Harvard, a university deeply involved in exploring and explaining the world and changing it for the better, is on the cutting edge in myriad fields. Harvard is making a difference now, and planning to lead the way in the next decade.
Here’s a look at where the University and the world that it embraces are likely to be 10 years down the road, in five areas: health, science, education, the arts, and globalization.
In many cases, as the examples below indicate, the future is now, and the road ahead already well-marked.
By Alvin Powell, Harvard Staff Writer
Is the long-envisioned future of health care finally coming? You know the one: full of high-tech wizardry, miracle drugs knocking out tumors with precision, medical care tuned to your DNA, and your DNA tuned to improve your health.
It’s the future where stem cells affirm the vast interest in them and help you get well, where aging is delayed, and where medical gains continue against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, while perhaps eliminating an age-old enemy, polio.
Harvard specialists in health and medicine say that dramatic advances in tools, technology, methods, and basic knowledge over the past 20 years will bring some of that future to reality over the next 10 years. In some cases, it’s already here.
The future won’t be all roses. Despite expected advances, age-old impediments to health will remain. Institutional inaction still will allow preventable diseases to kill millions. Some neglected diseases will continue to bring death and disability to millions more. People will continue to undermine their own health, smoking, eating too much, and exercising too little. In a pernicious wrinkle, the obesity and diabetes epidemics may morph into afflictions of the poor.
Amid this mix of hope and heartbreak, health experts say that the labs, faculty, and students at Harvard and its affiliated institutions will keep breaking new ground, nurtured by the region’s academic brainpower, biotech prowess, and pharmaceutical research. Even experienced scientists, assessing recent research and looking at the decade to come, are excited by what they see.
“If you look at the pace of progress and of discovery over the last few years, and if it continues to move at the same pace, it’s very exciting,” said Daniel Haber, the Kurt J. Isselbacher/Peter D. Schwartz Professor of Oncology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and head of the Cancer Center at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
Since miracle cures often fizzle, Harvard faculty members offered their thoughts on what’s to come with a note of caution, summed up by Walter Willett, Fredrick Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), who said, “There’s nothing so hard to predict as the future.”
One shift that seems certain is that patients will get ever-more-personalized care, based on their genetic profiles — and those of their ailments.
George Church, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at HMS, said that decoding a person’s genome will get dramatically cheaper. As that cost goes down and the reliability goes up, Church expects genetic analysis to become common.
“It probably will happen all at once,” Church said. “There will be a change in thinking by physicians, by doctors, and hospitals. And if patients read in the paper that a parent got an answer for their kids’ illness, others will want it. [There may also be a change] if health care providers see ways to save money.”
Church expects exponential improvements in DNA technology to allow analyses of our microbiome and of our environment, and for genomics’ tools to be bent toward prevention as well as treatment. New genome-editing technology — already in use in his lab — may one day edit harmful genes, such as the mutations that cause breast and ovarian cancers, out of the genome entirely.
‘One of the things that is unique about Harvard is its collaborative nature. The interactions are going to pay off.’
A deeper understanding of disease genetics will help scientists at Harvard and its affiliated hospitals devise treatments in major areas such as cancer care, according to Haber, who a decade ago was among the first to trace a lung cancer drug’s effectiveness to the tumor’s genetic profile. Haber said researchers have just tapped the tip of the iceberg of that targeted approach. He also predicts an expansion of immunotherapy, which mobilizes the body’s immune system against tumor cells, and advances in early detection by finding cancer cells circulating in the blood — a focus of his lab.
Leonard Zon, professor of stem cell and regenerative biology and Grousbeck Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital, said the future of stem cell-based regenerative medicine appears bright. Stem cells have already sparked a revolution in the lab, easing the study of diseases by allowing researchers to create cell lines afflicted by various ailments. Zon is cautious about over-promising treatments based on stem cell work, but said that it’s appropriate to get excited about recent developments concerning induced pluripotent stem cells.
“What’s going on is very impressive,” Zon said, adding that the atmosphere at Harvard makes it an exciting place for such work. “One of the things that is unique about Harvard is its collaborative nature. The interactions are going to pay off.”
Even as medicine gets more personal and the approaches to illness more targeted, researchers such as HMS Genetics Professor David Sinclair want to address several conditions at once by attacking aging.
