The Joint Approach

Students say pursuing degrees at two different graduate or professional schools often proves difficult

Unity across schools has never been Harvard's strength, as students who want to study under the University's wide range of experts will tell you.

Each year, a few dozen students try to combine law with politics or business with education. There is one established program--a joint law and business degree, the joint JD/MBA. And other schools have agreements with each other that permit their students to cross register.

But, students report, schools have difficulty looking beyond the scope of their own programs.

"There is no university here," says Jonathan M. Grossman, who is enrolled at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) and Harvard Law School (HLS).

"Schools should recognize that [a multiple degree program] is a great experience, and they shouldn't let their...pettiness get in the way of students," he says.


Grossman and his colleagues list scheduling problems, greater financial burdens, social concerns and the distances between the campuses as worries that plague students who want to pursue two different degrees.

But, they add, in the end it's all worth it.

Parochial, Individualistic Attitudes

Administrators at the different schools say they have been trying for years to make the lives of these multi-disciplinary students easier. The fact remains, however, that each school runs a separate administration and is hesitant to join or cooperate with the administration of any other.

"[The schools] can't make rational policies for joint students," Grossman says. "We don't exist." He says HLS, where he is a full-time student, will not recognize his status as a part-time student at KSG.

The separate nature of all of the graduate schools leads to missed opportunities for students pursuing multiple degrees, Grossman adds.

For instance, classes are not consistently cross-listed between departments and graduate schools, making it difficult for students to take advantage of valuable opportunities at different schools.

"There are all sorts of little problems with regard to registrations, graduation, fees, priority for getting into classes," Grossman says.

Scheduling burdens create the most pervasive hassle for multiple-degree candidates.

For example, HLS schedules classes in two different time blocks--Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday--and KSG schedules classes for one-and-a-half hour blocks every other day. One HLS block of classes conflicts with 6 of 10 KSG blocks, which makes it extremely difficult for law students to take specific KSG classes or vice-versa.

"[Scheduling differences] are a bit schizophrenic," said James L. Doak a business tutor in Winthrop House who is in his final year of the joint JD/MBA program.

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