Today, several Harvard undergraduates will hold an information session to advocate for a new secondary field in Innovation for Social Change. Although a Social Innovation secondary may initially seem out of place alongside a secondary in English or one in economics, when considered against of the successful model of the recent Global Health and Health Policy secondary, it shows promise.
In recent years, the popularity of Global and Health and Health Policy has increased markedly as students have become involved with the field in academic and extracurricular ways. The most prominent example is the academic juggernaut of Societies of the World 25: Case Studies in Global Health, which is taught in part by superstar University Professor Paul Farmer and spawns graduates that bring major course ideas to a variety of other academic areas and departments. Additionally, the Harvard Global Health Institute offers multiple summer internships and fellowships in the field for undergraduates, two of which are cosponsored by the Institute of Politics. There are multiple, undergraduate clubs and publications that deal with the issue—the Harvard Undergraduate Global Health Forum, the Harvard Global Health and AIDS Coalition, the Harvard College Global Health Review, the Harvard College Health Policy Review, and the Harvard College Health Management Group all come to mind. The GHHP secondary thus builds an academic framework for what is otherwise a loose collection of interest groups circling around the same subfield of development, global medicine, an nutrition.
We see this Social Innovation secondary as building a similar academic framework within the College for social entrepreneurship. There are already highly popular courses dealing with social entrepreneurship in some way; Sociology 159: Social Entrepreneurship, Sociology 109: Leadership and Organizations, and Computer Science 50 come to mind. The Harvard College Innovation Challenge and Elevator Pitch competitions, sponsored by the Harvard College Entrepreneurship Forum, and the new HBS Innovation Lab also bring students together around this interest area. We see this proposed secondary as providing dialectic clarity to this burgeoning and important field.
The one problematic aspect of this proposal, however, is the proposition that real-life experiences should deserve course credit. True, there are programs that allow for this: The Undergraduate Teaching Experience Program is one, but it involves coursework at the Graduate School of Education as well as fieldwork. It thus seems a bit problematic that, potentially, a variety of unaccountable internships and work experiences might count for course credit. Thus, while we could envision the Social Innovation secondary as supporting classes that have a fieldwork component, fieldwork in itself is not enough for course credit.
Most importantly, however, we recognize the enthusiasm of the undergraduates who have lobbied for the consideration of Innovation for Social Change for a secondary field and who continue to work tirelessly in realizing the project. By taking the initiative to question the framework of academic pursuits offered at the College, they have demonstrated a genuine investment in their academic careers beyond performing well in their required academic courses.
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