Sinclair, named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in April, tracked the longevity effects of caloric restriction and the red wine molecule resveratrol on DNA. He found a set of genes, called SIRTs, that are activated by resveratrol and caloric restriction. Sinclair believes that small molecules developed to mimic and magnify their function will work to fight some effects of aging.
Promising drug candidates are being tested in human trials, and Sinclair is hopeful one will prove itself within the next decade.
“This isn’t wishful thinking, it is real. The question is whether, over the next 10 to 15 years, we can make practical use of it,” he said.
We’ll still be what we eat
The global obesity epidemic has a less promising future, according to Willett. The well-off and better-educated appear to be heeding advice about healthy eating and exercise, but there’s no slowdown in weight gain among poorer populations, here or abroad. Improvement among those populations may require addressing not just education but barriers such as the higher cost of healthier foods and lack of access to them in neighborhoods far from grocery stores.
In the coming years, Willett expects science to continue to inform medicine and the public. The long-term Nurses’ Health Study and its successors have great potential to shed light on health. New cohorts are enrolling as the original ones now highlight ailments of aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Modern analytical tools give researchers more ways to explore findings, using blood samples and cheek swabs for DNA analysis, and fecal samples that permit analysis of the microbiome.
Though lifestyle-related ailments and chronic diseases are growing fields of interest, infectious disease remains a major concern. Dyann Wirth, the Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Infectious Disease, director of the Harvard Malaria Initiative, and chair of the HSPH’s Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said age-old scourges and newer plagues, such as AIDS, will be part of the infectious disease landscape over the next decade.
Still, modern scientific tools are illuminating pathogens, disease vectors, and the immune response as never before, Wirth said. Drug-discovery efforts are expanding hope for new treatments against tuberculosis, malaria, and other ailments, and eradication of polio and guinea worm disease appear possible. Political will, however, is as important as medical advancement, Wirth said.
“I think the next decade is going to be a very exciting time because the tools and methods developed over the last two decades are really being brought to bear on infectious disease,” Wirth said.
By Peter Reuell, Harvard Staff Writer
Astrophysicist Dimitar Sasselov likes to say that all science is a quest to answer three basic questions: What is the origin and nature of the universe? What is the nature of life? Where does consciousness come from?
Researchers across Harvard, from physicists to neurobiologists, are working to answer those questions, and many say that the next decade may offer breakthroughs in a host of fields, from the development of robotic exo-skeletons designed to help people walk, to novel, renewable methods of generating energy.
Sasselov, the Phillips Professor of Astronomy and director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, has dedicated much of his professional life to the search for exo-planets, which lie beyond the bounds of our Solar System.
Recent research, he said, shows there may be as many as a billion exo-planets resembling Earth in our galaxy, which means that many of them are relatively near, opening the door to much closer exploration of their atmospheres, and possibly finding answers to questions about life itself.
“We don’t actually have a definition of the nature of the phenomenon we call life,” he said. “What we have is only one example — ours — and we know in science that can lead us to create paradigms that suggest it will always look the same.
To help answer those questions, Sasselov said that over the next decade Harvard researchers will turn to two new space telescopes. The first, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, will enable researchers to perform a wide-reaching survey aimed at identifying potentially habitable planets nearby. The James Webb Space Telescope, meanwhile, will serve as a replacement for the Hubble scope, and will be used to explore the atmosphere and other characteristics of nearby planets.
“In order to conduct a search for alien life successfully, we need to learn more about what life is,” he said. “We created the Origins of Life Initiative to facilitate collaboration between astronomers and biologists, biochemists, and molecular biologists. We shouldn’t expect that life on other planets will be a carbon copy of life on Earth. I think this idea is starting to sink in, and we are on the threshold of some very important discoveries.”
Understanding the inner brain
While Sasselov predicts that the next decade will hold vast insights into our place in the universe, Jeff Lichtman, the Jeremy R. Knowles Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Santiago Ramon y Cajal Professor of Arts and Sciences, believes those 10 years also will offer an unimagined new understanding of the brain’s inner workings.
Using the “high-throughput” electron microscopy technique developed in his lab, Lichtman and his colleagues hope to produce a connectome, or wiring diagram, of the brain offering insights into everything from how memory is stored to how certain degenerative diseases affect the brain. With today’s technology, Lichtman said, the process is fast enough to capture approximately a billion pixels of data per second, enough to soon map the brains of small mammals like mice.
