Harvard President Drew Faust (from left) talks with Rodrigo Ravilet, M.B.A. ’03, Diana Huidobro, 2006 Extension School alum, and Matias Rivera, Harvard College alum, during a reception before the Harvard Club of Chile Dinner in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Photos by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Nation & World

Spotlight on Harvard in Chile

long read

President Faust’s visit draws focus to programs, research linking University with South American nation

President Drew Faust is traveling this week to highlight Harvard’s engagement with Latin America. In Chile, she is meeting with government and academic leaders and getting a firsthand look at the tangible benefits of Harvard research. She is visiting an early childhood education program at a public school and participating in a symposium organized by Harvard faculty, government leaders, and the heads of nongovernmental organizations involved in Chile’s earthquake reconstruction efforts. Below, faculty members and others involved in the trip share their impressions about key stops along the way.

The lessons of Chile’s quake, tsunami

Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the day came during the state dinner in honor of U.S. President Barack Obama, whose visit happened to coincide with ours, writes Harvard Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood. President Faust and I had the opportunity to attend. She was called to the head table to talk with the two heads of state, both Harvard alumni. I can think of no stronger evidence of just how vital Harvard’s international engagement is, in educating potential leaders from all sectors around the world, and in helping our students better understand the global community in which they live.

I have just returned from traveling through Chile with President Drew Faust, who went on to Brazil.  It was an intense and enlightening experience.   On Tuesday morning (March 22), Harvard faculty from several Schools gathered to discuss last year’s Chilean earthquake and tsunami — both the lessons of the past and the opportunities to improve reconstruction actions.

Earthquakes are common in Chile. A small one happened as we checked into our hotel, and another occurred the next morning.  Since the 1930s, Chile has had strict building codes, and most quake damage last year came from the buildings built before that time. And, just as in Japan, most of the loss of life came not from the initial quake, devastating as it was, but from the tsunami that followed.

The group explored the lessons of similar tragedies, including the impact on the health of children and adults, and what we know from the mistakes and successes after Hurricane Katrina.  I was particularly struck by a discussion of how challenging it can be to get local neighborhoods and communities, whether in Chile or the United States, to take charge of their own destinies, rather than waiting in vain for the federal government to simply enter and rebuild everything.  It was also strikingly evident that even though there are large similarities across massive events like hurricanes and earthquakes, absent a role by scholars, far too little knowledge is transmitted from one setting to the next.

The previous day, I had the chance to spend several hours with Claudio Orrego, a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School who is the mayor of Peñalolén, a Santiago municipality.  Orrego is a dynamic leader in charge of some of the poorest and wealthiest neighborhoods in Santiago, who works to engage and empower local residents to take control of their neighborhoods, while drawing on the best ideas from around the world.

He showed us the past and the future.  The past was Villa Grimaldi Peace Park and Museum, the site used to torture and interrogate political prisoners during the military rule of Augusto Pinochet.  The site is deeply moving: It combines the beauty of a restored area with powerful reminders of its cruel past.  We moved on to a local school where we saw young children participating in Un Buen Comienzo (A Good Start), a program developed with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Medical School to provide vastly earlier childhood education and health programs in Chile.

These were very poor children, yet many were reading already.  They were filled with energy. The school is working with Catholic University in Chile to develop similar programs for first and second graders.  Indeed, the new Chilean government wants to expand this program well beyond the pilot schools where it is already found.  The Harvard Ed School is doing a systematic evaluation of the program.  If other sites perform like this, I am very optimistic.

Later that day, President Faust and I and several others met with another Harvard graduate, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, who holds a Ph.D. in economics.  He had graduated a few years before I did, and we shared many of the same professors.  His dissertation had even been about education.  We had a lively discussion of the ways that Harvard could attract and educate more local students and engage more effectively with Chile.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the day came during the state dinner in honor of U.S. President Barack Obama, whose visit happened to coincide with ours. President Faust and I had the opportunity to attend.  She was called to the head table to talk with the two heads of state, both Harvard alumni.  I can think of no stronger evidence of just how vital Harvard’s international engagement is, in educating potential leaders from all sectors around the world, and in helping our students better understand the global community in which they live.

— David T. Ellwood, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School and the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy

A strong, beneficial partnership

Harvard Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood spoke about the importance of acting in time to respond to disasters — and preparing for them.

