“New beginnings are momentous, exciting, and frightening at the same time,” said GSAS Interim Dean Emma Dench, channeling some Roman wisdom during her Orientation remarks to the incoming GSAS students gathered in Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. Her words marked the beginning of an academic journey that will challenge and excite the nearly 800 PhD and master’s students who joined GSAS this year from 43 states and 59 countries—from as near as Massachusetts to as far away as Alaska, from the UK to Macedonia to Korea.
Orientation provides an opportunity for students to learn about the broader Harvard universe beyond the academic department or program they are joining. In addition to Dean Dench, President Drew Gilpin Faust spoke, saying that students had joined “a very special part of Harvard, one that nurtures a vision of the purest form of scholarship.” Edgerly Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael Smith encouraged students to recognize commonalities. “You are all in a possession of a very find mind and a strong desire to use it,” he said.
The Whole Person
Other speakers highlighted the important role that Dudley House plays as the graduate student center. Dudley, located in Harvard Yard, offers intellectual, social, and recreational opportunities planned by and for GSAS students, including dinners with faculty, outings to museums and restaurants, and athletic and public service opportunities. James Hogle, who with his wife Doreen serve as the House’s faculty deans, encouraged students to think of themselves as a whole person. “You all have a life in addition to your scholarship,” he said. Following on from Hogle’s remarks, Dudley Coordinating Fellow Eliza Gettel reminded everyone to not be afraid of the f-word: Fun! Wrapping up the welcoming remarks, Graduate Student Council President Gbemisola Abiola encouraged students to get involved: “Your voice matters, your voice counts.”
Remarks were followed by “Becoming a New Professional in Your Field,” led by Sarah Richardson, professor of the history of science and of studies of women, gender, and sexuality. Richardson was joined by Seth Avakian, program officer for Title IX and professional conduct, and Maike Isaac, education specialist for graduate and professional schools at the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.
Afterward, students streamed from Sanders Theatre to the Science Center Plaza for luncheon with faculty, staff, and students from their departments and programs. The event enabled incoming students to meet members of their incoming student cohort and connect with the people they will work most closely with during their time at Harvard.
Luncheon was followed by DudleyFest, a resource fair that included representatives from a variety of GSAS and Harvard student groups, as well as multiple Harvard resources, such as the Harvard International Office, the Harvard University Employee Credit Union, and the Harvard University Police Department.
At the social hour that marked the end of the day, sponsored by the Graduate School Alumni Association, incoming students shared their enthusiasm about their new beginning at Harvard. “I’m excited about being in this vibrant intellectual community,” said Chika Okafor, a PhD student in
economics, “and by the opportunity to see classes in many different programs, and to see different fields and how they intersect.”
Sebastian Kersting, who will be studying economics as a special student, sees the potential in taking full advantage of the Harvard experience. “First, it’s the people, being surrounded by the most brilliant people in the world,” he said. “But it’s also about the student organizations, and I’m planning to get involved with sports, as well.”