“With today’s technology, it’s still out of the question to do a human brain,” Lichtman said. “But if we look 10 years into the future, then one could begin to think about doing even larger brains. But at some point, we hope to get to a level of detail where it’s predictable what’s going to be in the next piece we haven’t yet cut. We hope to see enough of the wiring diagram that the structure will begin to pop out from the noise.”
That day may be approaching faster than many realize, he said.
In a recent study that examined just three-billionths of a mouse brain, researchers found evidence of organized structure, suggesting that the brain’s connections proceed according to predictable patterns. A decade from now, Lichtman predicted, researchers will be imaging entire brains, and the resultant insights will shed light on fields as varied as criminal justice, religion, sociology, and politics.
“When you think of something like addiction or criminal behavior, from a neuroscience perspective we have always appreciated that they are probably related to the way the brain works. And once the brain becomes an objective reality as opposed to a black box that we will never get into, then you have to start thinking about these things differently.”
Much cheaper renewable energy
When Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy Dan Nocera thinks about the next decade, two words come to mind: distribution and storage.
As the cost of renewable technologies continues to fall — photovoltaics could soon drop below 50 cents per kilowatt hour — Nocera anticipates that their adoption would continue to grow, leading to a far better-distributed system of energy generation than exists today.
“I think the most transformative thing that will happen in the next decade is energy is going to get more distributed,” he said. “As that happens, there are going to be large social consequences that come with it. There will be new business models that will be developed, as well as new issues of policy and law that will have to be understood. And Harvard is in a position to play a role in all those areas.”
In recent years, Nocera has led the charge toward solar fuels, with the development of his “artificial leaf,” a device that uses artificial photosynthesis to create renewable fuels. Synthetic biologists at Harvard Medical School (HMS), meanwhile, have focused on new methods for generating liquid fuels. Researchers at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have made strides in developing flow batteries and have proposed a device that could take advantage of Earth’s infrared emissions to generate electricity.
“Harvard has real strength in renewable-energy generation, through the development of new materials, new methods of photovoltaics, and manufacturing processes. But the other area is storage, both in batteries and in fuels,” Nocera said. “Harvard is going to be a player in each of those fields. We already have expertise in those areas. Some of the strongest faculty members on campus are working to address those areas.”
As energy generation becomes more distributed, Nocera said, the issue of storage — and not just in batteries — will become ever more pressing.
In the developed world, families one day may generate the electricity they need through roof-mounted solar cells or fuel cells in the backyard, but a key part of the technological picture will be the ability to store excess energy in the grid. By comparison, the developing world has relatively little infrastructure, so Nocera predicts that technologies for generation will be matched with those for local storage of power.
“Storage, in my estimation, is the key to renewables,” Nocera said. “There is no question in my mind that will be a major area of development for renewable energy, because once you can store energy, it becomes a commodity. That plays directly into Harvard’s strengths in renewable energy and research into new technology, as well as the “One Harvard,” one-world vision of the University. The energy challenges of the next decade are global, and Harvard will have a large role in addressing them.”
Robotics on the cusp
“We’re at a tipping point,” said Conor Walsh, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, about the current state of robotics. “I started working on robotics and exoskeletons as a graduate student at MIT, and it seemed as though the real-world applications were a very long way off. Walking robots weren’t walking in labs, they were falling. And exoskeletons were good exercise machines.”
In the last decade, however, the field has grown by leaps and bounds and is now poised, Walsh believes, to enter an age of development and application.
While the vacuuming Roomba is still the most common robot with which humans interact, Walsh predicts that the next decade will go a long way toward changing that.
“As a field, robotics has been around for a long time,” he said. “Robots are pervasive in industry and manufacturing settings. Robots are welding and painting cars. They are very widely used in industry. But they’re not commonly used in settings where they have to interact with people, and I think we’ll see that change in the next 10 years.”
Recently, researchers have demonstrated concepts as varied as using robotic exoskeletons to help injured people to walk, and robotic “bees” that are capable of controlled flight. Over the next decade, Walsh predicts that such “co-robots” will become increasingly common, with one potential application being to assist people with limited mobility by helping them to walk farther or faster than they might otherwise be able to do.