When disaster strikes, there is often an impulse throughout the Harvard community to help in any way possible. The biggest impact that the University can have at such times is rooted in its dedication to research, education, and service.

Since the earthquake and tsunami that struck Chile in February of last year, Harvard students and faculty have been engaged in efforts to help the stricken region recover. While visiting Chile, President Drew Faust on Tuesday (March 22) addressed a symposium of Harvard faculty members involved in the effort, along with government leaders and representatives of nongovernmental organizations engaged in reconstruction.

“I feel fortunate to be here today to help introduce the next stage of what had already been a strong and mutually beneficial partnership between Harvard and Chile,” Faust told about 45 listeners. “I share the hope that by working in close concert, we can better understand the public health and mental health issues arising from devastating natural disasters; that we can consider design solutions that will limit the damage done by future disasters; and that we can carry forward efforts on various fronts to advance the reconstruction efforts here in Chile.”

Faust introduced Harvard Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood, who spoke about the importance of acting in time to respond to disasters — and preparing for them. One key for building consensus to prepare for crises, he said, was forming partnerships and developing independent institutions that can validate preparedness and recovery.

Just as important is making a vivid case for addressing potential problems in advance. For example, efforts to reduce the threat to the ozone layer were successful largely because images of changes in the ozone layer made a visual case for action.

“If you see a problem and want to make a difference before and after, you have to make it vivid,” Ellwood said.

A head start for Chilean children

Harvard President Drew Faust (seated at left, black jacket) visits the kindergarten classroom of Maria Christina Valenzueler (standing) at the Estación Central School, which uses the Un Buen Comienzo program. Un Buen Comienzo is modeled on the U.S. Head Start program.

President Drew Faust had a high-level meeting on Monday (March 21) with some of Chile’s most important citizens. Amid a setting of American and Chilean flags, she witnessed a special ceremony celebrating the collaboration of Harvard, the Municipality of Estación Central in Santiago, several universities, the Fundación Oportunidad, and the ministries of education, health and planning.

The meeting was held in the kindergarten classroom of the Estación Central School, an 82-year-old building that was repainted in honor of her visit. The front hall boasted a large poster welcoming her and giving thanks for the Un Buen Comienzo (UBC) program that is bringing the latest techniques in early childhood education to 4- and 5-year-olds.

Faust was initially ushered into a bright room with a table laden with delicious Chilean treats. She was welcomed by the school principal, by the president of Fundación Oportunidad, and by the mayor of Estación Central. The mayor thanked Faust for the clear improvements in the children’s learning. But he said it was equally important that these valuable young citizens were learning to be “good people.” He said that, through UBC, the children were being taught that the future was open to them and that they could be anything they wanted. This sentiment is one that UBC staff have heard frequently from the many mayors in Santiago who have welcomed the UBC research program, recognizing its long-term potential policy impact as a tool in the campaign to eradicate poverty and the huge disparities in Chile between rich and poor.

Un Buen Comienzo is modeled on the U.S. Head Start program (a major component of America’s War on Poverty), which integrates early childhood education with socioemotional support, family involvement, and health interventions. Begun in 2007, the program evaluates the impact of supporting teachers with curricular materials, lesson plans, facilitation, and reflection by UBC staff. The evaluation is being coordinated by faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Medical School in conjunction with the Chilean UBC team and consultants. The program aims to improve the children’s language and literacy skills, as well as their social interactions, and to provide families with materials that strengthen the learning environment at home. As with Head Start, UBC is based on the philosophy that education and health go hand in hand, so a component fosters physical activity and good health habits. The UBC health team coordinates with the children’s primary care providers to assure that the children receive the most effective medical care, especially to cut down on absenteeism due to respiratory conditions that are common in Santiago.

Today as Faust sat at the front of the classroom, she was clearly enchanted by the children who, in turn, were thrilled with her visit. After watching a spirited rendition of “Choo Choo Wa Wa Wa,” she was treated to a reading of “No Más Besos,” filled with kissing warthogs, long-tongued anteaters, and ever-present “buenas días, buenas noches” kisses, as well the lesson learned by one little monkey that much as he found kissing “blechy,” nothing worked better to calm his crying baby brother than at least “uno más beso.”

