They call themselves the International Students Committee (ISC), but they're not a committee of international students.
They have office space in the basement of Holworthy--next to the Black Students Association and across the hall from the Undergraduate Council--but few people have heard of them or their organization.
They help organize an annual symposium in Switzerland that hosts more than 600 students, politicians, entrepreneurs and academics--but the ISC itself only has 12 members. It is an enigmatic organization, to say the least.
"It's a name that we inherited and that we've wanted to change for awhile," says Loren L. Kinczel '98, ISC president. "But it's also still very accurate in the sense that our focus is very international."
"We have always wanted to foster communication between cultures and groups, and we, as students, are focused on an international goal," Kinczel adds.
Founded in 1992 by Allison K. Hughes '94, the ISC began when Hughes attended the International Management Symposium (IMS) in St. Gallen, Switzerland, the summer after her first year at Harvard.
Sponsored by the world-wide ISC, IMS invites more than 200 students from around the world to discuss international business with business executives and politicians every year at the end of May.
"It was an eye-opening experience," says Hughes, now a student at Harvard Business School. "It stimulated my creativity and overall helped me think about my place in the global community."
But Hughes says that she felt that the three-day symposium lacked enough representatives from the United States.
Hughes returned to Harvard her sophomore year intent on forming a Harvard branch of the ISC to help bring more American students and executives to the events.
Since the Harvard ISC's involvement, IMS has featured more students and executives from the United States, including last year's keynote speaker, James D. Wolsensohn, president of the World Bank.
"Harvard was the best school to do this because it is a very international school; it represents diversity," Hughes says. "And the U.S. contingent is definitely now a big part of the team."
And while Hughes started the Harvard branch of the ISC with only one member--herself--the group has since expanded its membership and involvements over the last five years on campus. The ISC now sponsors its own annual symposium and helps students with the essays they must write to win an invitation to the IMS.
"We have kept a very low profile on campus," Kinczel says. "Our goal this year on campus has been to build up our name recognition." Kinczel especially hopes to increase the attendance of their own symposium, which normally attracts 150 undergraduates and graduates.
Scheduled for April 4, the symposium, "Values and Virtues in the Age of Capitalism," will sponsor speakers in areas like philanthropy or the workplace environment.