Campus & Community

Professional schools

5 min read

Need is seen for collaborative efforts that bring Schools together


Graphic courtesy of Harvard Planning + Allston Initiative

From its earliest years, Harvard has trained professionals for leadership roles. Identifying how Harvard’s professional Schools might foster greater collaboration to educate tomorrow’s leaders was a key goal of the Task Force on Professional Schools.

Members of the task force conducted nearly 30 interviews with deans and faculty

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from across Harvard’s professional schools. A great deal of data was gathered as well from public sources and private conversations. A clear consensus emerged that leaders today are called upon to tackle systemic challenges that span traditional disciplinary boundaries in areas that include health care, globalization, economic development, and the sciences.

Business School Dean Kim B. Clark, chair of the task force, noted significant enthusiasm for activities that would allow the Schools to build on the strengths of their existing programs. “Through new educational programs and research, Harvard could contribute to the creation of deeper understanding of complex problems, and to the growth and development of effective action in the world.”

As task force member David Gergen, Public Service Professor at the Kennedy School of Government, put it, “The discussions allowed us to ask how the professions are likely to change in the next 25 to 50 years. Allston really helped open our minds.”

Looking toward the future, Gergen envisions a need for executive education programs to serve professionals as they “move up the ladder of life,” and for new types of cross-disciplinary learning. At the graduate level, a course that takes “a generic approach to leadership” – by emphasizing ethics, professional responsibility, communication, and negotiation, for example – “might offer a powerful way to teach the skills and knowledge leaders will need whether they are in public health, government, education, law, or some other field.”

The task force outlined three potential models for new collaborations:

A more robust portfolio of executive programs;

A focus on the principles and practice of leadership; and

A focus on issues leaders face in society.

“The task force concluded there were many potential ways that Harvard professional Schools could work closely together to promote this critical theme for the 21st century,” said task force member Howard Koh, professor of health policy and management and associate dean of public health practice.

To accommodate these potential models for collaboration, the task force also developed scenarios for the development of a facility shared by Harvard’s professional Schools, ranging from a small structure with a modest auditorium and some classroom space to a large conference facility with full staffing for programs and amenities, short-term housing, and large work spaces.

“A shared facility for professional education and University-wide conferences was shown to have real promise,” Clark said. “Such a state-of-the-art learning environment could accommodate current programs operating in less than optimal space as well as new programs developed individually or jointly, and could be built and priced attractively for the Schools.”

The Task Force on Professional Schools also provided input to the deans of the Graduate School of Education and the School of Public Health as they developed strategies for a potential transition to Allston.

Graduate School of Education

Dean Ellen Condliffe Lagemann presented possibilities for the future, and ways to take advantage of the Allston opportunity, including:

Developing a case-based core curriculum;

Lengthening master’s programs and including an internship component;

Tailoring Ed.D. programs to meet the needs of practitioners;

Creating joint Ph.D. programs with FAS and other Schools, including HBS, KSG, and HSPH; and

Enhancing post-degree professional education.

Other elements ascertained in the HGSE discussions included the creation of a center for school improvement for faculty, postdocs, and doctoral students working on significant problems in education, and the development of a network of Harvard Education Partners to provide internships for students, laboratories for faculty, and demonstration sites for successful innovations.

“Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion at HGSE about how we want to reorganize ourselves,” said Dean Ellen Condliffe Lagemann. “We are a very highly regarded school of education, but we want to become an even more powerful engine of innovation that can help strengthen the field and improve schools across the U.S. and around the world. The planning team brought to the table lots of ideas from many members of the HGSE community.”

School of Public Health

The School of Public Health envisions a possible expansion of population sciences as well as the enhancement of a variety of fields through closer interdepartmental collaborations, each made possible by a potential move to Allston.

Fields that could benefit from such collaborations include:

  • Diseases of Modernization, involving research on the health problems that plague populations in the United States;
  • Diseases of the Developing World, which would involve research and training in global health;
  • Emergent Threats to Public Health, which would involve studying and enhancing methods for detecting and tracking unusual increases in diseases;
  • Environmental Risks to Health, involving the investigation of the health effects of air and water contaminants; and
  • The strengthening and creation of new joint-degree programs among Schools.In the task force report, these goals are explored in three models: 
  • Building alliances with other professional Schools;
  • Projecting continued growth in funding, giving rise to new disciplinary areas; and
  • Fostering a high level of collaboration and leadership across the School’s primary cross-disciplinary areas, including biological sciences, population sciences, and health policy. “Many of the most challenging problems we face in the world are, in essence, public health challenges – from emergency preparedness to emerging infectious diseases like AIDS and SARS, from obesity to global warming,” said HSPH Dean Barry R. Bloom. “Planning for Allston has provided a crucible for HSPH to consider how, in the coming decades, the School will be able to address critically these multidisciplinary issues. It will be important for us to maintain our strong collaborations with the medical community while using possible new proximities to develop the synergies and creative approaches that will help solve major problems in public health.”