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Harvard Horizons

Harvard Horizons celebrates the ideas and innovations of PhD students at Harvard and helps them gain essential professional skills.

Applications for Harvard Horizons will open in September 2024.

View the 2024 Harvard Horizons Scholars

Each year, eight PhD candidates are chosen as Harvard Horizons Scholars to present brief talks about their research during the Harvard Horizons Symposium, held annually in April. The program has two goals: to highlight research going on across fields in Harvard Griffin GSAS, and to give a cohort of outstanding students the opportunity to hone their skills in presenting their research for a broad audience. 

Harvard Horizons provides a powerful opportunity for a Harvard Griffin GSAS PhD candidate to: 

  • hone research ideas in ways that contribute to the dissertation 
  • improve presentation skills to communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely 
  • make compelling visuals/media to accompany their research project
  • master the communications skills needed to describe research to funders, hiring committees, interviewers, and the general public—building on the training and tools available to all students through Harvard Griffin GSAS, in academic departments, and at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning 
  • build community with peers across fields in Harvard Griffin GSAS 
  • share their research with a general audience, including via a public video that is made of each talk from the symposium (see past talks here)
  • benefit from the mentoring of the Harvard Horizons Faculty Fellows 
  • receive $1,000 in professional development funds. 

For other opportunities to enhance your communications skills, check out the Bok Seminars related to professional and scholarly communication. Learn more about the Bok Seminars and other graduate student programming at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.  

Questions about applying? Email Harvard Horizons

How to Apply 

Harvard Griffin GSAS PhD students who have passed general examinations or the equivalent, who are at the dissertation stage or far enough along with their projects to have results or to be able to demonstrate a promising line of research that can be shared with the public, and who want to learn about communication and present their work publicly (and on YouTube) are encouraged to apply. Successful candidates are in upper G-years and close to the defense stage. November degree candidates are not eligible to apply.

The Harvard Horizons Faculty Fellows, a committee drawn from across the disciplines at Harvard, review applications looking for the most compelling scholarship conducted by PhD students across all fields. Your goal in the application is to demonstrate to the Faculty Fellows the scholarly importance of your work, highlighting its intellectual rigor and merit. They then select 15 finalists for a round of interviews and choose the eight Harvard Horizons scholars.  

All 15 finalists may receive $1,000 of professional development funds. 

Application Materials 

  • Your CV. 
  • The name of an advisor or faculty mentor willing to submit a letter of endorsement. When you submit your application, your advisor will receive an email with instructions on uploading a letter of endorsement. 
  • A 500-word written synopsis of your work targeted toward an interdisciplinary faculty committee, which demonstrates the scholarly rigor of your work and the nature of its contribution to your field. 
  • A one-minute video of you presenting your work. It is not necessary for this video to be professionally edited or crafted. 

I would like to speak to someone about applying. 

Pamela Pollock, director of professional development at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, is available to meet with interested students about their application ideas. Set up an appointment

Why should I apply? 

Harvard Horizons is an opportunity for you to hone your research ideas in ways that contribute to your dissertation work while improving your presentation skills to communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely. During the mentoring process, you have the opportunity to learn from experts on the essentials of communication, build community with peers across fields in Harvard Griffin GSAS, and receive mentoring from one or two of the Harvard Horizons Faculty Fellows. 

I’m having a problem with my application. 

If you are having a problem with any part of the application process, email Harvard Horizons for assistance. 

Does my application video need to look professional? 

No, the video does not need to be polished or professional. You are asked to do it to provide the search committee with a brief understanding of your scholarship and why it is important. It gives the committee a sense of how you talk about your work, in contrast with the written summary. The process of figuring out how to talk about your work for one minute is an important process the committee wants you to experience. You may record yourself talking for one minute with your phone or laptop. 

Does my advisor or faculty mentor have to upload their recommendation by the application deadline? 

No, recommendation letters may be submitted up to one week after the application close date. 

Mentoring and Coaching 

Accepted scholars participate in the Harvard Horizons mentoring program at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, which meets every Friday afternoon throughout the spring term, starting the first week of classes and running up to the date of the symposium. The goals of the program are: 

  • Awareness of foundational concepts in storytelling, visuals, voice, and body for communication
  • Understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses as a communicator
  • Understanding of your research and how to present it to a large audience
  • Engagement and long-lasting network with a cohort of peers across fields at Harvard Griffin GSAS

Last year's syllabus can be viewed here, for reference. 

Time Commitment 

Beginning in the spring term, the Harvard Horizons scholars meet in groups and individually on Friday afternoons weekly as they prepare to deliver a five-minute talk from the stage of Sanders Theatre during the Harvard Horizons symposium. Several afternoon-long rehearsals are planned. This schedule will be confirmed by the Derek Bok Center before meetings begin.

Scholars also meet individually with their faculty fellow mentors; how often is determined by the scholar and mentor. Please keep these time commitments in mind when you are applying. 

Faculty Fellows  

You will also be partnered with one or two members of the Harvard Horizons Faculty Fellows, a committee of professors representing a broad range of disciplines, who offer guidance and advice as you develop your presentations. 


Harvard Horizons was conceived by Shigehisa Kuriyama, Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History and chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures. The first symposium took place in 2013. The endeavor is supported by Harvard Griffin GSAS, first under the leadership of Dean Xiao-Li Meng and now Dean Emma Dench. Harvard Horizons benefits from the support and encouragement of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Provost, and the Office of the President. 

Harvard Griffin GSAS is grateful to Stephen Blyth, who earned a PhD in statistics from Harvard in 1992, for establishing a Dean's Innovation Fund that provided support for Harvard Horizons; to the staff of the Derek Bok Center, who have generously committed the time and resources that make Harvard Horizons a successful program; and for the commitment of the Harvard Horizons Faculty Fellows, who play a critical role in selecting the Harvard Horizons scholars each year. 

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