“Robotics is definitely an area that’s growing at Harvard,” Walsh said. “Harvard, in particular, is a leader in the area of ‘soft’ robots. What we’re trying to do is take a fresh look at robotics. If we want to design them for people, how do we make them soft? How do we make them light? How do we make it easier for them to interact with people?”
The move toward quantum computers
While such robots are on the cusp of the future, the technology that most people interact with on a daily basis is the computer, and Amir Yacoby, professor of physics and applied physics, expects the next decade to bring important changes to the digital devices.
Yacoby is one of several researchers at Harvard working to create quantum computers, which take advantage of quantum mechanics to encode bits of information as both one and zero simultaneously, and perform multiple computations in parallel, making the devices far more powerful than conventional computers.
“We are at a place today that is far ahead of where we anticipated we would be,” Yacoby said. “Today we have several ways of implementing quantum bits,” units of quantum information, “all of which look very promising.”
At present, he said, researchers are investigating a handful of systems. They range from ones that use electron spins in semiconductors, to ones that find atomic-scale impurities in diamond crystals called nitrogen-vacancy centers, to those that rely on superconducting circuits to trapped ions, and within each implementation researchers have created several working quantum bits.
In addition, researchers have developed new paradigms for quantum computation, in recent years creating materials called topological insulators. When brought into contact with traditional electrical insulators, Yacoby said, the laws of physics demand that conduction electrons be found at the interface of the two materials. By exciting those electrons, he said, in theory scientists can create quantum bits that can perform calculations.
Though it is unlikely that quantum computers will replace conventional desktop computers by 2024, Yacoby said he expects to see various implementations of quantum systems continue to improve as researchers become more adept at creating quantum bits.
“Right now, we’re pushing the forefront on all the different applications,” he said. “Harvard is very much at the forefront in using spin quantum bits and in research into NV [nitrogen vacancy] centers and applications using them. Harvard is also among the leaders in research into the topological approach. The field is growing exponentially, and I can only see it expanding further and further into the future.”
By Christina Pazzanese, Harvard Staff Writer
After centuries of relative torpor, technology breakthroughs have begun to reshape teaching and learning in ways that have prompted paradigm shifts around pedagogy, assessment, and scholarly research, and have upended assumptions of how and where learning takes place, the student-teacher dynamic, the functions of libraries and museums, and the changing role of scholars as creators and curators of knowledge.
“There are massive changes happening right now,” said Robert A. Lue, the Richard L. Menschel Faculty Director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and faculty director of HarvardX. “What has brought it into particularly tight focus now is that the revolution in online education has raised a whole host of very important questions about: What do students do with faculty face-to-face; what is the value of the brick-and-mortar experience; and how does technology in general really support teaching and learning in exciting, new ways? It’s been a major catalyst, if you will, for a reconsideration of how we teach in the classroom.”
While the Web is 25 years old, education has been slower than most fields to embrace the Internet’s transformational power. Traditional ways of thinking about how humans learn and about which teaching strategies are most effective had dominated educational discourse for centuries.
“I think in education there is, perhaps understandably, a conservatism built around the privileging of how knowledge is communicated and the concern that new modes of communicating, of connecting, of sharing, may somehow lose or diminish the rigor of the exchange,” said Lue.
Dynamic, practice-based learning
Classrooms of the future are likely to resemble the laboratory or studio model, as more disciplines abandon the passive lecture and seminar formats for dynamic, practice-based learning, Harvard academicians say.
“There’s a move away from using the amphitheater as a learning space … toward a room that looks more like a studio where students sit in groups around tables, and the focus is on them, not on the instructor, and the instructor becomes more the ‘guide outside’ rather than the ‘sage onstage,’ facilitating the learning process rather than simply teaching and hoping people will learn,” said Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
It’s a shift that’s changing teaching in the humanities as well. “It’s a project-based model where students learn by actually being engaged in a collaborative, team-based experience of actually creating original scholarship, developing a small piece of a larger mosaic — getting their hands dirty, working with digital media tools, making arguments in video, doing ethnographic work,” said Jeffrey Schnapp, founder and faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard, an arts and humanities research and teaching unit of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
Massive open online courses, peer-to-peer learning and mentoring, computer-based testing, and flipped classrooms will make for a newly dynamic and individualized classroom experience.
