Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana said in an interview last week that while Harvard’s undergraduate advising system has its strengths, there is room for improved consistency and continuity in the advising experience.
Harvard undergraduates have a series of advisers throughout their four years. In their freshman year, they receive a residential adviser called a proctor, who may also serve as an academic adviser. Sophomores are assigned an interim adviser, and later, a concentration adviser who advises them until graduation.
The Crimson reported last month that some students felt a lack of support from their advisers, particularly during their freshman year.
Advising is an “important idea,” Khurana said, but its priorities for different students should be “better explored.”
“We are trying to address the unevenness of our advising system. We recognize that it has areas of strength, but it doesn’t work for all students,” he said. “We’ve already started thinking about how we strengthen the training and ensure more consistency in that training.”
Khurana pointed to concentration advising as a strength of the system and lauded the Advising Programs Office for making “significant strides” in its peer advising. Freshmen are assigned a Peer Advising Fellow — an upperclassman at the College — in addition to their academic and residential advisers.
The advising system should be “robust” to help undergraduates navigate both the academic and social contexts of Harvard, Khurana added.
“We realize that this is a multi-layered set of areas that we need to work on, and there is already a great deal of thinking going on about how to do it,” he said.
Khurana also discussed the following topics:
Dean of Students Search
During the interview, Khurana discussed the ongoing search process for the next Dean of Students.
“We’re trying to get a diverse pool of people with different backgrounds, educational institutions that they’ve been working at, and encouraging them to apply,” he said. “We have received some — a lot of — very outstanding applications.”
“There’s a search committee that will then take those applications and reduce them down to a smaller number of candidates who will then interview here on campus,” he added.
Khurana praised the work of former Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair, who left the position after being named University Marshal in August.
“It’s been absolute joy and pleasure to work with Katie these last few years,” Khurana said. “She has built a really strong Dean of Students Office, and I’m excited for what she’s going to do at the Marshal’s office.”
Israel Trek Boycott
For the third time since 2019, the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee launched a campaign calling for undergraduates to boycott the Harvard College Israel Trek, an annual subsidized spring break trip to Israel and the West Bank.
When asked about activism and dissent among campus groups, Khurana said the College encourages students to “raise issues” while “keeping an open mind.”
“We want students to raise issues, others to inform themselves about issues, and then also have the ability to understand different perspectives,” Khurana said. “It’s really important to humanize every single person, wherever we might stand on an issue.”
The Crimson interviews Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana once per month during the academic year. Click here to submit a question for consideration in our next interview.
—Staff writer Vivi E. Lu can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @vivielu_.
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