Around the Schools: Faculty of Arts & Sciences

first_img“Harvard Shorts” is not stock market lingo, nor abbreviated pants for wearing on a treadmill. It’s a new University-wide digital movie contest, sponsored by the Division of Humanities. Inspiration came from the ubiquity of video productions in academic life, their aesthetic possibilities, and their potential for enriching scholarship.The contest is a search for what organizers call “polished, coherent, and enjoyable” three-minute explorations of teaching and research.There are five categories: scholarly serials; scholarly shorts; shorts on the topic “Why are the arts and humanities important?”; course or departmental trailers; and shorts on novel ways to use library resources. Prizes range from $500 to $750. The top films will be screened April 24.All submissions must be free of copyright restrictions. The rules for movie-making technology are flexible — even PowerPoint is eligible — and organizers will hold training seminars for novices. All current Harvard faculty, students, and staff, alone or in teams, are eligible. Submissions, due between March 15 and April 9, must be submitted online. The voting is online too, between April 16 and 23.For more details, go to the Harvard Shorts Web site. You also can follow the contest on Twitter: #HarvardShorts. If you have questions, contact the contest organizers at harvardshorts2010@gmail.com.— Corydon Ireland­If you have an item for Around the Schools, please e-mail your write-up (150-200 words) to georgia_bellas@harvard.edu.last_img read more

Performance as art

first_imgIn Andrea Fraser‘s provocative 2003 video “Untitled,” the performance artist films a sexual encounter with a private collector who paid tens of thousands of dollars to be part of her work.“He said he wanted to participate in an artwork beyond writing a check,” Fraser told a Harvard crowd on Wednesday (March 24). “That became very meaningful to me, and something that I took very seriously.”For the artist — who was well-established in the art world by the time she made the controversial video — the work became a metaphor for the selling of art as prostitution, where the artist becomes the prostitute. Rejecting the notion that she was exploited, Fraser said the piece was a reflection of a capitalist society where “all human relations get reduced to relations of economic exchange,” and represented those societal dynamics in a “very literal way, to an extreme, so as to hopefully encourage people to think about it and reflect on it.”The public can reflect on some of Fraser’s other works that are now on view at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University. The current installation, “Andrea Fraser: Boxed Set,” consists of five video works made between 1989 and 2001. Each involves the concept of institutional critique, a cornerstone of Fraser’s performance work that casts a critical eye on art institutions such as galleries and museums, and frequently on the nature of art itself.The works on display were originally produced for specific sites and situations. “Museum Highlights” and “Welcome to the Wadsworth,” two of the five, were live performance tours of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn. Fraser explained that the performances in the “Boxed Set” built on her experience with appropriation art. But where she had previously borrowed images and texts for her artwork, in her live performances she instead appropriated “positions and functions within specific contexts and settings.”In an attempt to define the public’s relationships to “institutions and how we experience them,” Fraser adopts the role of a docent in “Museum Highlights,” using inflated language to describe not only the building’s art but also mundane aspects such as its water fountain and men’s room.Much of the work came out of what she described as a “fairly desperate psychological need to feel like I could pass.” A high school dropout, Fraser said she mimicked the language, posture, diction, and gestures of art critics and museum guides in her work in an effort to understand the “legitimate culture” of the art institutions that were foreign to her when she first moved to New York.It “had everything to do with my very painful sense of illegitimacy in relationship to these institutions.”Fraser’s work often elicits both laughter and tears, said Helen Molesworth, chief curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, who took part in a discussion with the artist at the Barker Center. Molesworth, formerly the head of the Harvard Art Museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art and its Maisie K. and James R. Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art, said she noted a Brechtian quality in the artist’s performance work, one that “balances on a knife edge” between humor and “deep psychological places of shame.”Yet while Fraser’s work often falls into the category of institutional critique, a trend that emerged in the late 1960s as a type of artist-against-institution movement, the artist said her performance work, which began in that vein, has morphed into a “defense of the function of art.”By staging her performances within those institutions, her work was a way of “defending” those sites as places of critique, culture, and critical self-reflection.“Andrea Fraser: Boxed Set” will be on view at the Carpenter Center through April 4.Marjorie Garber, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies and director of Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, also took part in the discussion. The talk was part of “The Church of What’s Happening Now: New Art, New Artists,” a series co-sponsored by the Harvard Art Museum and the Humanities Center at Harvard.The next lecture in the series will take place April 28 in Room 202, Harvard Hall, at 6 p.m., featuring artist Allan Sekula in conversation with Harvard’s Homi Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities and director of the Humanities Center, and Benjamin Buchloh, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Modern Art. The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited. For more informationlast_img read more