The flipped classroom, where students view lectures before attending sessions focused on problem-solving and group activities, will become widely integrated, predicted Sherri Rose, assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, one of dozens of faculty who gathered in April for a workshop sponsored by the Harvard Initiative forLearning and Teaching to consider and share ideas about teaching statistics and machine-based learning and curricula.
“This type of teaching is already being embraced, but becomes increasingly feasible given the continuing technological leaps that allow faculty to record lectures in their offices and share videos easily via various online platforms,” Rose said in an email. “Interactive classroom frameworks are adaptable to many disciplines, and can be particularly useful in STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] courses where students are forced to confront the boundaries of their knowledge and grasp of the material while learning from students in other concentrations.”
How and when learning is measured also are likely to undergo a major shift.
“I do think testing will change and become more focused on testing higher-level cognitive skills — problem-solving, writing, open-ended questions, and the like,” said James E. Ryan, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in an email.
“I also think that the uses of testing will expand and that we will see more frequent, low-stakes assessments that will help guide instruction and will be one way to make instruction more personalized,” he said. “So instead of once-a-year, high stakes tests, we are likely to see more weekly, or even daily, brief assessments to gauge mastery of a topic, which, once reached, will allow a student to move to the next topic.”
Too often, officials say, exams still test skills like memory and rote problem solving that are no longer necessary, since smartphones and computers have taken up those tasks.
“I think in higher education, particularly at an institution like Harvard, we should focus on higher-order thinking skills, skills that are related to judgment, analysis, creativity, and not the lowest-order thinking skills like memory and procedures,” said Mazur. “I think that will force us to completely reconsider our approaches to assessment, especially in the sciences.”
An expansion of the i-lab
Learning that takes place outside of the classroom will play a more critical role, as projects now underway — such as the renewal of 12 undergraduate Houses to include wired, dedicated spaces and expansion of the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab) — will broaden the collaborative possibilities.
Now three years old, the i-lab has proven a wildly popular beehive, where students and faculty nurture the spark of entrepreneurial ideas through lectures and workshops, work and meeting spaces, and connections with partners. This summer will see the opening of the Harvard Launch Lab, a new space that offers the i-lab experience for alumni, and plans are afoot to bring the i-lab concept to locations beyond Cambridge, and online.
For scholars, the growing importance of statistics and big data are altering the way ideas are studied and communicated both inside and outside the academic community. As tools such as data visualization and text mining penetrate research, scholars will learn by doing and become the curators of physical and digital collections, producing visual artifacts in what will be a newly-critical skill set in scholarship, said the metaLAB’s Schnapp, a Dante scholar.
“Those artifacts that are created, if they’re well designed and well conceived, not only can convey forms of knowledge that are being argued about, interpreted, and produced, but they are also artifacts that are very accessible and sometimes appealing even to all kinds of audiences that might not be engaged by a standard narrative, argumentative scholarly form of practice.”
The boundaries that separate the library, the museum, and the classroom are likely to dissolve as the first two entities continue to evolve from a knowledge repository model to an activity and services model.
The old notion that libraries generally exist to support research and that learning only happens in the classroom, Schnapp said, “is giving way to a model where the walls are very porous, and where the teaching and research happens all over the place, it’s ubiquitous, and it happens right in the presence of physical collections that may be housed over in the library, or they may be housed in the museum. But the sense is that all of these institutions are engaged in a common endeavor.”
By Colleen Walsh, Harvard Staff Writer
Half a century ago, a sweeping, curved concrete structure opened next to the iconic Georgian Revival-style Fogg Art Museum. Architectural purists howled. The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, architect LeCorbusier’s only building in North America, defied a beloved aesthetic. But it also set off a critical discussion about creativity, and helped to spur an exciting era for the arts at Harvard. By 2024, the arts at Harvard promise to be equally daring, with myriad changes in how they are practiced, studied, and displayed.
According to several scholars and administrators, the University’s future curriculum is likely to feature courses that fuse traditionally disparate areas such as music and neuroscience, building on current efforts to incorporate art and art-making into a range of formerly walled-off disciplines. It is likely that undergraduates will find new arts concentrations and secondary fields, beyond the visual arts, theater, and architecture. Graduate students will have more arts-related courses and more ways to incorporate the arts into dissertations and theses.
