman dormitories that are now occupied by the Harvard Foundation, Women’s Center, prayer groups, and freshman common rooms.
“If you think about that project in its totality, it has been hugely successful,” McLouglin said. “[The SOCH] has always been part of a package.”
As he leaves Harvard, McLoughlin similarly seeks to put a positive spin on another endeavor which received mixed reviews from College students. Last January, he ran the College’s inaugural Optional Winter Activities Week. Though some complained that it was under-attended and suffered from a lack of faculty programming and College guidance, McLoughlin says that the first iteration of the end-of-break week was what he intended it to be, and he foresees few changes to how the week will be run.
Admitting that “winter break has gotten a lot of beating up on,” he says that he thinks the break should remain “amorphous” rather than a “cruise ship menu of choices.”