Haiti: Home Visit

first_imgLiving in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, most of Haiti’s nine million people are subsistence farmers. Poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated by poor health care and a low vaccination rate.last_img

Applied knowledge opens doors for young SEAS alumni

first_imgUndergraduates were treated to a lively discussion of life beyond Harvard this week. Five young SEAS alumni returned to campus on Jan. 31 to participate in the first of a series of engineering-themed career events hosted this spring by the FAS Office of Career Services.These recent graduates have found that their degrees open doors for them not just as engineers and programmers, but also as teachers, sailors, consultants, and aspiring doctors and lawyers. Still, they wove their recommendations to undergraduates with three common threads:Take advantage of hands-on courses.Hone both your writing skills and your quantitative skills.Follow your interests, and take classes in a broad range of subjects.last_img

Expanding student learning abroad

first_imgFor David Cutler, grants from the President’s Innovation Fund for International Experiences have been critical in developing three programs that give Harvard undergraduates international experiences in global health.Cutler, the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics, has developed an international research experience for undergraduates in Botswana, Bangladesh, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda. He created a global health “boot camp” in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute that prepares students for international experiences, and, most recently, along with Kolokotrones University Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine Paul Farmer, a program that will put students in active global health care delivery sites run by the nonprofit group Partners In Health, which Farmer co-founded.“For many students, this is the single most transformative experience in their lives,” Cutler said. “It will change who they are as human beings and what they do in the world.”For Caroline Elkins, professor of history and chair of the Committee on African Studies, the fund has provided critical support so that she and John Mugane, professor of the practice of African languages and cultures, can develop an eight-week study abroad program in East Africa that will expose students to Kenya’s culture and place in the modern world, give them training in Swahili, and allow them to study wildlife conservation.Elkins, Cutler, and Farmer are among six faculty members who received the grants during the 2010-11 award cycle. The application deadline for the 2011-12 awards is Oct. 28. A full overview of the program, including policies and application requirements, can be found on the website of the vice provost for international affairs. The President’s Innovation Fund is seen as a key part of Harvard’s effort to give undergraduates quality international experiences.“These awards are part of our commitment to ensure students are prepared for today’s increasingly globalized world,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “We are proud to assist these six innovative faculty members as they design high-quality programs that lead students to greater understanding of both their subject matter and the countries in which they study.”The grants range from $5,000 to $60,000 and are intended to provide faculty members with the support needed to investigate and set up new international programs. Jorge Domínguez, vice provost for international affairs, said that quality programs require appropriate planning, site visits, and interaction with local partners, all expenses incurred before the first student ever steps onto a plane.The fund was established through the gift of David Rockefeller, most of which went to establish the David Rockefeller International Experience Grants Program in 2009, which funds student study abroad travel, Domínguez said. This year, the grants will fund nearly 400 students, in 50 countries. Since the fund was established three years ago, the grants have funded more than 1,200 undergraduates to pursue summer international experiences of more than eight weeks. The grants can go toward participating in a Harvard Summer School study abroad program taught by Harvard faculty, a Harvard-run internship program, a study abroad program organized by another institution, or an independently designed internship, service project, or research project.“For hundreds of Harvard College students each year, study abroad has become an integral part of their undergraduate education and their development as engaged citizens in today’s globalized world,” said Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds. “Being able to study abroad with Harvard faculty really enhances students’ international experiences in significant ways because it provides a direct link to their work on campus.”Some of the money from that original Rockefeller donation was designated for faculty members to develop quality study abroad experiences, Domínguez said. The funds are distributed by Faust, on the advice of a steering committee made up of Domínguez, Tamara Rogers, vice president for alumni affairs and development, Hammonds, and John Lichten, PEPFAR executive director and senior adviser for international health programs.