Students will connect to Harvard’s collections in original, dynamic ways, officials say. The University’s physical campus will evolve too, with new spaces for viewing, studying, and making art. Interdisciplinary collaborations will explore ways in which the arts at Harvard can help to change the world by fueling the next generation of cultural entrepreneurs.
In the curriculum
In 2007, Harvard President Drew Faust assembled a task force to explore how the arts could fill a greater role in campus life. The following year, the committee released a report saying the arts needed to be an “integral part of the cognitive life of the University.” In the years that followed, in line with those recommendations, scholars began offering a range of courses that merge art-making with the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences.
“If I were to imagine the University in five, 10 years’ time, it would be one in which artistic and humanistic practice is incorporated in the discrete fields that practice the arts and humanities, whether it’s literature or filmmaking or art-making or art criticism, but further, in which humanistic and artistic practices are in dialogue with other fields,” said Diana Sorensen, Harvard’s dean of arts and humanities.
“It could be engineering and the visual arts; it could be science and philosophy; it could be questions of economics and the study of local cultures. … The University of the future has to think of intellectual problems, which are in and of themselves worthy of disinterested attention, but also — this I would underline — the world as posing problems that can only be addressed and resolved by bringing all the disciplines together.”
“In five or 10 years’ time, Harvard would really look like an arts school in addition to being everything else that it is already,” Sorensen said.
Like Sorensen, Jill Johnson, director of Harvard’s Dance Program, envisions an arts landscape that blends artistic practice and study with other fields. Dance, Johnson said, can influence motion capture design, urban planning and architecture, biomechaniccs and cognition, “not to mention the fiscal impact of the arts on community and economic development, or dance’s metaphorical place is business or lawmaking.”
“At Harvard, dance, the arts, and the humanities can be a part of an integrated course of study that helps us prepare students to negotiate the world.”
Art as scholarship will play a role in Harvard’s future, according to Robb Moss, chair of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. As professors increasingly incorporate art into their classrooms, he said, encouraging students toward creative outlets like making a film instead of writing a paper, the very nature of scholarship can be potentially redefined.
“There’s a thought out there that’s gaining some kind of momentum that it might be possible for visual and audio of a different sort, work that we traditionally think of as art, to move into the arena of scholarship that perhaps offers differing ways of knowing the world,” said Moss. “It’s an open possibility, and the work itself will begin to define the field in the next 10 years.”
For much of Harvard’s history, the arts have been considered part of the extracurricular realm, with thousands of students participating in more than 100 student-led musical, performance, and visual arts groups supported by the Office for the Arts. But this year, for the first time, students received College credit for participation in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra. Many observers consider that change a milestone for the intellectual legitimacy of the arts.
“This migration represents a validation of this work as a serious, University-worthy, academic endeavor,” said Jack Megan, who directs the Office for the Arts.
On the near horizon for Harvard students is a new concentration in theater, dance, and media that blends historical and theoretical study with arts practice. The future may bring a master of fine arts program or graduate programs in the arts that would capitalize on Harvard’s strengths in areas such as documentary film or creative writing and encourage artists to work across various fields.
There is an advantage in creating something like that from scratch, said Cogan University Professor Stephen Greenblatt, chair of the Task Force on the Arts.
“We have the human resources, and we have the intellectual power to do something amazing, truly at a global scale. We are in the position to be able to rethink in a completely innovative way the redrawing of the boundaries of arts and the humanities and the sciences.”
The physical spaces
In the future, Harvard will have even more performance, exhibit, and art-making spaces. One suggestion would organize an arts corridor along Garden Street with housing for artists in residence, a creative-writing center, art studios, and greater collaboration among the nearby Harvard Dance Center, Arts @ 29 Garden, and the American Repertory Theater(A.R.T.).
Arts officials expect to see more public art installations on campus, building on the success of the Common Spaces initiative that introduced a collection of colorful chairs and theater and music performances into the Old Yard and the renovated Science Center Plaza.
“I’d like to see more art all around us,” said Lizabeth Cohen, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, who helped to develop a biennial public art competition in which students from across the University compete to build a site-specific installation in Radcliffe’s Yard. “In 10 years, I would hope to see a Harvard campus that is very stimulating aesthetically and reminds us as we move through it that our campus is a canvas that should reflect the same brilliance and creativity that we find in the University’s museums, libraries, and classrooms.”
