Tomorrow the World

Harvard Expands Its International Role

Coolidge Hall looks innocuous enough from the outside. Located about two blocks past Memorial Hall, 1737 Cambridge Street has little to distinguish it from neighboring structures other than a long concrete ramp leading to its glass doors. But this perception changes quickly once the visitor ventures inside, in the lobby, students and faculty banter in several languages. Conversations invariably produce car-catching phrases like "last time I spoke to Helmut Schmidt" and "I'll ask Lopez portillo when I see him next week. "The seminar rooms are filled: in one, foreign dignitary discuses the potential for peace in the Middle East while in another, panelists debase the most effective development strategies for the Third World. A building directory indicates that the Japanese Institute can be found on the third floor, the Center for International Affairs (CFIA) on the fourth, and the Harvard Institute for International Development (HID) on the sixth. After a while, the visitor leaves, a bit surprised at his discover. Coolidge Hall is one of he University's best kept secrets: international Harvard.

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Not so long age, Harvard was not even a national school. At the turn of the century, most undergraduates were New Englanders and it was no until the 1930's that the University went out of its way to recruit students from distant states.

The "internationalization" of Harvard started in earnest after World War II. Improvements in transportation made Cambridge more accessible toe foreign students and professors. At the same time, there was growing sentiment around the country that America had a crucial role to play in the world' isolationism had become a thing of the past. Harvard's curriculum began to reflect this new attitude as more "international" courses appeared in the catalogue, and already existing offerings took on global dimensions.

In a very general sense, international Harvard and the University as a whole share the same goals: research, teaching, and service. But as international Harvard continues to expand--and President Bok has made it repeatedly clear he favors such expansion--close attention will be paid to how successful the internationalists are in fulfilling their aspirations.


RESEARCH: In 1958, at the height of the Cold War CFLA was created as an autonomous unit within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). The main objective of CFIA was--and remains--research of problems and trends in international relations. The impact of the center on U.S. foreign policy is apparent: at one time or another Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Thomas Schelling worked on CFLA projects. Today, the CFIA is the largest university-based center for international affairs research in the United States.

The CFIA is only one of he many international research institutes at Harvard. Several area centers--including the Center for European Studies, the Russian Research Center and the Japan Institute--focus on the problems of particular regions ore countries. In addition, "problem" oriented institutes examine specific issues: the Center for the Study of World Religions and the Center for Population Studies are two such organizations.

In the past, the various research centers have not been free of criticism. In particular, the CFLA has been accused of a lack of cohesiveness or, as one professor put it, 'a semblance of anarchy." This is due, critics suggest to a proliferation of seemingly unrelated projects. But as CFLA Director for Student Programs John Odell says: 'This lack of a grand scheme is deliberate. 1 think the leadership feels the best way to promote good research is to find talented people and let them work on what they want. Any cohesiveness is purely accidental."

TEACHING: The most common way undergraduate come into contact with international Harvard is through teaching. Professors doing research at one of the international centers often work their findings into courses. Almost all of the faculty members offering underdevelopment courses in the Economics Department also work in the HIID. Harvard's undergraduate curriculum mirrors the increased internationalization of the University. In 1959, there were 103 internationally oriented social science courses in the FAS catalogue. Today, that number has doubled. In addition. a survey of 20 leading universities showed that Harvard had the highest percentage of "internationalists" among non-science faculty.

Recently, educators throughout the nation have expressed concern over the de-emphasis of foreign cultures and languages at all educational levels. Harvard has pursued the opposite course. "The past few years have seen the inclusion in the Core of a foreign cultures category and the stiffening of the language requirement." Says Special Assistant to President Bok Robert Klitgaard, who was commissioned in 1979 to review the University's international activities. "In this instance, Harvard seems to be going against the national trend."

Student programs are becoming an increasingly integral part of international Harvard. CFIA Director Samuel Huntington in particular is trying to get undergraduates more involved with the center's activities. Last December for example, the CFIA created council of student advisors that has 24 members ranging from freshmen to graduate students. Says Odell: "We were surprised at the level of ignorance. The Center's prime constituents among the student body didn't know what was going on at CFIA. That is why we started this council, to get more student input."

The CFIA's student programs include summer grants that permit undergraduates to travel abroad in order to research theses and an international studies network that puts students and faculty with similar interests in international affairs into contact with each other.

Unfortunately, the latter project remains unknown to many members of the Harvard community. Students and faculty members are asked to fill out questionnaires listing the languages they speak and the issues and regions that interest them, and the resulting information is fed into a computer. Then, if a student is working on a paper or project with international dimensions and needs additional sources or advice, he asks the computer. If a professor wants a research assistant, he can find one through the network. Richard Burkholder, graduate student advisor to the CFIA and director of the computer network, is confident the project can generate student interest. "So far," says Burkholder. "We have had over 1000 users, including many faculty members and grad students. Now we are going to make a real push for undergraduates."

Many internationalists at Harvard claim students are showing greater interest in international studies and working abroad. Margot Gill, director of the Office of Career Service and Off Campus Learning (OCS-OCL) believes this is due both to initiatives by President Bok and to increased support from departments for study abroad programs. "Departments are clearly more receptive to giving credit to undergraduates studying in other countries. In addition, students are finding the Ventures Abroad project that Bok started very helpful." Gilt says.

Bok initiated the ventures program five years ago in an attempt to make use of alumni living help Harvard students or graduates who come to their countries become acclimated and find part or full time jobs. Gill estimates that through these alumni contacts about 400 companies have come to draw regularly on Harvard Students.