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Pilot Pre-Orientation Program Solicits Student Input, Searches for Director

By Kenton K. Shimozaki, Crimson Staff Writer

Planning for the College’s newest pre-orientation program targeted at students from first generation, low-income, and under resourced high schools marches forward as the program irons out logistics and solicits student input.

The pre-orientation program will last for four days, the same length as the First-Year International Program, and will have a cap of approximately 100 incoming freshmen, according to Dean of Freshman Thomas A. Dingman ’67.

This program, intended to help students transition to life at Harvard, resembles a similar proposal rejected by Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana in January. The College reversed course in August, however, when Khurana announced that Harvard would “pilot” a new freshman pre-orientation program in 2018 following “much respectful dialogue last spring.”

“We want to make sure this is an approach that is both informed by best practices for supporting students from first-gen, low-income backgrounds, or [who] come from under resourced high schools,” Khurana said in a September interview. “We want to do it in a way that makes sense for Harvard.”

Khurana added that the goal of the program will be to engage students “holistically,” encompassing both the academic and social components of college life.

Dingman said all incoming freshmen, regardless of their background, are welcome to participate and that current students will be important in developing the new pre-orientation pilot.

“All of us feel that this will not be successful if it’s a top-down fix. We need to be talking to students about what they’ve experienced and involving them in the planning of this,” Dingman said. “We know that as students seek help, what they get from their peers is huge.”

Indeed, the Freshman Dean’s Office has already enlisted the help of campus groups such as the First Generation Student Union.

“We’ve been working with administration since the first news about the rejection of the original proposal.” said Andrew Perez ’20, president of the FGSU.

Perez has been working with the FDO to develop the program and will serve as part of the organization's future leadership.

An advisory committee of students, faculty, and staff, will begin the planning for the program by developing an assessment system for the pilot initiative and interviewing for the program’s new director.

Katie W. Steele, director of College initiatives and student development, oversees all the FDO’s pre-orientation programs. Steele said that the FDO continues to solicit student input for program ideas and encourages interested individuals to become involved with its implementation.

“We really want as many students as possible to offer their suggestions, their ideas, for both the content of the program, but also for being on the steering committee or being a leader,” Steele said.

Next August, the new initiative will join five existing pre-orientation programs: Dorm Crew’s Fall Clean-Up, the First-Year Arts Program, the First-Year International Program, the First-Year Outdoor Program, and the First-Year Urban Program.

—Staff writers Hannah Natanson and Derek G. Xiao contributed reporting to this story.

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Student LifeFreshmenRakesh Khurana