First-generation students and students from under-resourced high schools entering Harvard’s freshman class could see the emergence of stronger support networks—including a possible pre-orientation program—in the coming years.
Savannah N. Fritz ’17, who received a $3,000 grant from the Undergraduate Council last spring, has been working with administrators and a team of students to explore ways in which Harvard could be more welcoming to students from a variety of backgrounds.
“The goal is to help those students transition more smoothly to the University,” Fritz said, referring to students for whom “Harvard wasn’t a rite of passage or an expectation, but was more of a leap of faith or something they didn’t think they’d be able to do.”
To that end, Fritz and her team hope to create a summer program to help students from these backgrounds transition to life at Harvard. While Fritz said she would hope to model such a program on those of peer schools like Cornell and Princeton, which run for more than six weeks, she said she recognizes that a shorter program is more likely to gain administrators' approval.
“There’s a lot of value in the longer programs that other universities have, but it’s going to be difficult with funding and with Harvard Summer School occupying buildings,” Fritz said. “It’s up in the air what the administration will be able to support.”
Fritz has discussed the project with administrators in the Freshman Dean’s Office, including Katherine W. Steele, Director of College Initiative and Student Development at the FDO. In particular, she has proposed the creation of a pre-orientation program for the week before Opening Days, the College’s official welcome and orientation program.
While Steele said that the FDO had not yet committed to creating such a program, she said administrators were considering the proposal and other ways to support incoming freshmen.
“We might be involved if there’s ever going to be one,” Steele said about a pre-orientation program for first-generation and other students. “We’re talking about what would be the outcomes of creating a new pre-orientation program that might help students who are having a difficult transition, and who would benefit from some kind of new program.”
Short of a new program, which Fritz said she hoped could begin in the fall of 2017, Fritz and her team are working to create mentorship programs and workshops for incoming freshmen this fall. Upperclassmen who have experienced similar circumstances would lead those programs.
Harvard already offers a meeting for first-generation students at the beginning of their freshman year, but UC Education Committee chair Scott Ely ’18 said those students could benefit from more support.
–Staff writer Jonathan G. Adler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanGAdler.
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