“The idea is to provide resources to faculty to create experiences abroad for Harvard undergraduates that would not have come up in the normal course of events,” Domínguez said. “It is making sure there are good programs over there, wherever over there is.”Rogers said the programs are required to be at least eight weeks long so they are immersive to the students, allowing them to emerge with an understanding of the culture of the country in which they studied or conducted research. Rogers said her past work as director of international admissions in Harvard College has given her a firsthand view of the impact that Harvard has had on international students, the impact international students have on their peers here, and the effects that international experiences have had on current students.The faculty and programs that received 2010-11 funding are:Harvard Summer School in Trento, Italy: This is the second year that a program will run in collaboration with Harvard Summer School, the University of Trento, and Harvard’s Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative. Organized by Alfonso Caramazza, the Daniel and Amy Starch Professor of Psychology, the program will have students living and studying alongside Italian students, learning research methods for the study of the mind/brain and other relevant topics, and exploring the culture and history of northern Italy.“The President’s Innovation Fund for International Experiences provides our program with the financial support needed to work out and put in place at the Italian site a stable infrastructure that will serve the specific needs of our students and faculty abroad and ensure that their experience in Italy is very enjoyable and educational — an experience that they will never forget,” Caramazza said. “Our program is structured to combine an intensive academic curriculum with variegated extracurricular activities and active cultural involvement. This allows for an academically and culturally productive summer, full of adventures and novel experiences.”Harvard Human Rights Studies Summer Program in Argentina: Located in Buenos Aires, the program expands to Argentina the existing eight-week human rights internship currently offered in Chile. In addition to their internships, students take part in a course focusing on core aspects of human rights.“The [President’s Innovation Fund] helped launch human rights summer programs abroad by providing support for new curriculum, new linkages with human rights scholars abroad, and synergistic programming with Harvard offices abroad,” said organizer Jacqueline Bhabha, the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School, director of the Harvard University Committee on Human Rights Studies, and director of research at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Students have loved the opportunity to combine foreign language exposure, situated internships, and human rights coursework. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to develop these pilot programs.”Harvard Study Abroad Program in Kenya: In collaboration with Aga Khan University, East Africa, the Kenya program will be offered in the summer of 2012. It will have students enroll alongside local students at Aga Khan University and participate in hands-on fieldwork concerning rural resilience and sustainability. Other aspects include Swahili training and a course on East Africa in the global world.“We’re really excited about this,” said program organizer Elkins. “The support from the President’s Fund was really huge. It will make the difference in properly planning it and getting it off the ground.”Harvard Europe Program: Taking place in Freiburg, Germany, the program will be the first to occur during the school year rather than the summer and to be taught by a Harvard faculty member. Beginning in spring 2012, it will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Freiburg, with options for students to take courses in Basel, Switzerland, and Strasbourg, France, and will include courses, language tutorials, internships, and excursions to Istanbul and Warsaw focused on introducing students across all concentrations to the ways in which Europeans address today’s challenges.Organizer Sven Beckert, the Laird Bell Professor of History, said the seed funding from the Presidents’ Innovation Fund was key to his ability to conduct the site visits needed, consult with European partners, arrange for student housing, and hire an internship coordinator.“The activity necessary to develop and implement a program of this nature and scope requires several years of commitment and a great deal of combined energy,” Beckert said. “I am grateful to the committee, and to President Faust, for supporting these important activities for faculty, and especially for our students.“In establishing this award, President Faust took an important step to encourage Harvard faculty to develop international programs for Harvard undergraduate students. Students really do want to study abroad, but they also want to study at Harvard with a Harvard professor  — and there is no better way to do this than to have Harvard faculty design and direct a program in some other part of the world.”Global Equity Option in Scholarship Abroad Program (GEO Scholars): The GEO Scholars program will put students in active health care delivery sites, managed by the global nonprofit Partners In Health, which has close ties to Harvard. Students will take the course “Societies of the World 25 — Health, Culture and Community: Case Studies in Global Health,” and combine coursework with experiential learning in the field. The program, administered by the Harvard Global Health Institute and organized by Cutler and Farmer, will launch in the spring of 2012.“We are trying to get students out in the world to be not tourists, but people learning about global health and integrating that with what they’re learning in class,” Cutler said. “This money is critical. Without it, we can’t do anything.”last_img read more