In Chile, there is a strong political will to build strength in the country by investing in the youngest citizens, teaching them from the earliest time that they are important, and assuring them that what happens for them every day determines the country’s success. This visit by Harvard’s president reinforced for the teachers, the principal, the mayor, and the children the commitment of the University to advance knowledge and policy by making meaningful global partnerships such as Un Buen Comienzo.

Judith S. Palfrey, T. Berry Brazelton Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; Professor in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health; Senior Associate in Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston; Master of Adams House

Many universities, similar challenges

Merilee Grindle, Edward S. Mason Professor of International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, is the director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

President Drew Faust shared lunch with the presidents of several of Chile’s largest and most important universities on Monday (March 21). It quickly became clear that Harvard and these public and private institutions also shared many common challenges. For example, the presidents agreed that making university education more accessible to young people with limited resources and preparing all students for a future world driven by a global knowledge economy were issues that prompted their institutions to consider new ways of dealing with social inequalities and of financing higher education. Further, to ensure that their institutions were truly centers for merit and talent, they recognize they have to become increasingly concerned with the quality of primary and secondary education, particularly for low-income and vulnerable groups.

When Faust spoke of the increasing presence of problems that spanned traditional disciplinary boundaries — global health, for example — and that required Harvard to engage in teaching and research across the barriers of narrow academic specializations — climate change, for example — her Chilean counterparts spoke of similar challenges in their universities. These educational leaders also found common ground in the challenge of providing students with the skills to engage in “real-world” occupations, while also ensuring the depth and intellectual breadth characteristic of liberal arts educations.

Similarly, they shared a struggle to balance simultaneous demands for excellence in research and teaching in contexts rife with demands for greater efficiency and the need to invest in rapidly changing technologies for generating and disseminating knowledge. Moreover, said Faust, universities in today’s world need to address how they can be at the cutting edge in developing new knowledge while also serving as repositories of culture and the study of the human condition in the past.

There are no quick or obvious solutions to these challenges, but Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, indicated the importance of sharing discussions of them. Referring to the lengthy relationship of Harvard with Chile, Jorge Dominguez, vice provost for international affairs, spoke of the mutual benefit of shared pursuits in the sciences, in broadening student international experiences, and in partnerships such as the early childhood education program linking the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Medical School with foundations and government institutions in Chile. The challenges for institutions of higher education in two very distinct countries are real, but so too, it seems, is the readiness of Harvard and the Chilean universities to address them.

— Merilee Grindle, Edward S. Mason Professor of International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School; Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies

Harvard’s long policy reach

President Drew Faust meets with Sam French ’12 and other Harvard students during a visit to the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

On Monday (March 21), President Drew Faust visited the regional office of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in Santiago. The afternoon event was sandwiched between a visit with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera at La Moneda Palace and a luncheon with all of the presidents of Chile’s major universities at the United Nations headquarters in Santiago. Three Harvard-trained presidents — the president of Harvard, the president of Chile, and the president of the United States — were in the same area at the same time.

We had organized this encounter to have Faust meet with Harvard students in Chile and Argentina and to meet the center’s staff. With helicopters flying overhead, motorcades in the streets, and extra police all over the city in preparation for U.S President Barack Obama, J.D. ’91, we were particularly honored that our president took the time to meet in our office.

Chile is well-known for its efficiency. This image was dashed when we had received a notice from the electrical company that our power was going to be cut precisely at the moment Faust arrived. Our plans to calmly ride the elevator to the cool air conditioning of our conference room were replaced with a sprint up three flights of stairs and a very warm conference room. But these inconveniences were immediately forgotten as the meeting began. It included our staff, the president’s delegation, four undergraduate students spending the spring semester in Argentina, and five students from the Medical School and the College in Chile.

After our introductions, Faust asked the students to explain how their experiences fit with their curriculum and how the study-abroad experience contributes to their Harvard education. Students described some of the challenges they had overcome to meet concentration requirements and to be able to spend a semester in Chile or Argentina.  She voiced her support to keep pushing to make the study-abroad opportunities increasingly accessible.

She also thanked and congratulated our staff for their work in making her trip a success. We voiced our gratitude to her for helping us to move our programs forward. Santiago is nearly 6,000 miles from Cambridge. Yet Harvard has a huge presence and is making a difference here. This is manifest in the students who act as Harvard’s ambassadors in Chile and Argentina, in international leaders like Barack Obama and Sebastián Piñera, and in our president, Drew Faust, who brings them all together.

