Campus & Community

New report highlights depth of Harvard’s community engagement

3 min read

In a single year, approximately 7,000 Harvard University students collectively performed more than 900,000 hours of community service work in and around metropolitan Boston, according to a new report released Thursday (July 23). This commitment by Harvard students in 2005-06 was the equivalent of having 450 people working full time, year-round, providing community services in local neighborhoods.

Beyond the Yard: Community Engagement at Harvard University,” a 57-page report compiled by the New York research firm Appleseed, gives a first-ever University-wide view of the breadth and depth of Harvard’s community service engagement in the Greater Boston-area. Facts include the following:

• Approximately 8,500 Greater Boston-area elementary and high school students participated in educational and cultural enrichment programs at Harvard in 2005-06, such as Step UP.

• Since 2000, Harvard has invested more than $26 million in the development of affordable housing in Boston and Cambridge, such as Harvard 20/20/2000.

• In 2005-06, about 1,200 students from Harvard Medical School, the School of Dental Medicine, the Harvard School of Public Health, and Harvard College performed more than 150,000 hours of community service work through service learning and volunteer programs designed to meet health needs of Greater Boston communities, such as Family Van.

• Approximately 6,400 people — mostly Boston-area residents — took courses at Harvard’s Extension School.

“Community service is a core aspect of all we do at Harvard,” said President Drew Faust. “Our students, faculty, and staff have a deep commitment to Cambridge and Boston, and to helping their neighbors and fellow citizens.

“The value of service learning and volunteer programs is difficult to measure, but 900,000 hours of community service work performed by students in a year shows how integral service is to the Harvard experience and its effect in the surrounding community,” Faust said.

Harvard’s engagement with Boston-area communities takes several forms: students volunteering in the community through “service learning” courses or as part of their coursework; programs that give residents access to the University’s educational and cultural resources; faculty and students performing research that relates to community needs; and direct investment by the University in community programs and projects. The report chronicles the impact of Harvard’s community service contributions in five broad categories: education and achievement, health and the environment, affordable housing, civic life and culture, and economic opportunity.

“The services that universities like Harvard provide to neighboring communities are deep and diverse but often overlooked,” said Christine Heenan, vice president for government, community and public affairs at Harvard University. “Just as Harvard derives value from all that Boston and Cambridge offer, Boston and Cambridge also benefit from Harvard. The equivalent of 450 full-time community service jobs Harvard students perform each year is just one example of the important, positive impact of our partnership.

“This report underscores Harvard’s strong community service commitment to our neighboring communities,” added Heenan.

Harvard’s commitment to community service has been thriving for more than a century, says the report. “By several measures it is getting stronger. The University, its students, and Greater Boston-area communities all benefit from that commitment,” the report concludes.

Harvard’s community service contributions complement the University’s substantial financial, economic, and educational impact on the Boston region:

• Harvard is the second largest private employer in the Boston area, and third largest in Massachusetts, with a total annual investment in the local economy of approximately $4.8 billion.

• Over the past decade, more than 2,300 students from Massachusetts have attended Harvard, with the support of approximately $100 million in financial aid.