FAS Dean Smith looks ahead

first_imgAs it emerges from the worst of the global financial crisis, Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) is renewing its focus on priorities ranging from House Renewal to innovative pedagogy.  With the release of the 2010 FAS annual report, Dean Michael D. Smith, John H. Finley Jr. Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences, spoke to the Gazette about his goals for the year and about his three-year struggle to balance the budget and to create a culture of sustainable excellence for students, faculty, and staff.Q: Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has been working through some extraordinary budget challenges. Can you give us an overview of where the budget stands now?A: We’re in a much more positive situation than most would have predicted a couple of years ago because we began to tackle the problem as soon as we understood that a significant change in the value of our endowment was coming. Ultimately, we expect to achieve a structurally balanced FAS budget by the end of 2012.When the financial crisis hit, we realized fairly immediately that the size of the challenge required a phased response. In the first year, we implemented a number of immediate changes, eliminating some things that are “nice to have” but that we knew we could probably do without.As a result, we managed to balance the budget that year. The second year, we implemented major changes to administrative structures and undertook a thoughtful prioritization of all our academic programs to ensure that the most important activities continued. The entire FAS community — faculty, students, and staff — participated in this effort.The changes we made in those first two years put us in a position to deal with this year, which we always knew would be the most challenging financially. After initially projecting a $220 million budget deficit for this year, we recently submitted a budget for the FAS that is only $35 million short.We made a huge amount of progress in a very short time. But we know there’s more work to do.Q: How have these budget changes affected students?A: I’m very proud to say that the changes we’ve had to make have had a relatively small impact on the student experience here. In fact, we’ve been able to push forward important priorities, particularly the implementation of the new Program in General Education, which replaced the 30-year-old Core Curriculum.Successfully implementing Gen Ed, especially during this period, is a testament to the dedication of the faculty, to the leadership of the College, and to the alumni, who stepped up with the necessary immediate-use gifts that allowed us to move ahead with this important program.Q: Has the financial crisis affected our commitment to financial aid for low- and middle-income students?A: One of the things I’m most pleased with is that, in the face of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, we have maintained our game-changing financial aid program. At a time when our students and their families were under great financial stress, we have not backed off from our commitment to provide excellent students access to a Harvard College education, regardless of their families’ means.Thanks to these programs, we now have a more diverse undergraduate student body than we’ve ever had in the past, however you measure it. At the same time, we’ve got a student body that is as engaged in what we’re trying to accomplish intellectually as we’ve ever had.Q: You have said that you expect the FAS budget to be structurally balanced by 2012. Once we have reached that point, will we return to pre-crisis conditions?A: Broadly speaking, our success going forward will depend on sustaining many of the changes that we made in the midst of the financial crisis.While I’m very pleased that our endowment distribution is expected to be back in positive numbers next year, increases in our revenues will not be large enough to get us back to pre-crisis spending levels. So we’re going to have to continue managing our resources carefully.But we’re back to thinking, first and foremost, about our programs. We’re working to make sure that the FAS is a place of sustainable excellence.Q: What are some of your priorities for the FAS for the coming year?A: Let me mention three. I want to continue turning up the volume on our conversations about teaching and learning on campus. We’ve made enormous progress since the Compact on Teaching and Learning was released in 2007, and I want to build on that progress. I also want to begin to share more broadly the progress of our planning efforts for the House Renewal project. And I want to involve the FAS community in planning around the upcoming capital campaign.Q: Why is the Compact on Teaching and Learning important?I’ve always known that we have outstanding teachers at Harvard, but certainly our processes for appointment and promotion did not place as much emphasis on teaching, mentoring, or advising as we do now. We are trying to be much more consistent in how we gather information about teaching. We want to truly understand not only how a person will perform with respect to scholarship, but also how he or she will engage our students, as part of our educational program.The compact included a broad set of recommendations on how to improve teaching at Harvard, everything from how we should be evaluating the teaching skills of new and existing faculty to opportunities to adopt new pedagogical methods. Through both system wide and grassroots efforts we’ve made a lot of progress toward these goals. I think it’s time to take stock, to leverage what works, and to solidify our position as the recognized leader in innovative pedagogy.Q: You mentioned House