When it’s best to do nothing at all

first_imgIn newscasts following intense wind and ice storms, damaged trees stand out: snapped limbs, uprooted trunks, sometimes entire forests blown nearly flat. In the storm’s wake, landowners, municipalities, and state agencies are faced with important financial and environmental decisions. A new study by Harvard University researchers, soon to be published in the journal Ecology, yields a surprising result for large woodlands: When it comes to the health of forests, native plants, and wildlife, the best management decision may be to do nothing.Salvage logging is a common response to modern storm events in large woodlands. Acres of downed, leaning, and broken trees are cut and hauled away. Landowners and towns financially recoup with a sale of the damaged timber. Salvage logging was widespread in southern New England following the June 2011 tornadoes and the October 2011 snowstorm, and the practice was well documented after the great hurricane of September 1938.By 1999, the Harvard Forest hurricane pulldown area showed significant regeneration. Photo by Audrey Barker PlotkinIn a salvaged woodland landscape, the forest’s original growth and biodiversity, on which many animals and ecological processes depend, is stripped away. A thickly growing, early successional forest made up of a few light-loving tree species develops in its place.But what happens when wind-thrown forests are left to their own devices? The Ecology paper reports on a study initiated in 1990 at the Harvard Forest, in which a team of scientists re-created the impacts of the 1938 hurricane in a two-acre patch of mature oak forest. Eighty percent of the trees were flattened with a large winch and cable. Half of the trees died within three years, but the scientists left the dead and damaged wood on the ground. In the 20 years since, they’ve monitored everything from soil chemistry to the density of leaves on the trees. What they’ve found is a remarkable story of recovery.According to David Foster, director of the Harvard Forest and co-author of the new study, “Leaving a damaged forest intact means the original conditions recover more readily. Forests have been recovering from natural processes like windstorms, fire, and ice for millions of years.  What appears to us as devastation is actually, to a forest, a quite natural and important state of affairs.”Initially, the Harvard site — just like tornado-ravaged areas of Massachusetts’ Brimfield State Forest and the McKinstry Brook Wildlife Management Area in Southbridge, Mass. — was a nearly impassable jumble of downed trees. But surviving, sprouting trees, along with many new seedlings of black birch and red maple — species original to that forest — thrived amid the dead wood. Audrey Barker Plotkin, lead author of the study, explains, “I was surprised at how strongly surviving trees and seedlings from the original forest came to dominate.”  Although weedy invasive plants initially tried to colonize the area, few persisted for long.Following the June 2011 tornadoes, the Massachusetts’ Division of Fisheries and Wildlife pursued this controversial watch-and-wait policy at the McKinstry Brook site, where salvage work is limited to providing access routes for public safety. John Scanlon, forestry project leader at the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, explains, “As a wildlife agency we made the decision not to salvage the tornado impact area at McKinstry Brook because we saw tremendous potential wildlife habitat benefits in the extensive woody debris, open conditions, and vibrant vegetative response.”Following the massive hurricane of 1938, Al Cline, then-director of the Harvard Forest, surveys one of many local ponds used to store the enormous volume of trees that were salvage-harvested. Photo courtesy of the Harvard Forest ArchivesJust a year later, the forest’s resilience is plain. According to Scanlon, “We were impressed at how quickly the impact area was occupied by lush, native vegetation, including sprouts or seedlings of American chestnut, red maple, black cherry, birch, aspen, and oak. And most people don’t realize that our pre-colonial forests contained a lot of downed woody debris that provides important habitat structure for wildlife. It supports everything from invertebrates to salamanders, and black bears love to winter in thick brush piles and forage for insects in rotting logs.” Game species benefit as well. “White-tailed deer readily foraged and sought protective cover throughout the impact area,” Scanlon reports.The Harvard Forest scientists point out that windstorms do have undeniable impacts on forests, regardless of human management strategies. Barker Plotkin notes, “After 20 years, the trees in the hurricane experiment are younger and smaller than those in the surrounding forest, and birches are now more common than oaks, which used to dominate here.” But she adds that many aspects of the regenerating forest – particularly in the soils and forest understory — are almost indistinguishable from their neighbors.Although a range of economic, public safety, and aesthetic reasons compel landowners to salvage storm-damaged trees, Barker Plotkin suggests that improving forest health should not be one of them. “Although a blown-down forest appears chaotic, it is functioning as a forest and doesn’t need us to clean it up.”last_img read more

Cancer a daunting challenge for poor countries

first_img Read Full Story More than half of new cancer cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, as do nearly two-thirds of cancer deaths. Experts at a global oncology symposium held February 8, 2014 at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discussed the substantial barriers to care faced by cancer patients in developing countries, such as the cost of care, limited access to treatment facilities, and social stigma.But there is cause for hope, according to speakers like Felicia Marie Knaul, director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, a research program studying equitable development. New cases can be prevented by reducing smoking and increasing use of vaccines to prevent the viral infections that cause liver and cervical cancer. And the trend toward universal health coverage in developing countries will put treatment in reach for more people.“There’s lots of room for what we can do before we reach what we can’t,” Knaul said.last_img read more

