Campus & Community

Shopping around

4 min read

At the start of each semester, students sample classes to see what’s right for them

The longstanding and distinctly Harvard tradition known to students as “shopping week” just ended. For the first several days of each semester, undergraduates are given an opportunity to sit in on any class, check out the syllabus, and listen to a professor discuss what the course will be like before they commit to an entire semester of studies.

Noel Bisson, associate dean of undergraduate education at Harvard College, said that unlike most colleges and universities, which require students to choose courses before attending their first lecture, Harvard’s shopping week gives students “full freedom of choice” to decide if a class is right for them before formally registering. The system helps them to make informed decisions.

“It’s a chance for them to get a real, live taste of how a lot of our faculty teach,” she said. “I hope they’re using it to fire up their intellectual curiosity.”

Ingrid Monson, Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music, lectures in Paine Hall during African and African American Studies 97a: “R&B, Soul, Funk.” Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Students work on laptops in Eric Mazur’s Applied Physics 50a: “Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering.” Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics Eric Mazur teaches 50a: “Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering” in Pierce Hall. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
William Henry Bloomberg Professor of Economics Raj Chetty uses projected diagrams in his “Public Economics and Fiscal Policy I” class, held in the Littauer Building. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Cassandra Peitzman (left) and Gabriel Tourek listen to Raj Chetty’s lecture. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Charles Warren Professor of American History Vincent Brown teaches “African Diaspora in the Americas” in Sever Hall. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Cary Williams ’16 pays close attention to Vincent Brown’s lecture during class. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Professor of the Classics and of History Emma Dench teaches in Harvard Hall. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
Elliot Wilson ’15 (left) and Stefan Poltorzycki ’15 socialize with other students before the start of Emma Dench’s class. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
Students gather in Sanders Theatre for Professor Michael Puett’s lecture on Chinese history. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
Michael Puett, Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History and chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion, lectures on the Sanders Theatre stage. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
Students take notes on laptops during Michael Puett’s talk. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
Adaliss Rodriguez M.T.S. ’15 raises her hand to ask a question in Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor Arthur Kleinman’s General Education class “Case Studies in Global Health” in the Northwest Science Building. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Kolokotrones University Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine Paul Farmer (left), Associate Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine Salmaan Keshavjee, and Arthur Kleinman speak together during “Case Studies in Global Health.” Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Harvard Hall hosts 300th Anniversary University Professor Laurel Ulrich’s class “Tangible Things.” Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Students ask questions during “Ethics, Biotech, and the Future of Human Nature,” a joint class of Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor in the Natural Sciences Doug Melton and Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government Michael Sandel. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Xander University Professor Doug Melton teaches “Ethics, Biotech, and the Future of Human Nature” in Tsai Auditorium at CGIS South. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government Michael Sandel talks with students following class. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer