New Program Partners Faculty Members with Freshman Entryways

A Meal in Annenberg
Courtesy of Brandon H. Geller

Alexander Rehding, chair of the Music Department, enjoys a meal in Annenberg on Oct. 4 with students from his assigned entryway in Holworthy Middle as part of the new Faculty Fellows Program.

In keeping with the tradition of a Senior Common Room in each upperclassman House that connects Harvard’s faculty to residential life, faculty members will now affiliate with freshman entryways as well through the “Faculty Fellows Program,” an initiative created by the Freshman Dean’s Office and the Advising Programs Office.

The program matches professors with a freshman entryway and encourages at least two to three meetings between faculty members and students over the course of the semester. Activities may range from lunch in Annenberg to museum visits to discussions anchored around the faculty member’s field of study.

This fall, 11 entryways across all four freshman yards have been paired with 11 professors for the program’s pilot run. The first set of faculty fellows come from a variety of fields and include Andrew Berry, lecturer on organismic and evolutionary biology; Margo I. Seltzer, a computer science professor; and Benedict H. Gross, acting math department chair.

The program was conceived last year out of a desire by the FDO to increase interaction between students and professors during freshman year.

“In freshman surveys, students always tell us that they wish they had more opportunity to interact with faculty,” said Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67. “Through this program, professors can become engaged in an easy, accessible, almost effortless way, while also enhancing the freshman experience.”

In collaboration with the APO, the FDO drafted a proposal for the program, which was initially called the “Harvard Yard Senior Common Room.” Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris immediately approved the idea.

“Each house has a Senior Common Room, but we really wanted to get more interaction between freshmen and faculty,” said Ivy Yard Resident Dean of Freshmen Michael C. Ranen, who spearheaded the program at the FDO. “We identified faculty who we know were generally excited to develop these relationships with students.”

The pilot program consists of a diverse pool of entryways—both big and small, with old and new proctors—so that the FDO can best assess what model will be most successful. If all goes well, the program will be expanded to all freshman entryways as early as next year, Ranen said.

Faculty members began meeting with their respective entryways last week. Music department chair Alexander Rehding, who met students from Holworthy Middle over lunch at Annenberg last Friday, said that he thought the new program was a “great idea.”

“There’s something wonderful about freshmen. The level of excitement is different,” Rehding said. “It’s a magical time for them and I think that’s why it’s so remarkable to interact with them.”

Rehding, who already knew Holworthy Middle proctor Brandon P. Geller ’08, said that planning the meal took little effort and that he was glad to spend the time with students.

“Next time, we’re looking into organizing a study break with him or even a jam session because a lot of my students are very musically inclined,” Geller said.

Cesar E. Maeda ’17, who attended the meal with Rehding, said the meal helped “ease [his] perceptions of Harvard professors as being unreachable and classy.”

“I think this is a great initiative,” Maeda added. “It helps expose freshmen to professors, when we would have otherwise never had the chance.”

—Staff writer Michelle Denise L. Ferreol can be reached at michelle.ferreol@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @michiferreol.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: Oct. 14, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the class year of Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67.

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