The strength of Harvard’s alumni network today rests on the relationships formed between students while they’re undergraduates. As freshmen, students often take their first steps into the Yard with little concrete advice on how to navigate the academic and social scene on campus. That’s where upperclassmen “mentors”—friends, siblings, role models in organizations—come in to help spell out the “dos and don’ts” of Harvard. These mentors—both current Harvard students and recent alumni—have helped shape the course of their younger peers’ college experiences, leaving a mark on Harvard that goes beyond their own four years in Cambridge. FM set out to investigate one strand of these upperclassmen-freshman mentor relationships, beginning with current freshman Priscilla K. Russo ’17 and following the network through to Ryan A. Peterson ’08.
Priscilla K. Russo ’17
Mentor: Jimmy P. Biblarz ’14
Relationship: He is my PAF.
Influence: Jimmy has been a guiding hand throughout my freshman year. He has been there during the times I got lost on campus and listened to me vent during times of stress. He has always looked out for me in academic and social environments. Jimmy even spoke up for me when I was not entirely happy about how someone was treating me. Without him I would not have been able to find many of my classes. He also helped me navigate the extracurricular scene on campus. I go to him whenever I need something, whether it be advice or a good laugh.
Jimmy P. Biblarz ’14
Mentor: Senan Ebrahim ’12
Relationship: I worked on his UC presidential campaign when I was a freshman.
Influence: Senan taught me how to navigate Harvard, how to fight for myself here, and how to make the most out of this place. [I’ve] never felt so inspired by someone my own age. [Because of him] I’ve been more thoughtful about my decisions, more critical of accepted standards, [and] more in the know about social and academic life here. We usually cross paths whenever he’s around Boston. [It’s] harder than one would like to keep in touch post-grad.
Senan Ebrahim ’12
Mentor: Matthew L. Sundquist ’09
Relationship: He was UC president when I was a freshman and was one of the reasons I got involved.
Influence: We met in Dorm Crew when Matt was a captain of the program. During freshman year, the dynamic was one way, with me really looking up to him and taking his advice on projects and what I should focus on. As I got older and after he graduated, I became more independent and sometimes went against his advice on many things. I came into my own right, and at that point we became true peers. I can’t even imagine what [my Harvard experience] would have been like had I not met this guy. I wouldn’t have joined the UC, which was the experience of a lifetime. I didn’t really understand what student government was about until I heard his stories. He’s really someone who inspires me in life.
Matthew L. Sundquist '09
Mentor: Ryan A. Petersen ’08
Relationship: Ryan was a year ahead of me and I was the vice president while he was the president of the UC. He was super smart and thoughtful and really helped me learn about life and the UC.
Influence: Ryan got me interested in the UC and in the issues that we were working on together. It’s really cool to build a friendship with someone while working on the issues you care about. We both live in San Francisco now, so we still keep in touch.