Many incoming Harvard College students have long gotten a jumpstart on the Crimson experience through pre-orientation programs in the week before move-in day. Now there is also the First-Year Retreat and Experience (FYRE), four days of activities and events designed for students from a range of underrepresented backgrounds.
The aim of the program, currently a two-year pilot supported by the Dean of Students Office, is to help incoming students who are the first in their families to go to college or are from modest economic means, or both, feel they belong at Harvard, said Andrew Pérez ’20. Pérez is a first-generation student from Los Angeles and the co-chair and driving force behind this initiative backed by Harvard students and administrators. The group’s message, he said, is “You made it here, you belong here, it’s going to be OK.”
At a welcoming event on Thursday evening, Harvard’s new president reinforced that message.
In keeping with the reputation he had when he led Tufts University as a hands-on, approachable leader, President Larry Bacow accepted an email invitation from Pérez earlier this month to address the group, which also met with Rakesh Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College, and Sarah Thomas, vice president of the Harvard Library.
As about 95 FYRE participants filed into Widener Library’s vaulted Loker Reading Room, Bacow stood in the doorway, shaking hands and introducing himself as Larry. Later, in brief remarks, he encouraged the students not to be afraid to ask questions, to make connections with people, and to be “generous with your time to your classmates.”