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Six Undergrads Win Inaugural ‘Transcript Project’

Dean of the Arts and the Humanities division, Robin E. Kelsey, presents the winners of the Transcript Project, a college initiative announced earlier this semester.

UPDATED: April 29, 2018 at 6:30 a.m.

Harvard affiliates gathered Tuesday to celebrate the winners of The Transcript Project and to share their own stories about their academic experiences.

To participate in the inaugural Transcript Project, a contest for undergraduates, students submitted a piece of work that reflected on their academic experiences at Harvard not captured by their grades. The six winners of the competition, who were recognized at the Transcript Project Salon Tuesday, are Alana Davitt ’19, Amanda Flores ’18, Michelle Ko ’19, Paul Lewis ’18, Sarah Perlmutter ’19, and Audrey Pettner ’21.

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Five jury members—History of Art and Architecture and African and African American Studies Professor Sarah Lewis, English Professor Elaine Scarry, Pusey Minister in Memorial Church Jonathan L. Walton, Dean of the Arts and Humanities Robin E. Kelsey, and Visual and Environmental Studies Professor Karthik Pandian—selected the winners.

Kelsey, the founder of the project, began the event by reiterating its purpose.

“I wanted to reinforce the notion of the transcript as an untold story, an array of marks awaiting a heartfelt narrative, begging to be brought to life by the person whose long nights, difficult decisions, and moments of inspiration lay silent in the gray lines provided by the registrar,” Kelsey said. “We decided to make it a contest, but with an emphasis on creativity and participation.”

During the first half of the salon, members of the selection jury introduced the winners and spoke about their accomplishments. Kelsey said in an interview that he was happy with the projects that students submitted.

“I was thrilled with the submissions,” Kelsey said. “[The students] caught onto the spirit of the project and understood that what we were looking for was an account of how passion both goes into and comes out of curricular experience, in some ways that are predictable and in some ways that are not.”

While not sure of the exact number, Kelsey said “over 20” students participated in the project. Of those, six were declared winners, and they will each receive a Coop gift card as a prize.

Five of the six winners submitted written works to the project. Pettner, for instance, wrote about her experience in a freshman seminar that studied coin collections at the Harvard Art Museum. Scarry recognized Pettner’s submission at the salon.

“Audrey has three metaphors going [in her essay] and does it with breathtaking elegance,” Scarry said. “And she uses the three of them in order to show that her passion for rigor and meticulous organization can be braided with her passion for wild creativity.”

Flores, an anthropology concentrator, wrote a poem about her academic experiences in six different languages to which she has been exposed at Harvard and in her studies abroad.

“It’s wonderful enough to write a poem in fourteen quatrains about your undergraduate studies, but what made this particularly remarkable was that stanza six was in French, stanza seven was in Spanish, stanza eight was in Polish, stanza nine was in German, and stanza eleven was in Kinyarwanda,” Scarry said.

Davitt, a mechanical engineering concentrator, wrote her own song and performed it at the event.

“It was such an affecting and sensitive song about the unexpected unfolding of self in the course of college studies, a song so exquisitely sung that it was clearly a winner,” Kelsey said.

During the second half of the salon, an open-mic portion, any students attending the event could speak about their academic experiences. One student spoke about dealing with depression in the midst of a busy academic life. Another explained how taking “The Classic Phase of the Novel”, an English class, persuaded him to become an English concentrator even though he had already declared Government.

“I’ve never been to anything like this,” Pettner said of the salon in an interview. “It was a nice reminder that there are a lot of people exploring and that that’s actually okay and welcome.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 29, 2018

A previous version of this article misstated the class year of Amanda Flores '18.

—Staff writer Annie C. Doris can be reached at annie.doris@thecrimson.com.

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