— Ned Strong, Program Director, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Regional Office, Harvard University

A meeting of presidents

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera (left) and Harvard President Drew Faust discussed their efforts to increase the number of Chileans who may enroll at Harvard thanks to a proposed partnership between Harvard and the program Becas Chile.

More than 40,000 Harvard alumni live and work outside the United States. President Drew Faust met Monday morning (March 21) in Santiago, Chile, with one of them, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, A.M. ’75, Ph.D. ’76. He greeted Faust at La Moneda Palace, Chile’s equivalent to the White House. Piñera took time to meet with the group from Harvard while yet another president, who does live in the White House and is also a Harvard alumnus, Barack Obama, J.D. ’91, was visiting Santiago the same day.

Piñera referred to the “Harvard boys” who are his associates in the Cabinet, namely, Felipe Larraín, A.M. ’83, Ph.D. ’85, the finance minister; Felipe Kast, Ph.D. ’09, planning and cooperation minister; and Felipe Bulnes, LL.M. ’96, minister of justice. The president and the three Felipes exemplify one of the ways that Harvard’s relationship with Chile is long and productive. Each of Chile’s last four finance ministers has been a Harvard Ph.D. or a Harvard professor on leave.

Faust invited Piñera to visit Harvard in the fall. The two presidents asked Chile’s minister of education and Harvard’s vice provost for international affairs to conclude an agreement, on which there is a full accord in principle, to foster an increase in the number of Chileans who may enroll at Harvard thanks to a proposed partnership between Harvard and the program Becas Chile.

Faust and Piñera discussed the latter’s challenges of the past year. Piñera took office just days after a massive earthquake caused massive destruction, especially in south-central Chile. Months later, 33 miners were trapped and eventually rescued, to worldwide relief and acclaim. Chile managed to grow its economy at a rate nearly twice that of the United States in the past year.

Harvard has had significant academic partnerships with Chile. For decades, Harvard’s astronomers have worked with Chilean scientists as colleagues, and for roughly the past decade Harvard has been a 20 percent partner in the Magellan Telescopes, working jointly with the Universidad de Chile, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Arizona, and the Carnegie Institution. For the past five years, faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Medical School, in partnership with Fundación Oportunidad, Chile’s Ministry of Education, and the Universidad Diego Portales, have been at work on a major innovative effort, based on a randomized clinical trial involving thousands of youngsters, to improve early childhood education in Chile. This is a dramatic example of world-class faculty research that will contribute to knowledge and yield practical utility to Chile.

This and other projects — such as undergraduate study and internships, Harvard faculty and student research, medical student clinical rotations, and the like — have been aided enormously by the regional office of Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in Santiago, the flagship office of the University’s endeavors to provide services to the Harvard community outside the United States.

Faust and Piñera honored and celebrated these multiple and intertwining connections between Harvard and Chile, and, through the prospective agreement between Harvard and Becas Chile, set a promising foundation for a productive and shared future.

Jorge I. Dominguez, Harvard Vice Provost for International Affairs and Antonio Madero Professor of Mexican and Latin American Politics and Economics

Chilean schoolgirls share dreams with Faust

Harvard President Drew Faust tells students at Liceo Carmela Carvajal, a public school for girls, ““I would love to hear from all of you about how you see women’s lives changing, and how you see that affecting your lives.”

One young woman said she wanted to be a “great archaeologist,” another dreamed of traveling the world and writing. Their classmates spoke of curing disease, of becoming a biotechnology researcher, a journalist, or an artist. “I want people to see the beauty of everything and everyone,” said the future painter.

When Harvard President Drew Faust met with the students of Liceo Carmela Carvajal, a public school for girls in Santiago, Chile, they talked about relating to boys and the rapidly changing role of women in society. But mostly they were eager to share their aspirations with the first woman president of Harvard.

Faust offered a bit of advice she shares with graduating Harvard seniors who are struggling with which paths to follow into the future. “I always say to them, follow your passion,” she said, “and if that doesn’t work out, you can try something else.”

Faust was greeted at the school by its director, Rosa del Valle Pérez, and Mayor Cristián Labbé of the Providencia community. She made a surprise visit to an upstairs classroom before meeting with a group of 16 students, mostly seniors clad in blue uniforms, who sat in a semicircle in a basement room and conversed with their visitor in English.

