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The Freshman Dean’s Office is currently considering candidates for its newly created Fellow for College Programs and Initiatives position, which will focus on reflective programming for undergraduates.
The fellow will attempt to enhance the experience of students by working closely with Katherine W. Steele, the Director of College Initiatives and Student Development at the FDO, on ways to foster personal growth during their four years as undergraduates.
“We realized that through doing this kind of programming, you can really create experiences where people can dig into these questions of ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What’s my purpose?’,” Steele said. “Thinking about those questions now may help you later when you’re deciding what to do after you graduate.”
The Fellow will work closely with Resident Deans, Faculty Deans, Tutors, and Proctors to provide reflective guidance for students and formulate new approaches to community conversations, a required program during Opening days.
“It’s brand new,” Steele said. “This job’s never existed before… we’re going to be a start-up basically, within Harvard.”
Steele hopes to run focus groups with recent graduates during the summer, using their reflections to provide direction for new programming.
In addition to the focus groups, the FDO already possesses some historical information on the overall satisfaction of undergraduates from a 2006 study conducted by Graduate School of Education Professor Richard J. Light involving students and their college journeys.
“Seniors said they learned a lot from chemistry and history and whatnot, but never really learned how to live life,” said Steele, discussing data the FDO obtained from the 2006 study.
Because personal growth is not isolated to freshman year, the fellow will also develop programs for upperclassmen while still operating from the FDO.
“The position is a very college focused role and is not necessarily just a response to a need that we’re seeing here at the Freshman Dean’s office,” Steele said. “This person will focus on personally transformative programming across the four years.”
Dean for Administration and Finance Sheila C. Thimba, who confirms all new hires, wrote that she approves of the new position’s goal of fostering personal growth among students.
“I'm glad we can support this nascent programming in personal transformation and look forward to seeing what comes of the initiatives underway in the Houses and Yard,” Thimba wrote in an email.
Nicholas P. Whittaker ’19 , a freshman Undergraduate Council representative for Crimson Yard, also praised the new position.
“I’m very much in favor of this,” he said. “I think this is the FDO making an effort to really try to reach out to students as people… there’s a lot more to get out of this experience than a degree.”
Administrators have in recent years attempted to bolster College programming focused on student reflection. In 2015, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana pushed for additional reflection seminars and retreats during wintersession.
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