The much-traveled path through Harvard College is a four-year cycle that ends in a breathtaking Commencement ceremony on Harvard Yard each spring.
But every Harvard student has a unique story, and sometimes their individual choices take students on journeys toward graduation off the traditional cycle.
Family, friends, classmates, professors, and school officials gathered last Friday to celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s class of more than 100 seniors at the Midyear Graduates Recognition Ceremony in the Radcliffe Institute’s Knafel Center.
“Some of these unplanned detours can lead to some of the most magical and exhilarating experiences of our lives, despite the momentary shock and reconsideration that it can cause,” Rakesh Khurana, the Danoff Dean of Harvard College, told attendees gathered at the ceremony. “Life intervenes, and we have to grapple with uncertainty, and it is in those moments of uncertainty that we encounter serendipity.”
Educational detours can be both planned and unplanned. Some students accelerate their studies and graduate early. Others take time off from school for internships or for personal projects, travel, or family emergencies. Gabriel Bayard ’15 worked on a campaign for a labor movement in Boston and took a break from his Harvard studies.
“I figured it would be really helpful to me to take a breath away from Harvard, but still be in Boston and be around friends,” he said. “It was a great decision.”
Julia F.P. Ostmann ’15-16, chosen by the 2016 Senior Class Committee to reflect on her experience at the College, reminded the audience of the struggles of poet T.S. Eliot, who was once placed on academic probation by the College. She said that Eliot took a nontraditional path to eventual success, eventually graduating early from Harvard and in 1948 winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.
“What I believe is that in taking time off or in choosing to graduate early — in committing to field research in India or freelance writing or White House internships or taking the time and space to heal — or in my case 113 episodes of ‘Parks and Recreation’ — our attention shifts,” said Ostmann. “We stand outside of Harvard, and we see it differently. Maybe just slightly, maybe just enough to gain a newfound appreciation … or maybe you finally feel you get it.”