Renewal. Where does it stand?A: The residential House system is a cornerstone of the undergraduate experience at Harvard. Ask any undergraduate, and they’ll tell you: Houses at Harvard aren’t just buildings. Through the work of House masters, resident deans, tutors, and many others, the Houses are vibrant learning communities for our students.Reimaging the Harvard House system for the future will mean creating physical structures that complement and support a 21st century approach to liberal arts education and the lifestyle of the modern student. In recent years, we’ve taken a number of steps forward in the planning process. For instance, the House Program Planning Committee — which included faculty, student, and staff participation — spent time looking at the role of the Houses in the 21st century and the type of programming that will be essential as part of renewing the House system.Right now, we’re looking at those programmatic aspirations and figuring out what they mean for the physical spaces in the Houses, and how we can work within the current buildings to make spaces for today’s students. We’re also asking the important question of how to finance this project. These are critical issues we are continuing to resolve.Q: People have been talking about House Renewal for years. What’s taking so long?A: It’s an extremely complex project. If you look at our peer institutions that have implemented significant changes to their residential systems — Yale and Princeton being obvious examples — it took a long period. It was never done over a small number of years.The hard part has always been the financing model. To date, we’ve been working hard on the programmatic aspects of House Renewal. But the physical aspects of the project are quite expensive, as we look to undertake major renovations to buildings that haven’t had major updates since they were built. It will require philanthropy on a transformational scale, just like when the House system was first put in place. It’s all going to require careful planning.Q: The FAS has been criticized in the past for entering into major capital projects without the funding arranged in advance. You recently mentioned at a faculty meeting that those days are over.A: We’ve had a large number of ambitious projects in recent years, such as the Northwest Science Building, which were extremely important for the kinds of intellectual directions that we wanted to move in. But we ended up debt-financing new buildings in the belief that improvements in the endowment would enable us to pay for them over time.We’re at a different place now with our financial situation. We need to go back to the model most of our buildings were built under, which involved raising much of the capital for a project, figuring out how the remaining cost could be financed through the rest of our budget, and then, only once we have a very clear plan for how we can finance it, moving forward with the construction. That’s the mode we’re in now.Q: The faculty grew at an enormous rate earlier in the decade. Can you describe what you see as the size of the faculty in the coming years? Is it growing, holding steady, or shrinking?A: You’re right. We had tremendous faculty growth from 2000 through 2008. We have leveled off the last couple of years to around 720 faculty members.When the financial crisis hit, there was a concern that we might have to shrink the faculty. But through the hard work of the community, and because of the many difficult choices we made, we’ve managed to maintain the size of the faculty through this period of uncertainty, which is a real accomplishment.So, we’ve been very strategic. We continue to hire exciting new faculty. We’ve hired every year. But we’ve tried to be as strategic as possible, understanding where there are opportunities for new scholarship and where we have teaching needs.Q: During that period of faculty growth, the number of women on the faculty also grew. From 2001 to 2008, the number of women increased from 134 to 185. But in the past couple of years, the number of women has slipped to approximately 181. Is this an issue, and is this something you’re trying to address?A: It absolutely is. It’s not a big change in the number, but that change is still worrisome to us.We’re doing things in several different areas. Most importantly, through the help of Professor Mahzarin Banaji, we are working to ensure that we’re pulling in the largest and richest pool of applicants for faculty positions. As we conduct our searches for faculty, we want to make sure that there are opportunities for us to find outstanding candidates, whether they’re men or women or underrepresented minorities. Broadening the pool to include all the excellent candidates is key.We’re also working on questions of life/work balance. For instance, we continue to examine what we can do to assist with child care. It’s been very difficult, with the financial crisis, to expand our opportunities in child care, but we know that’s something that’s extremely important to all our faculty, regardless of gender.The newly installed tenure track system will also be a huge help. It enables us to identify and promote faculty from within.Q: How does the tenure-track system make a difference?A: The tenure-track system is a change for Harvard, and we think it’s extremely important for the future. It allows us to identify outstanding scholars, early in their careers, have them come to Harvard, do some of their best work here, and become part of our culture.We still have a high threshold for promotion to tenure at Harvard. We are looking for our faculty members to be outstanding in the classroom, as well as outstanding in their scholarship and wonderful members of our community.last_img read more