Frenk named new president of University of Miami

first_imgJulio Frenk, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, will become the next president of the University of Miami, it was announced today. Frenk, the T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health and International Development (a joint appointment with the Harvard Kennedy School), will step down at the end of August and assume his new role on Sept. 1.“My time as dean of the Harvard Chan School has been among the best experiences of my career, and the decision to step down was only made after deep reflection,” said Frenk. “I am extremely proud of all that has been accomplished during my time at this school, and am excited at the opportunity to lead a university with great upward momentum and thereby continue to create and deploy knowledge for the greater good.“My excitement about taking the helm of the University of Miami owes much to Harvard President Drew Faust, whose expansive vision of universities has greatly influenced my own thinking,” said Frenk. “Under her tutelage, I have come to believe that universities have an essential role to play if humanity is to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.”Frenk assumed the role of dean in January 2009. He has presided over a dramatic expansion of the School’s international reach, the reimagining of its mission to focus on four global public health challenges, a major revamping of its curricula, and the renaming of the School to honor T.H. Chan after a historic $350 million endowment gift by The Morningside Foundation.“Julio has energized the Harvard Chan School with his extraordinary devotion to how universities can enhance the health of populations around the world,” said President Drew Faust. “He has combined high ideals with clear-eyed pragmatism, scientific rigor with humane compassion, all in the service of improving the understanding and practice of global health in the 21st century.“It’s clear from their choice that the University of Miami’s trustees share Julio’s own qualities of wisdom and foresight, and that they have discovered in him the remarkable leadership capacity and vision with which he has graced Harvard these past six years,” said Faust. “We thank him for his service to Harvard, to higher education, and to human health.”Faust indicated that she will name an interim dean in the coming months as the University launches a comprehensive search for Frenk’s successor.“Today, the University of Miami selected a world-renowned scholar and leader as its next president,” said Stuart A. Miller, chair of the University of Miami Board of Trustees. “Dr. Frenk has been called ‘a visionary, an insightful analyst, an institutional innovator, and a pragmatic problem solver’ and, speaking for the entire board, we could not agree more.”*In his first address as dean in 2009, Frenk declared that he wanted the Harvard School of Public Health, as it was then known, “to be the first school of public health of the 21st century.”Frenk arrived at the School at the height of the global financial crisis and during a period when government funding for scientific research — which constitutes more than 60 percent of the School’s revenue — was shrinking. He successfully guided the School through those financially turbulent waters while simultaneously encouraging faculty and students to ambitiously address on a global scale what he believes are the four most important health threats facing our world today: old and new pandemics, including AIDS and Ebola, obesity, and cancer; social and environmental threats to health, ranging from violence and racial disparities to pollution and occupational hazards; poverty and humanitarian crises; and failing health systems in the U.S. and internationally.During his tenure, Frenk and the faculty also significantly reshaped the School’s educational strategy, reimagining how to develop future public health leaders and placing a greater emphasis on case-based learning, interactive activities, and other pedagogical innovations.The results of those efforts included creation of a new Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree program as the flagship professional doctoral degree for public health leaders, and establishment of Harvard’s first “blended” master’s degree program offered by one of its graduate Schools, enabling students to pursue a degree in epidemiology through a combination of online and in-classroom learning experiences. During Frenk’s deanship, the School’s faculty also created a new Population Health Sciences Ph.D. program to transform its existing five Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) programs into a single integrated degree for students pursuing careers in environmental health, epidemiology, global health and population, nutrition, or the social and behavioral sciences. Its master of public health (M.P.H.) degree was redesigned and beginning in the fall of 2016 will be the single master’s degree program offered at the School for students planning professional careers in government, civil-society organizations, and private businesses.Frenk was honored to serve as dean during the School’s centennial in 2013 and kicked off an ambitious capital fundraising campaign that same year. The School quickly exceeded initial expectations with the announcement of a generous $350 million gift — the largest in Harvard’s history — from The Morningside Foundation in September 2014. The School was renamed the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in recognition of that gift.*Before his appointment as dean, Frenk had served in a series of important leadership positions in the field. From 2000 to 2006, he was Mexico’s minister of health, a role in which he instituted a comprehensive health insurance program known as Seguro Popular, which expanded access to health care to millions of previously uninsured Mexicans. He was the founding director-general of Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health. From 1998 to 2000, he served as executive director of Evidence and Information for Policy at the World Health Organization (WHO).Frenk earned his medical degree from the National University of Mexico, as well as a master of public health and a joint doctorate in medical care organization and in sociology from the University of Michigan. He is a member of the U.S. Institute of Medicine, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and National Academy of Medicine of Mexico.In addition to his scholarly works, which include more than 140 articles in academic journals, as well as many books and book chapters, he has written two best-selling novels for youngsters explaining the functions of the human body.In September of 2008, Frenk received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for changing “the way practitioners and policy makers across the world think about health.”About the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthFounded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. The School’s community of leading scientists, educators, and students works together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people’s lives — not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at the Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. The School is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health.last_img read more

