A two-day summer orientation, at least one meeting of all current and incoming House Masters, and casual dinner conversations will prepare the three pairs of newly-appointed Masters before they are suddenly thrust into the many responsibilities of overseeing an entire House.
The centerpiece of the training for the new Masters—Cabot House Master appointees Rakesh Khurana and Stephanie Khurana, Eliot House Master appointees Douglas A. Melton and Gail O’Keefe, and Mather House Master appointees Christie McDonald and Michael D. Rosengarten—is a summer orientation where they will meet with College administrators, House staffers, and more experienced Masters.
For example, at past training sessions, incoming Masters spoke with officials involved with University Hall and the Harvard University Police Department, according to Quincy House Master Lee Gehrke.
“It’s a two-day whirlwind meet-and-greet,” Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson said.
Besides the orientation, several Masters referenced the upcoming May all-Master meeting where the recently appointed leaders will meet the full group in a formal setting.
Before this meeting, however, several House Masters said they plan on holding informal dinners and social events for the incoming Masters where they will introduce themselves as well as discuss the challenges and rewards that come with their positions.
“Before they come in as Masters, our job is to say, you’re part of this very close-knit network of common interests and common commitment to the students,” said Adams House Master John G. “Sean” Palfrey ’67.
Yet the true learning will be on the job, as the new Masters will take on a myriad of responsibilities including tutor selection, facilities maintenance, and budget management.
“It’s just [that] the transition is so fast. It’s from zero to light-speed overnight, and when all the students arrive and the tutors are being trained, there’s really no other way to do it than to jump in and do it,” Gehrke said. “And the great thing about the House system is that there’s such great support.”
Multiple Masters said their Houses’ Allston Burr Resident Deans were vital in easing their transition into these new leadership roles.
“We were trained by our first resident dean, who was wonderful,” Leverett House Master Howard M. Georgi ’68 said. “We basically did whatever she told us to do our first year because you’re just totally overwhelmed.”
Palfrey said that the first year will be especially tough, as new Masters may not recognize that certain periods of the year—including midterm season and the Harvard-Yale game—are especially stressful while others are fairly relaxed.
Still, many Masters said that they continue to gain more expertise with each year.
“We’ve been here four years, but we still feel like we’re learning,” Gehrke said.
—Staff writer Danielle J. Kolin can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Naveen N. Srivatsa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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