New lifestyles for Stone Hall

first_imgSince students moved back into Quincy House’s Stone Hall in August, after 15 months of construction, they have explored and utilized the new academic, social, and study spaces in creative ways.“What’s special about Harvard is there is a lot of learning that goes on in the classroom, but it doesn’t end there. I can go to a lecture on the history of Western music and when I come back here to Stone Hall and walk past the music practice room I can hear a piece by Mozart that we just talked about in class,” said Sarah Ward ’16.“One of the things I am most impressed with about Stone Hall is the diversity of community spaces we have here available to us,” Ward said. “There are alcoves for quiet study and bigger study spaces where you can work together as a group, or just hang out. They’ve really provided space for any kind of need we would have, whether it be an academic need or a social need.”In a few short months, Stone Hall has shown how House renewal will provide undergraduates with an array of improved spaces, each designed to better support learning, exploration, relaxation, and fun.The new smart classroom and the Rothenberg Conference Room are hosting about half a dozen classes this semester alone. The new music practice rooms, study alcoves, and the Kates/Tobin Community Room have proven popular for study, as well as for gatherings.  Residents also have benefited from modern amenities in their rooms.“It’s Harvard’s nature to think about the students and the need of the students, but to also maintain tradition. So I love the fact they kept the architecture and kept the old keys, but it’s a new space that’s conducive to what students need today,” said Vanessa Martinez ’16. “I really think they kept all the students in mind with all the decisions that went into this.”Harvard’s residential Houses — where undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty live, eat, work, and learn together — are the foundation of the College experience. As multigenerational communities, each House provides residents with an intellectual as well as a physical home.  The House renewal program is designed to ensure that each House can best support the learning and living needs of modern students.One of the largest capital improvement projects in the College’s history, House renewal is guided by five principles: preserving the historic character of the Houses; invigorating House life; connecting spaces and nurturing community; providing modern accommodations and sustainable operations; and accommodating the future.Leverett’s McKinlock Hall, the second test project, is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed when students arrive for the fall 2014 term. Construction on Dunster, the first full House to undergo renewal, will begin after Commencement in the spring. Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith recently announced that the renewal of Winthrop House will follow the completion of Dunster.last_img read more

Robert Stavins puts proposed carbon plan into perspective

first_imgThe Obama administration has announced one of the most ambitious plans to fight climate change taken by the U.S. government. The proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulation aims to cut carbon pollution 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.Robert N. Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, explains what the plan entails, and the obstacles it faces.Q: What are the key components of the carbon plan announced by the administration today?Stavins: The regulatory (rule) proposal calls for cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the electric power generation sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Electricity generation is responsible for about 38 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions, and about 32 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.Q: Do you feel this plan goes far enough to combat the threats posed by greenhouse gas emissions?Stavins: The proposed policy will be less effective environmentally and less cost-effective economically than the economy-wide Waxman-Markey bill would have been, but given political polarization in Washington and the inability of Congress to approve that more comprehensive and more cost-effective approach, this is the best the administration could do. Read Full Storylast_img read more

Fresh angle on Parents Weekend

