Harvard College Pilots Pre-Orientation Leadership Institute


The Dean of Students Office will pilot a new leadership-oriented program for incoming freshmen this summer.

Leadership Institute for the First-Year Experience (LIFE) will join the existing roster of pre-orientation programs, including Fall-Clean Up, First-Year Arts Program, First-Year International Program, First-Year Outdoor Program, First-Year Retreat and Experience, and First-Year Urban Program.

Kate T. Colleran, assistant dean of student engagement and leadership and director of LIFE, wrote in an emailed statement that the program will recruit 40 students who seek to develop their leadership skills and become “change makers at Harvard and in their own communities.”

The DSO announced the addition of LIFE via admissions marketing materials sent out to the Class of 2024.


Colleran wrote that the DSO began plans for the pilot after surveying the Class of 2023 and noting that students indicated strong interest in leadership-focused programming.

“We received feedback this fall from them about a desire for a Pre-Orientation focused on Leadership,” Colleran wrote. “My team runs the pre-O programs, it seemed like a good fit for us to take the lead on.”

Colleran wrote that program participants will spend the week working with local, “real life” change makers, who will instruct them in the “Social Change model” of leadership.

The LIFE pilot begins shortly after the institutionalization of FYRE, a program to which the College granted permanent funding this fall. FYRE, a pre-orientation program aiming to help under-resourced incoming students adapt to life at the University, received glowing reviews from students when it was first piloted for the Class of 2022.

“We have a variety of amazing programs that all incorporate leadership skills in their own way, but LIFE will focus on naming those skills,” Colleran wrote.

The DSO will administer pre- and post-assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot program. Beyond the five-day pilot, Colleran wrote that she hopes LIFE will encourage a new focus on leadership-oriented opportunities for undergraduates.

“Long-term, the hope is that this kicks off for first-years a desire to be more reflective on their leadership practices,” Colleran wrote. “It could fit into the larger sphere of leadership programming a student can participate in during their time at Harvard. For now, we're going to see how the first year goes.”

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

—Staff writer Simon J. Levien can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @simonjlevien.