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Harvard College unveiled a summer public service stipend for incoming freshmen in the Class of 2023 at an event Sunday morning.
Participants in the program — called “Service Starts with Summer” — will receive a $1,500 stipend to pursue 100 hours of community service in their hometowns, both in the United States and abroad. College Dean for Administration and Finance Sheila C. Thimba, who currently serves as the interim dean for public service, said she expects to accept all applicants to the program.
In addition to their main projects, participants will join webinars and discuss their individual projects in online sessions facilitated by Kevin L. Ballen ’22 and Nicholas C. Hargis ’19.
Ballen wrote in an email that he joined the summer service project as a result of other work he has done with administrators on “civic engagement initiatives.” He added that he thinks the project’s focus on service work in students’ own communities is important.
“One of the most meaningful components of this program is its hometown focus. On Campus, students (including myself) are so excited about exploring new places in their summers, during breaks, and after graduation,” Ballen wrote. “The emphasis on serving at home pushes us to think about how we can use our Harvard education/degree and all it comes with to strengthen our roots.”
Thimba said in a Friday interview the program comes as part of a broader effort to expand public service opportunities at Harvard. She said the idea for the program stemmed from University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s inaugural speech in October 2018.
“The program started as a response to President Bacow’s call at the inauguration that Harvard should be ready to provide summer internship opportunities in service for students — any student who wants one,” she said.
The program will ask participants to find “high impact” public service projects in their hometowns and will provide them with faculty and staff support over the course of their pursuits, according to Thimba. Each of the public service projects is expected to last five weeks.
Participants must complete the full 100 hours in order to receive College funding, which will be pulled from Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana’s discretionary fund. Thimba said that students who complete fewer than 100 hours can still participate in the online component of the program and events the College plans to hold for participants once they arrive on campus in the fall, but will not receive the stipend.
The announcement comes as the College searches for a new Dean of Public Service following Gene A. Corbin’s decision to step down from the post more than a year ago. In the months since, administrators announced a review of public service initiatives aimed at undergraduates and began a search for an assistant dean for civic engagement and service, a newly minted role.
Thimba said the College would launch a website for the program and reach out to all accepted students with more information about the program this week. She added that applications for the program are slated to open Friday and are due by May 31.
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