first_img Freshmen arrive on campus, start settling in to college, and new lives Until this past Friday, I reveled in the independence of sophomore year at Harvard. After a poignant family farewell on move-in day, I’d operated under the assumption that I was immune to the common first-year pitfall of homesickness.Then came Freshman Parents Weekend — the special Friday in October when parents of Harvard’s freshman class descend on campus, wearing the requisite crimson and beaming smiles. As I crossed the Yard, it felt as though every member of the Class of 2019 had four parents each, leaving nary a pathway on which to get back to my room. First, you move in Related Returning to my House, I reflected on how my life had changed in the 12 months since my own Freshman Parents Weekend. While this year I did not have to clean my room — or clear my schedule — I was saddened that I was not going to hear my father’s unending complaints about his Fantasy Football team or see my mom organize my room.The silence was deafening as I watched from my window, looking down into the distance as proud parents accompanied by their Harvard progeny. This year, I went to Freshman Parents Weekend as a correspondent rather than a student. Little did I know that viewing these events through objective eyes would help me better understand how each person fits together as pieces of an exquisite puzzle, creating a remarkable picture of community — Harvard’s Class of 2019.“He’s gotten to appreciate us more. And we’ve gotten to appreciate him,” said Hector Nava (right) of his son Nick, a member of Harvard’s Class of 2019. Rounding out the family portrait was Nick’s mother Grita Nava. Photo by Matthew DeShawObserving freshmen and their families at Friday’s event, “Words of Wisdom for Harvard Parents,” showed me power of the Harvard experience on students and parents alike. The Gray family stood out from the crowd. They were attending Freshman Parents Weekend as well as the Crimson football game, in which their son, Tyler, would be taking the field for Harvard. His mother, Toyya Brawley Gray, shared how being a student athlete at Harvard has influenced her son in a few short months, noting his growth not only as a football player but as a student and role model.“He has become an even better time manager. He is adjusting to being here and having a bigger workload,” she said, noting that the transformation was not limited to Cambridge but was felt at home in South Carolina. “We miss him a lot. We’re used to having him here for his younger brothers.”Cooper Bryan (far right) of Ethiopia was accompanied by his grandparents, Connie and Pat Bryan, from Oklahoma. Photo by Matthew DeShawTalking with the students and families also opened a window into the daily life of a Harvard freshman, which brought back memories of my own first year. Nick Nava’s family from Miami were enamored with the beauty of the fall foliage, with one family member noting: “I like seeing the leaves change, because I’m used to seeing green where I’m from!”While New Englanders take autumn splendor for granted, the Navas included a new climate as part of their Harvard experience. Nick shared one of his late-night culinary preferences: Filipe’s. A 2 a.m. burrito at Felipe’s is a Harvard rite of passage, and already an integral part of this freshman’s experience.When asked how Harvard has impacted the family, Nick’s father, Hector, said, “He’s gotten to appreciate us more. And we’ve gotten to appreciate him.”Another theme that emerged was culture shock. Perhaps one of the most interesting examples was that of freshman Cooper Bryan from Ethiopia. Accompanied by his grandparents, Connie and Pat from Oklahoma, Cooper discussed his transition. “The adjustment has been good. I am loving everything except the weather. The people here are the best thing about it.”Even with the extreme cultural adaption, Connie Bryan reflected, “He seems to be the same old Cooper that we know.”Indeed, Parents Weekend is a time for students to take time to re-bond with their families and share a slice of their College life. The weekend reinforced my respect for how Harvard affects people. Almost universally, the families noted how their children have matured since arriving at Harvard in late August, and looked forward to seeing this growth continue. As an objective attendee, I could clearly see the diversity in this freshman class. The exquisite variety in talent, personal viewpoint, academic passion, and extracurricular interest fit together perfectly to create the dynamic group of freshmen interviewed.I concluded the weekend with a greater respect for the members of my campus community as well as for the transformative power of Harvard, and grateful for the privilege of witnessing it firsthand.Matthew DeShaw ’18 writes an occasional column about Harvard College experiences.last_img read more

