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‘Exploring Fields of Study’ Program Replaces Advising Fortnight

The Fields of Study Fair is held in Annenberg Hall, the freshman dining hall.
The Fields of Study Fair is held in Annenberg Hall, the freshman dining hall. By Allison G. Lee
By Kevin R. Chen and Juliet E. Isselbacher, Crimson Staff Writers

The Advising Programs Office has reimagined its first-year concentration advising this academic year with the launch of the Exploring Fields of Study program, which will replace its predecessor Advising Fortnight.

The pioneer program will preserve the Fields of Study Fair — the focal event of its forebear — while also introducing Fields of Study Sessions, hosted by each concentration.

As in past years, the fair will offer first-year students the opportunity to discuss potential fields of study with advisors from all 50 of Harvard’s undergraduate concentrations over a buffet dinner served in Annenberg, the freshman dining hall.

At subsequent Fields of Study Sessions throughout the semester, students will connect with faculty, advisors, and peers from their prospective concentrations to learn about the structure and character of each program.

Under the previous system, most first-year concentration advising events took place during a two-week period known as Advising Fortnight. Now, individual concentrations will have the latitude to host information sessions and other events at any time during the spring term.

Lauren Bimmler, the English Department’s undergraduate program administrator, wrote in an email that she is “pleased” that the new program will give freshmen more time to explore potential concentrations.

“Since the Fields of Study Sessions will be available to students throughout the semester – rather than just during a two-week stretch in April – first-years will have more time and freedom to explore all the College has to offer,” Bimmler wrote. “Moving toward a model where first-years and advisors meet early on and where subsequent advising events are more numerous and spread out seems like the most productive way forward.”

Other advising staff, however, acknowledged both merits and drawbacks of the new model.

Anne N. Le Brun, a lecturer and advisor in the Economics Department, wrote in an email that though the program’s lengthened schedule could impede opportunities to directly compare concentrations, it would likely ease students’ time pressures.

“I suppose it’s possible that if students have a compressed timeline to explore all potential concentrations, they can make a more direct comparison of apples and oranges than if they extend their exploration over the course of the whole semester,” she wrote. “But one could also make the argument that a longer time frame might be useful to students who are cramped for time.”

“So I think there are arguments on both sides, which I imagine the APO considered carefully before making their decision,” she added.

Christina Zaldana, the manager for advising programs and diversity outreach at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, agreed with Le Brun on the effects of the timeline change.

“The semester long schedule just helps us spread out events, which is helpful for students comparing similar concentrations — like [Applied Math] and [Computer Science] — that might not be able to sacrifice two days of the week for this type of exploring,” she wrote in an email. “The only drawback I see is that some students might be more nervous about the open-ended style of the event that lasts all semester rather than just two weeks.”

The Exploring Fields of Study program will kick off with the Fields of Study Fair Monday night.

— Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

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