In November, the renovated and expanded Harvard Art Museums will allow students, faculty, and the public to engage with and study their vast collections in dynamic new ways.
Some in Harvard’s arts community envision a space like the popular i-lab, replicating an incubator of innovation and entrepreneurship, dedicated to the arts.
“I think there is an opportunity to do something extravagant and wonderful in Allston,” said Moss. “The nanotechnologists are walking next to the sculptors are walking next to the anthropologists are walking next to theoretical physicists. … For me, that would be a kind of dream, to integrate the arts into the sciences and social sciences in some structural, architectural way.”
An international ripple
Ten years out, more artists will be at Harvard for broader residencies, bringing with them more global perspectives. Musicians have led the way. Jazz artist Herbie Hancock delivered this year’s Norton Lectures, an arts tradition since 1924. Over the past four years, trumpeter and lecturer Wynton Marsalis connected listeners to the cultural currents and critical history behind decades of groundbreaking music and dance.
Scholars see a bright future for the Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge, which awards grants for projects that help to promote and sustain the arts. Developed in partnership with Harvard Business School, the division of arts and humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, a nonprofit inspired by the cultural exchange along ancient Eurasian trade routes, the competition has spawned a host of creative startups, including last year’s grand prize winners, who developed an online platform that connects users to art and artists in their area.
Improving the world is a driving ethos for A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus. In planning her performance season, Paulus told the Gazette last year, she searches out works that will “catalyze dialogue, catalyze debate, shows that will reach beyond the stage into an energy that will bring a community together around an issue, a topic, a point of view.” She is pushing the boundaries of the stage, collaborating with departments and Schools from across the University.
“It’s not arts in a silo,” said Paulus. “It’s arts actively reaching across to crack open the most important issues of our times.” Paulus will continue to collaborate with artists beyond Harvard. The A.R.T. is developing a project called “Nomad Two Worlds” with artists from Australia working with Harvard undergraduates.
“The notion of a global Harvard is something I’ve taken to heart. We now live in an age where we can collaborate with artists from all over the world.”
By Corydon Ireland, Harvard Staff Writer
On May 9, 1761, Harvard Professor John Winthrop packed up two telescopes and a pendulum clock and boarded a sloop in Boston Harbor. He and two students were on their way to a hilltop in Newfoundland to observe a rare astronomical event, the Transit of Venus, when that planet crosses between the Earth and the sun. Their 13-day journey was the first international trip sponsored by Harvard. In his journal, Winthrop reflected on the next transits — in 1874, 1996, and 2004. He wrote, “How Astronomy transports us into distant futurity!”
Winthrop, the Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, could hardly have envisioned how international Harvard would become. During the presidency of Charles W. Eliot (1869-1909), Harvard moved to increase the diversity of its students. Still, the Class of 1914 included only eight international students; the Class of 2014 includes more than 400, counting dual citizens. University-wide, the number of international students since 1998 has shot up 35 percent. Today, there are nearly 55,000 international alumni from 180 countries, a fifth of all living graduates.
Harvard Business School (HBS) has the most international alumni of the University’s Schools, more than 50,000. In its first year, 1908, HBS accepted its first two international MBA students, from Paris and Shanghai. Today, students from 68 other countries constitute a third of M.B.A. students in the Class of 2014.
HBS has eight global centers on five continents, and more than 60 percent of its faculty-written case studies have a global perspective, from treatises on French wines and Japanese earthquakes to privatized power in Nigeria.
Nearly 900 international research projects
More broadly, Harvard as a whole sponsors 13 international offices, 113 international alumni clubs and contacts, close to 300 study-abroad and exchange programs, and nearly 900 international research projects.
But to use Winthrop’s prescient word, what about “futurity” of global Harvard? A dozen University voices say that the short answer is that within a decade there will be more, including more students from abroad, more students going abroad, more classes taught abroad, more research in more countries and regions, more outreach to do more good around the world, and more global influences on a Harvard education.
“There are any number of ways the University’s wings will span the world even more 10 years into the future than today,” said Jorge Dominguez, Harvard’s vice provost for international affairs. “Harvard will come to be seen as the world’s first public university.” That means “universal access,” he said, with acceptance of the world’s brightest students that is “passport-blind, need-blind, and all degrees.”
To be the world’s university also means expounding what Harvard is known for already, offering “a public good for the world,” he said. “We are generating knowledge. New ways to cure Parkinson’s will be just as good to a Swede as to someone in the United States.”