How work and home environments shape health

first_imgCassandra Okechukwu, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences, studies how different environments—such as our homes and our workplaces—shape our health. She sat down with Christiana von Hippel S.D. ’19 to talk about her life and work.How did you first become interested in academic public health?I always knew I would become a professor—it is the family business! Nigerians, especially my tribe, the Igbos, have high regard for professors, and many family members are professors. After immigrating to the U.S. in 1993, I learned quickly that a successful academic career required not just intelligence but adequate funding, so I pursued an undergraduate degree in nursing because of the high hourly wage and flexible schedule. Nursing is a common occupational entry point for African immigrants in the D.C./Maryland area where I grew up.My first exposure to public health was through occupational and environmental health courses that I took at Johns Hopkins. I became interested in the health effects of work environments on workers. As my own career trajectory was shaped by occupational segregation, noting these forces and their effects on workers’ opportunities for optimal health has continued to be a theme in my research. I loved the focus on creating social change in my occupational health courses so much that I ditched my original plan of pursuing a Ph.D. in nursing after my M.S.N./M.P.H. degree. Instead, I took a job as a project coordinator at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental and Occupational Health Justice. Working alongside nurses with doctoral degrees in public health inspired me to follow the same path. Read Full Storylast_img read more

To understand Trump, learn from his voters

first_imgTo make sense of Donald Trump’s emerging presidency, it helps to understand the social and economic discontent that put him in office. Harvard Professor Michael Sandel took a hard look at those concerns during a Tuesday afternoon lecture called “Why Trump? What Now?” Sandel argued that Trump’s rise reflected a populist backlash against “decades of rising inequality and a version of globalization that benefited those at the top but left ordinary people feeling disempowered.”Addressing a full house at Harvard Law School’s Langdell Hall, Sandel first acknowledged the concerns of many of his listeners.“Many people around the world worry that the American republic is tilting toward tyranny,” he said. “Many Americans worry too.”Trump’s presidency, Sandel suggested, is most comparable to Richard Nixon’s because each posed a “stress test” to the constitutional order.  Both referred to the news media as enemies of the American people. “That phrase has a long and dark provenance,” he said. “It’s been used by Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao — ‘big-league tyrants,’ as Mr. Trump might call them.”Yet it’s a mistake, said Sandel, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government, to see Trump’s win as only the product of bigotry, or even of economic concerns. “Donald Trump tapped into a wellspring of anxieties and legitimate grievances, to which the mainstream parties offered no compelling answers. The upheavals of 2016 were a political response to a political failure of historic proportions.”The roots of that failure, he said, go back to the Clinton years, when Democrats deregulated the financial industry and did little to address growing inequality and the influence of money on politics. And though President Barack Obama “showed that progressive politics can speak a language of moral and spiritual purpose,” Sandel thought that wasn’t reflected in his presidency.“He appointed economic advisers who had promoted financial deregulation in the Clinton years. He bailed out the banks on terms that did not hold them to account and offered little help for ordinary citizens who lost their homes. Lingering anger over the bailout cast a shadow over the Obama presidency and fueled a mood of populist protest across the political spectrum.  On the left, it prompted the Occupy movement and the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. And on the right, it prompted the Tea Party movement and the election of Trump.”Sandel, the author of “Democracy’s Discontent,” argued that progressive parties must rethink their mission and purpose. “They should learn from the populism that has displaced them — not by replicating the xenophobia and strident nationalism, but by taking seriously the legitimate concerns with which these ugly sentiments are entangled.” In particular, he said, there are four themes that need to be addressed: income inequality, meritocratic hubris, the dignity of work, and patriotism and national community.The first two points, he said, are related. Income inequality is now so widespread that the promise of upward mobility is no longer an adequate response. The familiar assurance that those who “work hard and play by the rules will succeed” no longer seems to apply.“This slogan now rings hollow. Americans born to poor families tend to stay poor as adults. Progressives should reconsider the assumption that mobility can compensate for inequality.  They should reckon more directly with inequalities of income and wealth,” said Sandel.This is tied to the problem of “meritocratic hubris,” the sense that winners and losers are both deserving of their status. “The idea that the system rewards talent and hard work encourages the winners to consider their success their own doing, and to look down upon those less fortunate than themselves,” he said. “Those who are not successful may feel that their failure is their own doing. Such attitudes fuel the anger and frustration at the heart of the populist backlash, and Trump’s victory.”This led in turn to his third point, that society now accords less respect to the work that the working class does.“Society has lavished outsize rewards on hedge fund managers, and the esteem accorded work in the traditional sense has become fragile and uncertain,” he said. “New technologies may further erode the dignity of work, rendering many of today’s jobs obsolete. Political parties need to grapple with the meaning of work and its place in a good life.”Finally, he examined the issue of patriotism, specifically the populist fury that immigration and outsourcing have stirred in some.“Workers who believe that their country cares more for cheap goods and cheap labor than the job prospects of its own people feel betrayed,” he said. “This sense of betrayal often finds ugly, intolerant expression: hatred of immigrants, a strident nationalism that vilifies ‘outsiders,’ and the rhetoric of ‘taking back our country.’ Liberals rightly condemn the hateful rhetoric, but fail to address important questions implicit in the populist complaint: What is the moral significance of national borders? Do we owe more to our fellow citizens than we owe citizens of other countries? In a global age, should we cultivate national identities or aspire to a a cosmopolitan culture of universal human concern?”Those questions, he allowed, are not easily answered. “They may seem daunting, but the Trumpian moment highlights the need to rejuvenate democratic public discourse. Understanding these grievances and creating a politics that can respond to them is the most pressing political challenge of our time.”When a student asked what Sandel thought was in store for the next four years, he replied that it’s really up to each of us. He warned that protest movements, while admirable, carry unique risks in this era. One risk relates to the frenzied distraction promoted by cable news, which conflates crucial issues with trivial ones. “If you watch cable news, you might think that the Trump travel ban and the Russian involvement in the election are somehow equivalent to a Trump aide flogging Ivanka’s products.”A bigger risk, he said, is that unruly protests can contribute to an overall sense of chaos that suits Trump’s politics. “Tumult and confusion actually strengthen his agenda. We saw this happen with the travel ban. The protests there were laudable and admirable. In previous presidencies, having a policy rollout beset by chaos has weakened the president’s agenda. For Trump, it doesn’t work that way.”last_img read more

