University President Drew G. Faust gave a surprise pep talk to students at a Cincinnati public high school during her trip to the Midwest this week.
Faust visited Withrow University High School Thursday along with a number of Harvard alumni including the city’s vice mayor David S. Mann ’61. The visit was a chance for Faust to return to the Ohio City where she spent part of her youth; she worked at The Children’s Home of Cincinnati—an education and mental health treatment center for children—while a college student.
Faust spoke to the high school students about the broad benefits of a college education—at whichever institution they choose to attend.
“I am not here to tell them come to Harvard. I am here to tell them to go to college. Find the one that is right for you, and your dreams and your abilities for your circumstances,” Faust told local news outlet WLWT5.
Mann said in an interview that Faust met first with about 20 high-achieving students before speaking at a school-wide assembly. Mann said she invited students in the smaller session to introduce themselves to her before fielding “thoughtful” questions from the group.
“I found it very touching,” Mann said. “I was impressed with how effectively President Faust communicated to the kids and came across with such enormous sincerity.”
Students said the visit made them feel they are equal to students at high schools that typically send many graduates to Harvard.
“I think it shows that we aren't different from other students at Harvard. The typical urban student wouldn't apply to Harvard. For her to come, it shows, you are not different from them. You're just as great as them,” Withrow student Nya Williams told WLWT5.
In an interview in December, Faust said elite universities, including Harvard, need to think about how they can better reach parts of the United States from which they don’t tend to draw as many students.
She said the University must ask, “What have we done lately for people in wide swaths of the country who don’t have children here or can’t understand what Harvard does?”
“We need to do a better job of communicating who we are, but we also need to a better job of reaching out and connecting to concerns in those areas of the country,” Faust said.
Ten percent of the College’s class of 2021 hailed from the Midwest, while 37.9 percent came from New England or the Middle Atlantic.
In addition to the high school visit, Faust also spoke Wednesday evening at an alumni event with 200 University graduates from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JamieDHalper.