Campus & Community

A boost to international learning

5 min read

Grants approved from President’s Innovation Fund for International Experiences

To Rob Lue, a summer China program gives students an opportunity not only to gain international experience but also to understand better a country changing rapidly as a major player on the international stage.

Lue, professor of the practice of molecular and cellular biology, has teamed up with Xiao-Li Meng, professor of statistics, and Alain Viel, senior lecturer in molecular and cellular biology, to present a science-focused Harvard Summer School program in Shanghai that combines classes taught by Lue, Viel, and Meng with work in the labs of Chinese collaborators at Fudan University.

Harvard Summer School students gain language training and share the classroom with Chinese students, who make up half of the student body for the eight-week program. All together, students get an immersive experience from which they leave with more than life science learning. They also leave with a better understanding of the powerful Asian nation.

The program is among eight to win awards this year from the President’s Innovation Fund for International Experiences. The fund provides grants for faculty programs from any Harvard School to support creative and innovative experiences for students abroad. (Applications for next year’s grants are due Oct. 12.)

“From life sciences in China to society and culture in Chile, these Harvard international programs help further our commitment to providing an enhanced global education for our students, who will leave campus to work and live in a world growing smaller and more interconnected each year,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “We are pleased to be able to support innovative faculty members who are designing programs that further both students’ knowledge of their subject and their understanding of real people around the world. We are so grateful to Mr. Rockefeller for his continued support of our students’ international experiences and for his longstanding generosity to Harvard.”

The fund was established through the generosity of David Rockefeller, who has made a major commitment to support international experiences for Harvard undergraduates. It offers grants of between $5,000 and $60,000 to conduct exploratory or site planning visits, to develop or implement a new international program, or to provide renewal funding for past award recipients.

“The Innovation Fund for International Experiences extends undergraduates’ education beyond the academic year and beyond campus,” said Harvard College Dean Evelynn Hammonds. “The grants enable programs that give students a global perspective on problems of human rights, public health, and development, to name only a few areas of study. For many undergraduates and faculty, the experience is transformational.”

Although the program is focused on offering Harvard students international exposure, awards are also given to programs that will occur on campus but are designed to support experiences abroad. Two of this year’s awards went to internationally focused programs, entirely in Cambridge, that supplement the participants’ experiences abroad. Amitabh Chandra, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), said that the “international development boot camp,” offered this spring by him and several other HKS faculty members, was a way to connect the expertise of HKS faculty members with undergraduates.

The program, offered on Monday evenings, presented an inside look at international development through the lens of development economists who have extensive experience in policy evaluation and formation in developing countries. Because their classes are offered by Harvard College and not by HKS, undergraduates don’t normally benefit from the perspective of HKS faculty research and real-world expertise.

“They’re hungry for something we have lots of at the Kennedy School,” Chandra said. “Let’s do more for them.”

The program, “From Harvard to the Field: An Analytical Toolkit for International Development,” was taught to 30 students by Chandra, Rema Hanna, an assistant professor of public policy, Asim Khwaja, a professor of international finance and development, and Rohini Pande, professor of public policy. The workshop also included guest speakers, including Harvard Professor Michael Kremer, who spoke about his career path in international development, and Jishnu Das, senior economist at the World Bank, who shared his work putting together this year’s World Bank Development Report.

Other programs that received funding this year include:

  •   “Science, Medicine and Religion in an Age of Skepticism” in Cambridge, U.K., led by Anne Harrington, professor of the history of science.
  •   The Harvard Summer Program in Munich, led by Peter Burgard, professor of German, which focuses on the German language and cultural history of Munich.
  •   The Harvard Summer Program in Trento, Italy, which occurs at the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences at the University of Trento and is led by Alfonso Caramazza, professor of psychology; John Assad, professor of neurobiology; and George Alvarez, assistant professor of psychology.
  •   “Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe,” held on campus and led by Caroline Buckee, assistant professor of epidemiology; David Cutler, professor of applied economics and of global health and population; and Manoj Duraisingh, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases.
  •  The Harvard Summer Program in Santiago, Chile, led by Brad Epps, professor of Romance languages and literatures and of studies of women, gender, and sexuality, and Sergio Delgado, assistant professor of Romance languages and literatures.
  •   “From Biome to Genome,” which also takes place in Shanghai, and which is led by Viel and Peter Girguis, associate professor of the natural sciences.