The challenges facing higher ed

first_imgMaintaining global excellence, expanding access to higher education, and ensuring its affordability are the biggest challenges facing public and private universities, said the presidents of Harvard University, Stanford University, and Ohio State University during a panel discussion Tuesday hosted by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.During the wide-ranging discussion among the presidents, Harvard’s Drew Faust, Stanford’s Marc Tessier-Lavigne, and Ohio State’s Michael Drake probed the pressing issues facing higher education, including the potential for dramatic cuts to federal scientific research funding, new immigration and visa restrictions on students and faculty, and ongoing efforts to prevent campus sexual violence and alcohol abuse.Although securing financial support for academic endeavors is a major — and always difficult — part of a university president’s job, the Trump administration’s plan to impose new budgetary constraints on scientific research has made that task even harder, they said.In the wake of last weekend’s March for Science, Drake and Tessier-Lavigne, a neuroscientist, noted that once-catastrophic diseases like polio and AIDS are now under control thanks to academic scientific research supported by such funding. Rising public health challenges, such as Alzheimer’s, will require similar resources if the nation hopes to effectively manage its rapidly aging population, the presidents added.Too often, state and federal lawmakers consider funding for areas like scientific research and student financial aid discretionary, especially when annual budgets are tight, they said. But ensuring that citizens have access to higher education is “really [an] investment in the future, and I think that the legislatures sometimes look at them as a cost,” Drake, who has had to freeze student costs since 2015, told moderator David Rubenstein.An ophthalmologist, Drake noted that the federal government has had a long and fruitful partnership with academic institutions to make advances in medicine, technology, and other scientific disciplines.Some of the responsibility for the perception that such research isn’t essential falls on colleges and universities, which need to do a better job of communicating the important economic and social benefits that higher education provides, the presidents said. “One of our biggest challenges is to explain who we are and what we do and why it matters” to legislators, philanthropists, and the public, Faust said.Since January, Faust said she has been making the case to Republican and Democratic members of Congress that fully funding the National Institutes of Health in the upcoming federal budget, an area President Trump has earmarked for major cuts, is critical to advance scientific research. She has invited lawmakers to come see firsthand the important scientific work being done in Harvard laboratories.Recent efforts to restrict immigration and reduce the availability of work and student visas pose a grave risk to Stanford’s rich educational experience and its longstanding culture of entrepreneurship, said Tessier-Lavigne. A Canadian who was able to study in the United States thanks to a student visa, he noted that more than half of American startups today are launched by immigrants and that 10 percent of Stanford students are international. “We think it’s very important because it enriches the education of our American students,” he said.Helping and supporting international students who want to stay in the United States after graduation through the H-1B visa program is an important concern for Harvard and has a direct effect on whether the University can sustain excellence in the decades to come, said Faust. “Openness to international students and faculty is not incidental to who we are, it’s fundamental to who we are,” she said.Because the University’s endowments support about a third of Harvard’s annual operating budget, Faust said that taxing them would undermine the ability of Harvard and other private institutions like Stanford to ensure that students can afford to attend regardless of their financial circumstances.Confronting and preventing sexual violence on campus is another priority at the three schools, the panelists said. In the wake of troubling findings in a 2015 national survey, administrators have stepped up efforts to better inform students about consent and diminish the embarrassment some affected students feel, which interferes with reporting incidents or seeking support.After Rubenstein asked why anyone should get a degree from Stanford or Harvard when successful people like Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, or Bill Gates of Microsoft dropped out before graduating, Faust insisted the ideas incubated and the friends they made while on campus left an indelible mark.But on the nagging question of which school a high school student should attend after getting into both Harvard and Stanford, Faust was emphatic in quipping: “Ohio State.”last_img read more

Made to shade

first_img“Like the farmers market, [the canopy] is another attraction and it’s great for getting out of the sun,” said Williams. “This is good for the community. It’s open to everybody and it’s a great way to get people out here.”The canopy will be up through Aug. 17.The plaza is just one of a number of common spaces across campus designed to bring people together. From the colorful Luxembourg chairs in Harvard Yard to the porch outside the Memorial Church and the soon-to-be-opened Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center, these designated areas create stronger bonds among community members and help fulfill President Drew Faust’s vision for One Harvard. Harvard through Drew Faust’s eyes Faust’s ambitious goal to create places of engagement will be a lasting legacy ‘In our common spaces lie uncommon opportunities’ Related Whether seeking solitude or socializing, there’s a spot for you Study spaces call to students Outgoing president reflects on her favorite spaces on campus Just outside the Science Center, waves of shade cascade across the plaza, providing respite from the summer sun — the product of a recently installed canopy dubbed Wavelength that combines form and function to create a practical and visually striking work of art.Stretching more than 130 feet along the west side of the Science Center Plaza, hundreds of red, flag-like banners hang from wires, gently swaying. Underneath, crimson Adirondack chairs, decks, and café tables let visitors enjoy the outdoors on the sunniest of days. A large synthetic lawn (complete with giant chess set and Ping-Pong table) completes this urban oasis.“One of our objectives is to make the plaza a destination for the Harvard community 365 days a year,” said Julie Crites, director for Common Spaces. “This shade canopy will greatly enhance the usability and overall enjoyment of the space in the warmer months.”The canopy, designed by Interboro Partners, is the result of a collaboration among Harvard Common Spaces, Harvard Planning Office, and Project for Public Spaces.A key design parameter was that the structure complement, and not interfere with, programs and events. “We tried to design something that was almost column-free, with a very wide span,” said Daniel D’Oca, associate professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and a co-founder of Interboro Partners. “That was primarily driven by the goal of making something beautiful and memorable without it being in the way of the many wonderful activities happening on the ground.”,While the team had the artistic freedom to create something colorful, vibrant, and full of movement, there were also practical considerations. The canopy had to be secured to the ground using foundation anchors already embedded within the plaza’s concrete pavers. “The way it’s designed, with the flags hanging vertically, it not only looks good, but provides the necessary amount of movement while not adding significantly to the uplift,” D’Oca said. “If you were to stretch a solid piece of fabric across the area it would act as a sail and put stress on the foundation.”The canopy isn’t just for the Harvard community. On a recent Tuesday, Frank Williams of Boston and a companion were passing through campus and stopped to rest at the plaza.last_img read more

Protein, fat, or carbs?