After she was chosen as the first woman to lead Harvard, Faust told the students, she was touched to receive letters from people all over the world who told them what her appointment symbolized for them, or for their wives and daughters. As a result, she has made it a point to visit schools for girls when she travels abroad to talk about the importance of education and the opportunities it affords young women.  She also comes to listen.

“I would love to hear from all of you about how you see women’s lives changing, and how you see that affecting your lives,” Faust said.

The girls agreed that seeing women in high positions — Chile’s previous president was a woman — has changed attitudes about the possibilities open to them. Not long ago, said one, it was typical to think of a woman in Chile as being a homemaker. “If a woman can be president, it’s a very big deal,” she said. “I think now, as a woman, I can do it. The world as it is right now, I can do anything I want.”

The students presented Faust with a pin from their school, and she presented them all with Harvard hats, which they happily modeled for a group photo.

“I hope that some day I may see a few of you up in my part of the world, at my university,” Faust said.

Kevin Galvin, Director of News and Media Relations, Harvard Public Affairs & Communications

A gathering of the Harvard clan in Santiago

Harvard Alumni Association Deputy Executive Director Philip Lovejoy (from left), Rodrigo Ravilet, M.B.A. ’03, and Harvard President Drew Faust chat during the reception before the Harvard Club of Chile’s dinner in Santiago. “It is heartening to see the strength of the alumni community in Chile, so far from the campus, yet deeply connected to each other and the University,” said Lovejoy.

President Drew Faust was received with open arms Sunday evening (March 20) by more than 150 Harvard alumni, friends, and guests in Santiago, Chile. The dinner, hosted by the Harvard Club of Chile with the Harvard Alumni Association, was an energetic evening of alumni connecting with each other and, most importantly, getting to know Faust and hearing about Harvard today. The evening celebrated her first visit to Chile in grand style.

Months of planning went into the event, by both staff in Cambridge and the dedicated volunteers and alumni in Chile, including the president of the club, Rodrigo Ravilet, M.B.A. ’03, Monica Krassa, Ed.M. ’82, and Miguel Lopez, M.B.A. ’02. The excitement of welcoming the president to Chile and being part of her historic visit was palpable. Over dinner Saturday and breakfast Sunday morning, we got to know our volunteers in Chile who work so tirelessly on behalf of Harvard. They are an accomplished, dedicated, and very talented group of people.

Miguel opened the dinner, welcoming Faust and the assembled Harvard contingent. After dinner, Monica introduced the president with a warm welcome connecting Harvard and Chile, and commenting on the wonderful relationship that benefits both the country and the University. Faust then thanked our hosts, and commented on the historic timing of this visit, being in Chile with its president who has Harvard degrees (Sebastián Piñera, A.M. ’75, Ph.D. ’76) at the same time that U.S. President Barack Obama, J.D. ’91, is visiting from the United States. She commented on the significant roles that Harvard alumni played in earthquake recovery efforts, the broad reach of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in supporting research in Chile and the region, and how this all builds on relations stretching over a century.

Faust then turned her focus to Harvard and the notion of breaking boundaries — boundaries within and across Harvard, boundaries of knowledge, and boundaries between Harvard and the wider world. One example she gave was Harvard’s commitment to access through greatly expanded financial aid programs in the College and the graduate Schools; she noted that aid has been identified by Dean David Ellwood of the Harvard Kennedy School (who was also present) as the School’s highest priority. She also focused on breaking boundaries within Harvard to allow for and to encourage greater collaboration that supports the changing nature of knowledge and the ability to solve complex world problems. Finally, she emphasized the increasing global nature of the University and what Harvard continues to do to encourage and support that direction.

It was a great night enjoyed by all. It is heartening to see the strength of the alumni community in Chile, so far from the campus, yet deeply connected to each other and the University.

— Philip W. Lovejoy, Deputy Executive Director, Harvard Alumni Association

Helping Chile’s early childhood teachers

A teacher and student work together on a writing exercise. Chilean schools typically don’t begin to teach reading until the first grade; Un Buen Comienzo gives teachers strategies for introducing the alphabet and building early literacy with 4- and 5-year-olds. Photo by Aldo Benincasa

In 2006, Dean Kathleen McCartney of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Professor Judith Palfrey of Harvard Medical School spoke in Santiago at a conference focused on early childhood education. The conference was organized by the regional office of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. Attendees included representatives from the Chilean Ministry of Education and leaders of early childhood programs in Chile. The relationships established there led to a commitment to launch collaborative research to improve early childhood education in Chile. That commitment turned into a reality with funding from Andrónico Luksic through his Fundacion Oportunidad Educacional for the project called Un Buen Comienzo — A Good Start.

