Let the learning and fun begin. The reimagined Harvard Ed Portal, a 12,000-square-foot space devoted to teaching, research, exploration, and recreation, opened its doors on Saturday at the intersection of Western Avenue and North Harvard Street in Allston.
Nearly 400 people attended the grand opening, including Harvard President Drew Faust, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and various other distinguished guests.
“Learning without limits” is the motto for the new community center, which connects the University’s resources, leading thinkers, and educators with members of the Allston and Harvard communities. The new Harvard Ed Portal promises visitors innovative ways of learning and expanded programming in creative and performing arts; science and technology; wellness and recreation; and economic, workforce, and professional development.
“In this space, where the emerging Harvard campus meets the Allston neighborhood, collaboration and breakthroughs will occur that will be transformative to Allston, Boston, and Harvard,” said Faust during an afternoon of festivities. “Our approach may become a model for campuses and communities to share ideas and reach goals, inspiring similar transformations in communities and campuses throughout the country. My predecessor President Charles W. Eliot said in 1909 that education ‘should be the work of the whole life.’ He could not have imagined this space, but he would be in full support of its transformative work.”
The expanded facility, as well as the new and expanded programs it will host, reflects the University’s long-standing commitment to the community, the future of which is outlined in Harvard’s Institutional Master Plan. The new space’s development was the result of a comprehensive collaboration among Harvard, the city of Boston, the Allston-Brighton community, and local schools and businesses.
The outcome is a 21st-century flexible classroom and performance venue. Plans for the Harvard Ed Portal include both in-person and online learning; expanded space for the existing — and successful — mentoring program between local children and Harvard undergrads; rooms for hands-on lessons in science, technology, and art; space to develop job and computer skills; areas for health and wellness activities; and more. The Harvard Ed Portal also awards scholarships for classes at the Harvard Extension School and for a variety of athletic summer programs. Discounted membership and passes to Harvard exhibits, events, recreation facilities, and athletic programs and camps are also available to Ed Portal members. The vast majority of the Ed Portal’s programs are free and open to the public.
“This state-of-the-art learning space is a great way for Harvard University to engage the Allston-Brighton community and empower residents of all ages,” said Walsh. “The city is proud to work closely with Harvard in developing services and resources to ensure accessibility for everyone in Allston-Brighton’s diverse community. Through this ongoing partnership, we will be able to support local businesses and organizations in the neighborhood and help residents move up the economic ladder.”
“Through the new Ed Portal, we aim to redefine what lifelong learning really means,” said Professor Rob Lue, faculty director of the Ed Portal. “We want to show that learning is continuous — that it’s an arc that goes throughout your entire life. Learning isn’t limited by age, occupation, income, or even space and time. In our 21st-century information age where knowledge is dynamic, ever-growing and changing, the Harvard Ed Portal provides new opportunities to keep up to date by plugging into learning and discovery. We hope these opportunities can inspire anyone and everyone in our community, at any point in their lives, to take a new direction and open a new door.”
Using the Ed Portal as a platform, Harvard’s Public School Partnerships team will continue its extensive reach into local schools with educational, family engagement, training, and professional development programs.
The grand opening featured performances by Professor Tom Kelly, Harvard’s Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music, as well as various student groups. Also on hand were classical Indian dancer Anumita Das, classical violinist Sumire Hirotsuru, Harvard College Speak Out Loud, Harvard VoxJazz, Elaine Dong, traditional Chinese dance, Harvard Din & Tonics, and comedian Sierra Katow.
By working together, the Ed Portal and community organizations can leverage resources and help Allston-Brighton residents take advantage of services that might have otherwise been unavailable.
“Harvard and Allston are forging new ties and creating new opportunities for partnerships that will strengthen each other,” said Kevin Casey, associate vice president for public affairs and communications. “The Ed Portal represents a real opportunity to illustrate how institutions and communities engage with each other not as an obligatory add-on, but as something at the very core of our mission as a University.”
“I’m excited about the unity the Ed Portal will bring to Allston-Brighton — unity for us with each other and unity for us with Harvard,” said Jane McHale, an Allston-Brighton resident and member of the Harvard Allston Workforce Subcommittee.
Building on five years of successful programming centered on undergraduate mentoring, the Harvard Ed Portal has piloted various programs with the community as a way to develop ideas for new and expanded offerings. More than 2,300 Allston-Brighton residents are already registered members, and organizers say they hope the opening of the new Ed Portal will encourage more residents to take advantage of the growing opportunities.
Organizers said the Ed Portal brings enormous benefits to the community as well as to Harvard faculty and students.
“Our students can take what they learn and observe by being part of the Portal, and turn it into action. And frankly, they’re hungry to do just that,” said Lue. “Likewise, the community can be part of the learning and discovery — not just the recipient. Our goal is — and always has been — to make much more porous the boundaries between Harvard and the community. I think we’re succeeding so far.”
For more information about the Ed Portal or to learn how to become a member, please visit www.edportal.harvard.edu, check out its Facebook page, follow it on Twitter @hcommconnect, or call 617.496.5022.