“Harvard also has a geographic bet,” he said, “and it’s called the world.” So instead of establishing international branch campuses, Harvard is more likely to reach deeper into the world through research, centers, and courses. “There is no region in the world we are writing off, none,” said Dominguez, who hopes for expanded footprints in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. “We’re not doing any of this backing away or reducing.”
Comparative literature scholar Martin Puchner, the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature, as well as general editor of “The Norton Anthology of World Literature,” said, “There is an intense international interest in what we do. And at the same time there is an immense need to send our students out into the world and make them learn about the world.”
Expanded reach for the humanities
The University’s global reach in the humanities will leap outward in the next decade, Puchner said. The Harvard-based World Literature Institute holds monthlong summer intensives abroad for graduate students, a model “that could extend to undergraduates tomorrow.” Within a year or so, the University will have its first professor of Anglophone literature — focusing on work in English by non-native speakers. The course “Masterpieces of World Literature” debuts next spring and will go online by the fall of 2015. “It’s so exciting,” said Puchner, “teaching a course in world literature that will be taught to the world.”
Extending Harvard’s reach internationally is exciting, but vital too, said Felix Oberholzer-Gee, the Swiss-born senior associate dean for international development at HBS. The flow of knowledge no longer streams exclusively from mature economies to developing ones, and by 2024 this cross-fertilization will be “quite dispersed geographically,” he said, a trend suggesting there will be many HBS research centers around the world. At the same time, “The class we graduate every year will be more global,” said Oberholzer-Gee, who is also the Andreas Andresen Professor of Business Administration. “We will see people who come through different models of education.”
By 2024, there will also be more global outreach through more online courses, “but the nature of the courses will have changed,” he said, by answering a crucial question that bedevils distance learning today: How do you produce commitment in students? Normally that results from their being on campus together, responding in class, taking exams, and otherwise interacting. Real-time, online analogs are being developed at HBS, including an experimental room where “instead of 60 chairs we have 60 screens,” said Oberholzer-Gee.
Reaching out globally means grasping another dimension, he said, “the big shift from knowing to doing … getting better at using the knowledge that we have to really contribute to the solution of world problems.” The curriculum of 2024, said Oberholzer-Gee, will be “very rich in experiential learning,” which in turn often means travel abroad to understand the cultural challenges of working together.
Dominguez extolled the learning at Harvard that takes place abroad, often mixed with the business of doing good. For instance, public health initiatives in Botswana and Tanzania have been underway for years, as has biodiversity fieldwork active in Kenya.
Instructing — and learning from — the world
The field of design also will extend its reach in the next decade, sharing Harvard’s research and in turn learning from other cultures. “Our engagement is going to intensify globally,” said Ali Malkawi, a Jordan-born professor of architectural technology at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) and director of the new Harvard Center for Green Building and Cities.
“GSD already has a footprint all over the world.” That will get larger, he said, in part because the research-based center will be sharing what it learns about design simulation, sustainability, and energy efficiency in the built environment. In an era of climate change, said Malkawi, energy efficiency has acquired critical edge, since 40 percent of power use worldwide goes to heating and cooling buildings.
By next summer, inaugural programs in sustainable design practices will be in place in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Research is underway in China to reduce energy consumption in fast-growing cities. Citing booming India and Brazil, Malkawi said, “Our goal is to try to influence the building industry and globalized practice.” As a measure of how design is going global, the new center already has about a dozen multidisciplinary staffers, and will have 30 by the end of the summer.
Merilee Grindle, the Edward S. Mason Professor of International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, said that 10 years from now, “My dream would be that every student and every faculty member would be extraordinarily adept at crossing borders,” whether of geography, culture, time, or intellectual engagement. “The journey is already being engaged.”
When John Winthrop sailed to Newfoundland, Harvard was a parochial college for New England’s ministers, merchants, and lawyers. By its 200th anniversary in 1836, it was self-consciously a national place of learning. By 1936, Harvard proclaimed itself a world university, eager for an expanded global profile.
Today, that trend has hit warp speed. For students and faculty alike, spending all their time on campus is already “almost unthinkable,” said Oberholzer-Gee, and will be more so by 2024. “This idea of staying put in one place will look very antiquated.”