Colloquy, the GSAS alumni magazine, is published three times a year and mailed to PhD and master's alumni around the world. It explores the research and impact of Harvard's outstanding faculty, alumni, and graduate students

Alumni heard new perspectives on scholarship during Alumni Day 2017

On April 8, 2017, hundreds of GSAS alumni returned to Cambridge for a day of engagement and interaction with Harvard faculty, GSAS students, and other alumni during the annual Alumni Day celebration. The keynote address and breakout sessions addressed current affairs in the US and in the world and provided new perspectives on scholarship.

In his opening remarks, Dean Xiao-Li Meng, PhD ’90, statistics, shared a State of the School message before announcing that he will take a sabbatical for the 2017–2018 academic year. During his year away, he plans to expand his research on statistical foundational issues for the rapidly evolving discipline of data science, as well as take on leadership roles with two professional societies in statistics as they embark on strategic planning for the roles and contributions of statisticians to data science. Emma Dench, the McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of the Classics in the Department of the Classics, has agreed to serve as interim dean.

Dean Meng speaking


Dean Meng introduced the keynote speaker, Douglas Elmendorf, PhD ’89, economics, who is dean of Harvard Kennedy School and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy. Dean Elmendorf’s remarks, titled "Advice for the New President and Congress," offered seven recommendations for the country’s leaders and for its citizens aimed at helping people get good jobs at good wages, feel that they matter in society, and make our political process more effective.

The breakout sessions provided an opportunity to engage with a variety of topics:

  • In “Celebrating Five Years of Harvard Horizons,” past Harvard Horizons Scholars shared their current work and participated in a discussion about their research and how they use the training they received during the Harvard Horizons program.
  • During “Insects and Robots and Behavior, Oh My! How New Technologies Are Revealing the Biological Basis of Individuality and Sociality,” Benjamin de Bivort, PhD ’07, molecular and cellular biology, an associate professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, and James Crall, PhD ’16, organismic and evolutionary biology, a Rockefeller Foundation Planetary Health Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard, discussed their investigations of bee behavior.
  • Charles Maier, PhD ’67, history, the Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History, discussed his latest book, Once within Borders: Territories of Power, Wealth, and Belonging since 1500, which considers the evolution of territorial organization as a worldwide practice of human societies.
  • In his talk titled “Medieval Manuscripts—Modern Media,” Kuno Francke Professor of German Art and Culture Jeffrey Hamburger provided an overview of the exhibit Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections. An ambitious collaborative project, Beyond Words included more than 260 outstanding manuscripts and printed books from 19 Boston-area collections, dating from the 9th to the 17th centuries.
  • During “Cuba: Today and Tomorrow,” Jorge Domínguez, PhD ’72, government, and the Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico, shared that Cuba has been below the demographic rate since 1978, with a median population age between 40 and 45.
  • Marko Lončar, Tiantsai Lin Professor of Electrical Engineering, teamed up with PhD candidate in engineering sciences Linbo Shao to share their work “Quantum Engineering with Diamond.” Read more about Lončar and Shao’s work in Constant Innovation.


To end the day, alumni convened with first- and fifth-year students during a reception at Dudley House that celebrated connections to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Students and alumni speaking at reception

New Perspectives

Photos by Tony Rinaldo