Harvard honored the first group of students awarded grants from the University’s new Presidential Public Service Fellowship Program during a luncheon at the Harvard Faculty Club on April 20.
Created by Harvard President Drew Faust, the program provides grants of up to $5,000 for undergraduates and $10,000 for graduate students for a range of efforts, including government and community service, nongovernmental organization and nonprofit work, and innovative projects that serve the common good. An anonymous donor funds the program.
“This is a great day. We have been dreaming about this program, and now here you are,” said Faust, who told the students that with a Harvard education comes the responsibility to figure out how to “use that education to have an impact on the world.”
More than 100 students from across the University applied for the program’s 10 spots. Students submitted personal statements, proposals detailing their work, detailed budgets, and two recommendations apiece to a committee of Harvard faculty and administrators, who reviewed the applications and interviewed finalists.
Only returning undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for the one-time award. The program’s organizers hope the application requirement will help to fuel a public service ethos at the University. Returning fellows will be encouraged to share their experiences with future generations of Harvard students who are interested in service.
“You are top leaders in this area, and with that comes the responsibility to talk about what you are learning this summer, and to educate others about how they can get involved to make service part of their lives,” said committee member Gene Corbin, executive director of the Phillips Brooks House Association.
A dentist in training, a former police officer, and a filmmaker are members of the first group to receive fellowships. The projects are as diverse as the applicants and involve the arts, government, technology, and the health and social sectors. With their fellowships, students will work on a range of issues including federal sustainability initiatives, voter mobilization efforts in low-turnout precincts, the improvement of U.S.-China relations, and ways to combine dental and primary care services and use health information technology in rural areas.
“You are individual leaders, but you are collective leaders because you represent such a wide range,” Faust told the fellows. “It’s great to see the commitment and imagination in the way you approach public service.”
“This is an absolutely fantastic opportunity; I am always so grateful for programs that really incentivize people to do public service,” said fellow Alice Abrokwa, a joint Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School student who will work with Juvenile Regional Services in New Orleans during the summer to help supply youth facing criminal charges with access to legal representation and social services. “It’s just fantastic what a fellowship like this can make possible.”
Artist, writer, and filmmaker John Hulsey, who is pursuing a doctorate in film and visual studies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, will use the summer fellowship to create a community-driven performance group in Boston with a focus on themes of social and economic justice. Hulsey will coordinate the work with the aid of several Boston organizations that help to prevent residents from being evicted from their homes.
“It’s really important for me to think about the work I am doing as dealing with issues that are of concern to the greater population,” said Hulsey. “To be recognized in this way and to be able to frame my work as both art and public service deepens my own understanding of how I can move forward.”