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Administrators Use Renovated Dunster to Pitch House Renewal

While dining with utensils embellished with the Dunster House crest, some students and professors at the House’s faculty dinner Tuesday gushed about the beauty of the renewed space. Their conversations strike a similar tone to those Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith holds with alumni touring the recently-renovated House.

Dunster Digs
As a component of recent Dunster House renovations, community spaces were improved and added to with the aim of fostering house life and encouraging residents to spend less time away from the House.

As administrators polish their remaining Harvard-wide fundraising priorities in a record-breaking $6.5 billion capital campaign, they have turned to Dunster House as a platform and venue for pitching the House renewal project, a priority that still needs fulfilling.

“[The] Faculty Deans have been very supportive of us holding events in some of their common spaces, mostly to show the alumni the impact of the project on student life and [the] student experience here,” Smith said.

Last year, Smith said it was difficult to articulate a vision for undergraduate House renewal before the first full-scale construction project concluded. Now that potential donors and alumni can view a renovated House, administrators have seized the opportunity to showcase the new spaces.

“It’s nice to talk about it abstractly, but if you can show them, it’s great,” Smith said. “[And] there’s no better way to show how this has changed what’s happening in the Houses than to have the alumni that are thinking about supporting it come to the Houses, talk to the students who are in the House, see in person how the spaces are changing.”

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Dunster House Faculty Dean Roger B. Porter said he has worked closely with the College to host alumni and potential donor receptions in Dunster’s new courtyard lounge. He also said students have hosted individual and group tours of the House.

“These events and tours have showcased the new spaces in the House—seminar rooms, lounges, study and exercise spaces, etc.,” Porter wrote in an email. “They have also illuminated for alumni and others how the old (our dining hall, library, and courtyard have been preserved and enhanced) while at the same time creating new spaces with much greater accessibility and how these spaces are being utilized.”

At a two-day “Campus Colloquium” hosted last month, alumni and parents joined Smith and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana for dinner in Dunster to “experience firsthand Harvard’s commitment to ensuring that living and learning communities remain a centerpiece of the undergraduate experience for decades to come,” according to a brochure for the event.

Administrators have enlisted Dunster students to give House tours to alumni, students’ parents, and potential donors to FAS’s House renewal project, according to Porter.

Daniel V. Banks ’17, a Dunster resident and the Undergraduate Council’s Vice President, is one such tour guide. On his tours, Banks said he highlights the importance of communal social spaces in the House, architecture that promotes sustainability, and renewed focus on House-wide accessibility.

“I know how important it is [for] people who are supporting our school [to] see how important their donations are,” Banks said. He added that he leads the same tour, regardless of whether he has alumni or potential donors in his group.

Alex F. Dagi ’17, another Dunster resident, said he has given tours for the Harvard Alumni Association. His tours, for both individuals and groups, focus on how he thinks House renewal has improved the undergraduate experience at the College.

“We bring individuals to the House, show them the basement, talk about our experiences as students living in the new House, and generally speak to what the College’s intentions are for future renovations,” Dagi said. During the tours, which typically last around 40 minutes, Dagi outlines the three guiding principles for the Dunster renewal project: accessibility, sustainability, and the creation of new common spaces.

FAS aims to raise $400 million for House renewal during the capital campaign. In comparison to other FAS priorities, such as fundraising for faculty research and for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, House renewal has comparatively lagged behind, garnering just under half its goal by August 2015. At that time, the FAS-wide campaign had raised $2.2 billion toward a $2.5 billion goal.

In total, the House renewal project could cost as much as $1.3 billion. In addition to the full-scale Dunster House renewal, Quincy House’s Stone Hall and Leverett House’s McKinlock Hall have also been renovated. Administrators announced that work on Winthrop House and Lowell House will commence in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Dagi said some potential donors initially express concern that House renewal could ruin the character of Harvard’s Houses and that the renovations could deface the buildings’ classic architecture. But, he said, he thinks “thematically, stylistically” Harvard has committed to maintaining the old feel of Dunster.

Dominique Luongo ’17, another Dunster resident who serves as tour guide, said she gives tours of the House once or twice a month.

“It was presented to me as an opportunity to connect with Harvard alumni,” Luongo said. “I personally got involved with the tour guide program because I’m very proud of the Dunster.”

—Staff writer Melissa C. Rodman can be reached at melissa.rodman@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @melissa_rodman.

—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at luca.schroeder@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.

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