first_img Healthy diet helps older men maintain physical function Quick, which is healthiest diet? One focused on carbs, fat, or protein?The answer? Any of them. Rebutting the breathless claims of the superiority of various fads, new research finds that consuming more carbs, fat, or protein can promote good health as long as they are part of an overall sensible and varied diet.A team led by Stephen Juraschek at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that any of the diets could lead to a reduction in two chemical markers of heart damage. The improvements, which occurred over just six weeks, show that a fundamentally healthy diet can begin to make a difference in heart health almost right away.“I have friends who talk all the time about the new trend diet. It used to be Atkins, now it’s Paleolithic and ketogenic. There are the people who hate carbs, the people who still hate fat,” said Juraschek, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “The problem with all of these fad diets is that they overemphasize a certain macronutrient profile and underemphasize the importance of balance and heathy eating overall.”While “eat healthy” may simplify the dietary message, the broader problem is that most of us don’t, Juraschek said. Despite decades of advice to the contrary, the typical American meal remains heavy on meat and carbohydrates — often heavily processed — with fruits and vegetables almost an afterthought. While the guidelines recommend Americans eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the average American eats just 1.8, Juraschek said, and our two most common vegetables are potatoes — often in the form of french fries and potato chips — and canned tomatoes.“Our reduction in cardiovascular mortality has stagnated. We as a population are not achieving a healthy lifestyle,” Juraschek said. “This is a population trend that we have not been able to improve upon in the United States.” “We get so caught up in the macronutrients, we miss the quality of the diet, the balance of the diet, and the emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Let’s re-evaluate how we’re constructing our plate.” — Stephen Juraschek Amino acid leucine, found in animal products and beans, blocks effectiveness of medications The findings emerged from a new study in which researchers applied new tests to old blood samples from a key study on diet and heart health.The original study, called OmniHeart, published its results in 2005 and investigated variations on a diet designed to lower blood pressure in middle-aged participants with either prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension. Its aim was to see whether higher levels of carbohydrates, protein, or unsaturatedfat could improve on the base diet’s performance. The researchers examined two risk factors for heart disease — blood pressure and cholesterol — and found that each of the diets improved those factors, though the higher-fat and -protein diets performed slightly better than the carb diet.Each of the three experimental diets were designed to be healthy, including between nine and 11 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, as well as whole grains, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy products, unsaturated fats, moderate salt, and high fiber. It also featured lean proteins from meat, fish, and poultry, as well as some sweets. The increased macronutrient in each version of the diet also came from healthy sources: plant protein, unsaturated fats, and less-processed carbohydrates.Juraschek said that one common critique of OmniHeart was that it was so short — just six weeks on each diet — that it is difficult to know whether those improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol actually could prevent heart attacks down the road. The new study, conducted with colleagues from the University of Massachusetts, the National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland — some of whom were investigators in the original study — took the analysis a step further.In work published recently in the International Journal of Cardiology, researchers examined levels of troponin, a compound created by the breakdown of proteins in heart muscle, and C-reactive protein, a marker of cardiac inflammation. Both declined over each six-week feeding period, troponin by between 8.6 percent and 10.8 percent, and C-reactive protein by between 13.9 percent and 17 percent. Related Dietary link found to drug-resistant breast cancercenter_img Growing support for plant-based diet “We’re taking it a step further,” Juraschek said. “We’re looking at whether the diets directly influence cardiac damage. Not only do the diets reduce blood pressure, they reduce direct injury to the heart and they reduce inflammation.”Consistent with the original study’s findings for blood pressure and cholesterol, the improvement in cardiac muscle injury was slightly better for those on the higher-protein and -fat diets, but the largest improvement by far, Juraschek said, came as participants switched from their everyday diet to the study diet — whichever one it was.“We get so caught up in the macronutrients, we miss the quality of the diet, the balance of the diet, and the emphasis on fruits and vegetables,” Juraschek said. “Let’s re-evaluate how we’re constructing our plate.”Research was supported by National Institutes of Health and Alpha Omega Alpha Postgraduate Award. Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Inc. donated equipment that identified markers of cardiac injury. Study finds greater adherence lowers risk of Type 2 diabetes by 23% Associated with 25 percent lower likelihood of developing age-related impairments last_img read more

