“Once I start thinking of all the people who deserve my gratitude, I realize that I have a lot of notes to write,” said FAS Dean Michael D. Smith (right), who chatted with student volunteer Mackenzie Hild ’14 in University Hall.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Taking a moment to give thanks

3 min read

‘Intentional pause’ makes room for donations, cards of appreciation

Under the gaze of past presidents and deans, Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) administrators and staff gathered this week to thank co-workers and colleagues for their professionalism and thoughtfulness — and to reach out to those less fortunate in the community.

Held in University Hall, the third annual FAS “Giving Thanks” event provided thank-you notes, refreshments, and even a station accepting clothing and food donations for the homeless. One of many such events held at Schools across Harvard — including Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Medical School — last year’s FAS open house collected more than 3,000 notes of appreciation.

“In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, we rarely get a chance to step back and take stock of the contributions so many around us make,” said Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “This event makes space for that kind of intentional pause. Once I start thinking of all the people who deserve my gratitude, I realize that I have a lot of notes to write. Thankfully, there are cookies.”

“Many of us spend so much time at work,” said Chris Ciotti, associate dean for Human Resources at FAS. “People enjoy taking a moment to say thank you to those who help them along the way — and those who receive these notes tell us that means a lot to them. It’s a great opportunity to connect those dots and let people know that their efforts are appreciated.”

Students were also on hand to reach out to the community. Representing the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, Conor Paterson ’16 collected donations from staff, administrators, and students for the shelter.

“The Harvard Square Homeless Shelter is an entirely student-run, volunteer shelter,” said Paterson, who has been volunteering with the organization for five years. “The best part is interacting with people that you wouldn’t normally interact with. There are many misconceptions about homeless people. I’ve gotten to know people who are very intelligent, very kind, people who have earned their college degrees. Interacting with these people really advances your view of the world, and your ability to respect people from all walks of society.”

The donation station accepted canned goods, cash donations, and gently used clothing and blankets. Coordinated through the Harvard Community Gifts program, last year’s collection included more than $1,500 and several hundred pounds of food for the shelter.

“What I’ve found is that people at the shelter are almost entirely people who are in their situation not through their own fault, but through unfortunate circumstance,” Paterson said. “It’s great to have this chance for people at Harvard to reach out to them.”