Ode to a venerable library

first_imgNarrated by John Lithgow ’67, this visual love letter to libraries celebrates books and those who watch over them while marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, Harvard’s flagship library.Built with a gift from Eleanor Elkins Widener, the library is a memorial to her son, Harry, Class of 1907, an enthusiastic young bibliophile who perished aboard the Titanic. Today, his legacy constitutes the heart of the vast Harvard system of more than 70 libraries that support research, teaching, learning, and innovation.On June 19, 2015 the Harvard Library will celebrate the Widener centennial with a community event.last_img

Insights on where we learn

first_imgWhere we learn influences how we learn. Faculty, students, and administrators have long recognized how negative factors — bad lighting or acoustics, a space too large or too small — can detract from the best-laid lesson plans, while user-friendly, innovative spaces foster creative interaction.This week, the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching and its Teaching and Learning Consortium are holding a four-day conference to discuss learning spaces. In a variety of sessions held across the Cambridge, Allston, and medical area campuses, representatives from a range of disciplines are discussing how the University can revise, rebuild, and grow.With an open house at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, tours of the libraries and the Lamont B-30 Collaborative Learning Space, and a showcase at the technology-enhanced spaces of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, space planners are exploring the ways learning areas can foster research, pedagogy, and positive community interaction. As Melissa Franklin, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, noted in the kickoff event Monday, “Space alone will not change how learning happens — but it can help set a different tone or approach.”“Plan Smarter, Not Harder” was the topic at the Learning Spaces Week luncheon at the Kennedy School on Tuesday. The panel discussion, facilitated by Kristin Lofblad Sullivan, program director of teaching and learning technologies, Harvard University Information Technology, began by focusing on Harvard’s ongoing projects in Allston.Pamela Choi Redfern, executive director for space planning and design at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), addressed the need for the Allston expansion, noting how SEAS has grown from 291 students in the 2007-08 academic year to 832 in 2014-15, with course enrollment blooming from 2,445 to 6,083 in the same time. “We were under huge stress to address teaching, research, and office space,” she said.Participants in the “Plan Smarter, Not Harder” panel included Stephen Baker (from left), Jason Carlson, Pamela Choi Redfern, Elizabeth Sisam, and Kristin Lofblad Sullivan. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerKey to the ongoing project, she explained, has been ongoing dialogue with the eventual users of the new space. “We see our roles as really supporting the faculty,” she said. “We carefully consider how to engage the faculty, the students, and the broader community.”The talk then turned to the nuts and bolts of how this interaction works. Jason Carlson, chief of operations at the Graduate School of Education, talked about how, in an existing facility, the first step is to look critically at what is there. We need to ask, he said, “how to make existing space as efficient and effective as possible,” adding that “space has to do multiple things. Our conference center needs to be a classroom, a conference area, [and] a place where people can have lunch.” To do this, and to answer burgeoning needs for technology, he works closely with other departments.In new construction, explained the only non-Harvard member of the panel, Stephen Baker, president of Baker Design Group Inc., “infrastructure is key.” For a more connected world, he explained, a classroom may need to be designed with better lighting and soundproofing. Citing “background noise and acoustics,” he noted, “if you can get them just right you don’t need microphones. You can have conversations.”Planners need to look beyond the actual classroom as well, stressed Elizabeth Sisam, associate vice president for planning in the Harvard Office of Planning and Project Management. Travel issues — especially as the University sets up spaces in Allston — and accessibility need to be considered. These may differ in reality from what’s on paper, she noted, especially in older rooms. “An inventory may say you have 98 seats, but you look at the enrollment, and you see only 60 students. You go look at the room, and there are columns. The room has been renovated or retrofitted, and not every seat can see the teacher.”As spaces are renovated or built new, uniformity of services — from lighting to audio — must be considered. Functions should not require what Baker called “the secret AV handshake” to use. “Anyone needs to walk in from anywhere and know where [a function] is.”As Sullivan summed up, “It’s so easy to say, ‘I don’t like that room. Nobody uses that room.’ We’re here to peel the onion and ask why.”last_img read more