Pandemic academics

first_img The path to zero Since the COVID-19 pandemic is happening in real-time, the course is more fluid than a typical freshman seminar, with labs being tweaked at the last minute to incorporate the latest scientific information and keep up with the data the students are gathering from their experiments, said teaching fellow Agnese Curatolo, a postdoctoral fellow in applied mathematics.It may be a bit of a whirlwind to teach, but teaching fellow Michael Cheng, A.B./S.M. ’19, now a master’s student in the MIT Technology and Policy Program, said it is rewarding to act as a mentor to first-years who are transitioning to college life during such an uncertain time.“This class is so unique because COVID-19 is a means to an end,” he added. “Pedagogically, we are using COVID-19 as a way to introduce students to methods of scientific and engineering research. That is going to be very beneficial for them throughout their college careers.”The course could also provide benefits to the University.For their final projects, the students will synthesize everything they’ve learned to develop science-based advice for Harvard administrators regarding COVID-19 and plans for the spring term.“We tell the students each week that they are on the cutting edge, and it is true. They may be freshmen, but they are on the cutting edge of the most important problem of our time,” Brenner said. “They are going to get to learn all these lessons viscerally on a problem they are all now passionate about because they are contributing to the state of the art.”For freshman Karen Li, working on a problem that is so relevant to everyone is a driving force that motivates her as she sifts through dense datasets and tackles tough lab assignments.At every turn, she and her peers are reminded of the critical role science must play in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.“I want to learn about how communities are changing because of the pandemic and how we could have a better response next time,” she said. “I don’t think our country has had great preparation for COVID, but if we are able to understand COVID-19 better, we’ll be able to better prepare ourselves in the future.” Brigham and Women’s accepting applications for the 10,000-person study Related At-home COVID testing launches in Boston Researchers and public health experts unite to bring clarity to key metrics guiding coronavirus response In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus, Harvard placed a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in the dorm room of Charlotte Moses and other residential students. The filters are designed to trap airborne particulates — like respiratory droplets that could contain the highly infectious virus.Having a HEPA filter running might bring Moses and her peers some peace of mind, but how well do they actually work?Thanks to “Science and Engineering for Managing COVID (ES20r),” Moses had the opportunity to find out. The first lab in the new Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences course challenged students to use particle generators to put their dorm room HEPA filters to the test, just days after they arrived on campus.Hands-on, real-world lessons are at the crux of ES20r, which was developed by Michael P. Brenner, Michael F. Cronin Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics and Professor of Physics, John Doyle, Henry B. Silsbee Professor of Physics, and Evelyn Hu, Tarr-Coyne Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, to examine the scientific and engineering basis of COVID-19 policies.Moses, a first-year student, swung by a physics building for a socially-distanced pickup of lab instruments and then got right to work.After using a sodium chloride solution and particle generator to fill the air inside her room with tiny salt particulates, Moses utilized a particle counter to see how long it took for the particles to dissipate, with and without the HEPA filter running.“My dorm received our HEPA filters late with no instruction on how to use them, so many of my hallmates weren’t really sure if they should be turning them on and if they really would make a difference,” she said. “But our results showed that HEPA filters aren’t over-hyped. They really do work if you are concerned about disease transmission through aerosolized particles. While my hallmates were a little confused in the beginning, I’m happy to say they’ve now all turned their filters on.”The students’ observations were summarized in a letter the instructors sent to Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana, outlining some suggestions to improve the communications related to HEPA filters to help ensure they are being used properly.That outcome comes as no surprise to instructors Hu, Brenner, and Doyle, who conceived the course as a way to educate students while generating important information University administrators can incorporate into campus COVID-19 policies and plans.,It’s uncharted territory for everyone — no one had ever conducted measurements of aerosolized particles in the dorm rooms before, Doyle said.“What is great about the learning part of this is that they are actually able to see quantitatively some of the ideas they may have heard about, but they are also seeing how these scientific and engineering ideas really do connect with policies and guidelines,” he said. “The students  show up on campus and they are able to learn more about the world around them, some aspects of the scientific process, and how it all connects to the bigger picture. Understanding what is going on around them lowers their stress levels and improves their education.”Many of the labs that have been developed for the course are focused on issues the students face every day. For instance, later in the term they may explore cloth mask alternatives to the surgical masks that are currently being used on campus.In addition to the hands-on lab work, the course also focuses on understanding and interpreting COVID-19 data. The cohort studied models of pandemic spread and analyzed different ways of presenting and accessing the data that forms the basis of those models.Each student also selected a university they will monitor throughout the term, examining COVID-19 data for that school and the broader community, and analyzing how the university’s pandemic response compares to Harvard.For Justas Jasevicius, A.B. ’21, an integrative biology concentrator taking the course remotely from his home in Lithuania, delving deeper into COVID-19 data has been both challenging and fascinating.Jasevicius is tracking the COVID-19 response of the London School of Economics.“No one is really tracking colleges to this extent, and there are so many things to consider,” he said. “One issue is, what if there are students off-campus who are still coming to in-person seminars? How do you account for that? It just gets exponentially more complex.”Working around the dynamism of real-world data is a challenge for both students and instructors. “This is the way education should be. The students sensed that they were doing things they hadn’t done before. … But they were totally fearless.” — Evelyn Hu, Tarr-Coyne Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering Team at Harvard plans to launch clinical trial in fall Global race to a COVID-19 vaccinelast_img read more