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Harvard is poised to undertake a series of major community initiatives in Boston and Cambridge, pledging to commit the financial and academic resources of the University to improve the public health, education and job training in the region.
Paul S. Grogan, Harvard's vice president for government, community and public affairs said the initiatives--some details of which will be announced in January--will be modeled on the University's successful "20/20/2000" affordable housing loan program, which began last November.
"We envision '20/20/2000' as the first in a series of significant and high profile community initiatives," Grogan said. "[We are trying] to match the strengths of the University with critical human needs."
"Housing was the first," he added.
Grogan said his office has worked closely with Harvard's faculties and with local officials to determine how the University can best assist its two home cities.
Cambridge Mayor Anthony D. Galluccio said he welcomes Harvard's efforts to become more involved in the city, particularly in the areas of employment and education.
"There is limitless potential in what we can do," he said.
But Galluccio said he feels current proposals are not yet well formed.
"I think we're talking about the right things, [but] I'm not sure we're there yet," he said. "On education and job training we still have a lot of work to do."
Grogan said current proposals include a plan to provide job training and professional development for community leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors, a project that will be spearheaded by the Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government.
The Graduate School of Education will work with Boston and Cambridge school systems, and the School of Public Health will help lead any initiatives focusing on residents' health concerns.
"We've been consulting with deans and faculty...particularly where a single school is going to play a leading role," Grogan said. "We're working very closely with the two mayors and their staffs, city councillors, nonprofit leaders [and] school systems."
The three or four initiatives will be implemented over the next couple of years.
Harvard's community efforts come at a time of unusually poor relations between Harvard and its home cities.
The University attracted widespread criticism for its secret purchase of large tracts of land in Allston in 1997, and the current Cambridge City Council has adopted an explicitly anti-Harvard stance, criticizing the University for its failure to address residents' concerns.
But Grogan's appointment to his current post in January 1999 signaled a renewed effort on Harvard's part to focus on local concerns.
The University's community initiatives, led by Grogan and his office, should help to dispel unfavorable perceptions of the University, he said.
"The components of the University are deeply involved in the public sector," Grogan said. "The idea that the University is isolated, removed [and] aloof from the city couldn't be further from the truth."
He said the Harvard housing program, which will provide $20 million in low-interest loans to create affordable housing, has already been praised in the community and within the University.
Such praise, he said, will help generate support at the highest administrative levels for similar projects.
"Frankly, what helps is that Harvard is getting recognized for it--it helps build support in this community for more," Grogan said. "People have really gone out of their way to say they appreciate what Harvard is doing. It's just smart to do that."
Grogan said Harvard's new initiatives will build on the success of the housing model, but they will probably involve less money and will emphasize the University's academic resources.
"We're not a foundation--just putting the money on the table is not what we want to do," he said.
Galluccio said this model is exactly what he would like to see.
"[We want to] utilize Harvard's infrastructure to increase opportunities and training in the employment area and in our schools," he said. "Money is great, but for employment and education it's really more of a physical partnership and not just a financial one."
Grogan said the University will make a formal announcement in January regarding at least one of the programs.
"Stay tuned," he said.
--Staff writer Robert K. Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.
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