The goal of the research was to evaluate the effectiveness of professional development for teachers in Chilean kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classrooms.

The opportunity for the study derived from priorities established by Michelle Bachelet, who became president of Chile in March 2006. She had made a campaign promise to expand access to early childhood education, ensuring places in public schools for 4- and 5-year-olds. Attention to the quality of those classrooms offered the promise of improving children’s language and literacy outcomes in kindergarten and of reducing retention in first grade.

Professional development for teachers focused on classroom organization, ways to teach vocabulary and read books with children, and procedures to involve parents in their children’s education. Coaches also visit the classrooms regularly, to model new instructional methods and to support the teachers as they implement them in turn. In addition, to address high levels of absenteeism among children with asthma, an innovative effort was launched to ensure that all such children had up-to-date asthma action plans and that teachers knew how to deal with their symptoms.

The effectiveness of the intervention is being evaluated by randomly assigning schools within municipalities to receive the full intervention immediately or later. An evaluation team from the Universidad Diego Portales has been administering a wide array of assessments to participating children, to determine whether the program is affecting their language skills, early literacy skills, and executive functioning. Classrooms are also observed and videotaped regularly, to evaluate changes in teacher behaviors.

The per-child costs of the Un Buen Comienzo intervention are very modest. If the evaluation demonstrates that the intervention is effective, then it could feasibly be expanded in Chile and perhaps exported to other countries in Latin America.

Catherine Snow, Patricia Albjerg Graham Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Sharing the lessons of Chile’s earthquake

View of Tomé, a region hit hard by the 2010 earthquake and tsunami. File photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Our visit to Chile comes at a very significant time — both for the region and the University — and it reflects Harvard and the Kennedy School’s commitment to expanding connections to Latin America. It is a moment of resurgent economic and intellectual growth in much of the region, with the many opportunities and challenges those offer. Harvard is deeply engaged with the region through the work of the David Rockefeller Center (DRCLAS), our many students and faculty from the region, and our expansive alumni networks, among others. And yet, there is so much more that we can yet do together.

The timing is also poignant because an important element of the visit involves looking for ways in which Harvard faculty and students can learn from and participate in reconstruction efforts in Chile following last February’s terrible earthquake and tsunami.

The potential lessons could not be more critical in light of the recent devastating events in Japan. One apparent similarity in the two situations is that strong building codes reduced the deaths and destruction from earthquakes of incredible magnitude. However, the tsunami triggered by the Japan quake was the source of much of the destruction and tragedy. We all must learn from these disasters: to prevent, prepare, and recover from them.

On Tuesday (March 22), President Drew Faust will open and I will have the opportunity to participate intensively in a meeting sponsored by DRCLAS and designed to support Chilean reconstruction and recovery through the ENLACE program and other collaborations. The meeting will bring together government officials, nongovernmental organizations, scholars, and others who have been involved in Chile’s recovery activities to share ideas with Harvard faculty who have experience in this or other major natural disasters. I am particularly pleased to participate, since I have championed a major initiative at the Kennedy School focusing on problems where future crises can be averted or minimized by “Acting in Time.”

ENLACE is a program founded by Kennedy School Associate Professor Daniel Hojman to draw upon the expertise of faculty and Chilean students at Harvard and throughout the Boston area to support Chile during this critical recovery period. This is just one example of Harvard’s collaborations in Chile.

Un Buen Comienzo (A Good Start), an early childhood program run in schools near the capital city of Santiago, is supported by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University’s Center on the Developing Child. This terrific program existed before the quake and is now being extended to quake-stricken areas. Educación Popular en Salud, a community public health agency founded by Harvard School of Public Health alumna Karen Anderson, has also been involved in earthquake recovery efforts, working with residents, community leaders, and volunteers to deliver food and water, repair broken walls and leaky roofs, and provide emotional support for those in need.

And over the winter break, a group of 15 Harvard students traveled to the town of Dichato and elsewhere to help reconstruct damaged parks, schools, and kiosks.

I am honored to be able to participate in these and other activities in Chile. We all have much to learn from each other.

David T. Ellwood, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School and Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy