New Concentration Offerings Attract Pre-Professionals

UPDATED: Nov. 14, 2012, at 3:48 p.m.

While Harvard’s new concentration options in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and architecture studies seemingly lend themselves to distinct career paths for undergraduates, professors insist that they are not purely pre-professional and do align with the College’s liberal arts philosophy.

“Not everyone wants to have a pre-professional degree,” said History of Art and Architecture professor Alina A. Payne. “What people don’t realize is that [architecture] is not something only architects care about. We are all involved in architecture.”

Previously, HAA lacked certain technical aspects of traditional architecture programs, such as studio classes. Students would trek to MIT to fill this gap in their education, whereas now they can attend studio courses at the Harvard Graduate School of Design just around the corner.

According to Payne, the architecture studies curriculum prepares students for careers in architecture, as well as many other disciplines, including biology, environmental sciences, and government.

Similarly, HAA Director of Undergraduate Studies David J. Roxburgh noted that architecture studies is not as pre-professional or “instrumentalist” as other architecture programs.

Nonetheless, many students are choosing architecture studies to follow professional interests.

HAA concentrator Jack A. Pretto ’14 said that he believes the architecture studies track leans pre-professional, despite the fact that students will need to pursue further graduate education “to do real practice in architecture.”

“Harvard seems to be so anti-pre-professional, and yet this architecture track seems to be attracting pre-professionals,” he said.

Likewise, Benjamin Lopez ’15 just declared as an architecture studies concentrator. He voiced a strong desire to become an architect, adding that he was drawn to the “pre-professional aspect” of the concentration.

Yet, like Payne, he also remarked that architecture studies primes students for careers in fields outside of architecture.

“It prepares you, but it doesn’t limit your options,” Lopez said.

HAA concentrator Camille Z. Coppola ’14 said that the track is not inherently career-oriented.

“I don’t think that having a creative approach to academics is necessarily pre-professional,” she said, adding that theory and classroom work will still play a role in architecture studies.

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has also introduced new concentrations in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

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