Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith (left) and College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds (right) attended a Giving Thanks Open House, where they shared in the spirit of appreciation. The session was just one of nearly 10 that will be held across Harvard in the coming weeks to offer faculty, staff, and students the chance to share messages of appreciation with each other.

Meghan Dhaliwal/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

To stop and say thanks

4 min read

Harvard faculty, staff, and students attend sessions lauding colleagues

In late July, when Audrey Wang left her position at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study for another one in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), her new colleagues offered their assistance and friendship to help her become comfortable in the job.

In the four months since, Wang had been looking for a way to say thank-you, and on Tuesday (Nov. 15) she got one.

Wang was one of dozens of FAS staff members to attend the first of three Giving Thanks Open Houses, where she penned thank-you notes for colleagues. The session was just one of nearly 10 that will be held across Harvard in the coming weeks to offer faculty, staff, and students the chance to share messages of appreciation with each other. Staff members who attend can also make charitable contributions to the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and enjoy seasonal refreshments.

“I’m thankful to be part of such a generous community,” said Leslie Kirwan, dean of Administration and Finance for FAS. “Several hundred FAS staff members will stop by to write notes of appreciation to one another this week. In addition, we have partnered with the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter to invite some of the shelter’s Harvard student volunteers to attend and share information about the shelter. The cans of food and financial contributions donated by our FAS staff will help make Thanksgiving and the coming weeks a bit brighter for guests of the shelter.”

In addition to the FAS events, Giving Thanks Open Houses have been organized for staff in Harvard’s Central Administration, Business School, Law School, School of Public Health, Kennedy School of Government, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Graduate School of Design. A similar event will be held at the Harvard Divinity School, and will involve a “giving thanks” bulletin board where staff can post messages.

“I loved the Giving Thanks event last year,” said Anne Margulies, University chief information officer. “Not only did it feel good to say thank you to my colleagues, but it also felt good to receive unexpected thanks. Although it’s a cliché, it’s true: We can never say thank you enough, and this event really helps.”

“The people in this community, and the relationships they have with each other, are one of the most special things about working here,” added Mary Ann O’Brien, director of planning and program management for Harvard Human Resources and one of the organizers of the event for Central Administration staff. “We are trying to provide an easy, fun way for everyone to be able to express their thanks to a co-worker.

“We all are so busy. It’s easy to overlook saying thank you because you are just onto the next thing.  It may be a little thing that someone has done that no one else even knows about; thanking them means that you noticed, and it makes them feel great.   We are just trying to create a culture where everyone is empowered and enabled to recognize the efforts and contributions of others.”

Between writing messages to colleagues, Janet Hatch, director of administration for the History Department, said the effect on those who receive even a short message of thanks can be profound.

“As the recipient of some of these messages last year, I realize how nice it is to think someone actually took the time to write a few words to you,” she said. “We work hard all day, every day, so it can be easy to think nobody pays any attention to what you do, and suddenly you realize people do. It made me feel better. The fact that someone took the time to think about it and write it — the personal touch makes all the difference.”