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Administrators Conducting Review of Public Service at Harvard College

Phillips Brooks House Association
Phillips Brooks House Association By Amy Y. Li
By Simone C. Chu, Crimson Staff Writer

Before the University embarks on a search for a new Assistant Dean for Public Service, administrators are conducting an internal assessment on the state of public service at the College.

Former Assistant Dean of Harvard College for Public Service Gene A. Corbin departed in May after six years in the position.

Sheila Thimba, the dean for administration and finance and acting interim dean for public service, said she was tasked with evaluating the current state of public service at the College, before the search for Corbin's replacement commences.

“We haven’t searched for a public service dean in more than a decade,” Thimba said. “So in part what we need to do is revise the position description to meet current needs.”

Thimba, who said she has been working on a report over the summer, said one factor under consideration is the desire for more coordination and “a greater sense of shared mission” among the many public service offices at the College.

“We talk about educating citizens and citizen-leaders,” Thimba said. “And I think we feel like this role is critical to building up what we mean when we say that.”

The potential changes are guided by the mission of the Seamless Service Pathways Process, a new College initiative which aims to strengthen relations between campus public service offices and provide students with a more coherent public service experience.

While Thimba said the College already provides a number of resources for public service-interested students, the assessment has highlighted areas of improvement.

“There are initiatives in public service that we haven’t had a lot of participation in,” Thimba said. “So I think that once we have a sense of that…I think we’ll be looking to likely expand what we mean when we say ‘public service,’ and what kinds of initiatives fit under this umbrella.”

Continuing reviews and planning will be done in the coming months, Thimba said, as administrators take in feedback from students and explore how they want the College to move forward in public service.

“It’s unlikely that we would start a search before November,” Thimba said.

In an emailed statement provided by Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana wrote that he and Thimba have consulted “directly with members of the FAS Standing Committee for Public Service, the National Advisory Board for Public Service, the PBHA Board of Directors, and other partners on public service on how the College can continue to best support students’ academic and public service experiences.”

“We will continue to provide strong support for PBH and its student organizations in this interim time, and we will share details of our next steps when available,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Simone C. Chu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @simonechu_.

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