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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 2023. 

View the Harvard Horizons Scholars

Each year, eight PhD candidates are chosen as Harvard Horizons Scholars and receive in-depth, personalized mentoring from Faculty Fellows associated with the program and coaching designed to enhance their presentation skills. At the conclusion of the program, they present brief, compelling talks about their research during the Harvard Horizons Symposium. Scholars also participate in Expanded Horizons, a virtual conversation about their research with a global audience of alumni and friends, and join the Society of Horizons Scholars, a fellowship cohort that offers continuing opportunities for community, mentorship, and professional growth. 

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

  • hone research ideas in ways that contribute to the dissertation 
  • improve presentation skills to communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely 
  • 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 GSAS, in academic departments, and at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning 
  • build community with peers across fields in GSAS 
  • benefit from the mentoring of the Harvard Horizons Faculty Fellows 
  • receive up to $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 

GSAS PhD students who have passed general examinations or the equivalent are encouraged to apply. It is best to be at the dissertation stage or far enough along with your work to have results or to be able to demonstrate that you have a promising line of research that you are able to share with the public. In years past, successful candidates have tended to be 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, reviews 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 access up to $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 idea. 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 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? 

The application video is intended to provide the search committee with a brief understanding of your scholarship and why it is important. It serves to give the committee a sense of how you talk about your work, in contrast with the written summary. It is not necessary for the video to be professionally edited or crafted. 

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 

Under the leadership of Pamela Pollock, director of professional development at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, the Harvard Horizons mentoring program teaches you how to convey the essence of your dissertation research in five-minute talks aimed at a non-specialist audience. 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 symposium presentations. Mentoring sessions cover the fundamentals of storytelling, visuals, and voice. 

An essential component of the mentoring program is the relationships that the Harvard Horizons scholars develop with one another. Scholars report that the opportunity to connect with and learn from peers across disciplines is one of the most rewarding aspects of the program. 

Time Commitment 

Beginning in the spring term, the Harvard Horizons scholars meet in groups and individually on Friday afternoons, weekly or bi-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. Scholars also meet individually with their faculty fellow mentors; how often is determined by the scholar and mentor. 

Faculty Fellows  

The Harvard Horizons Faculty Fellows committee, drawn from across the disciplines at Harvard, reviews applications looking for the most compelling scholarship.


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 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. 

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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