A sense of community and belonging with a sweeping view of campus.
Harvard Graduate Commons Program (GCP) is celebrating its 10th anniversary by partnering with the University’s Common Spaces website to take their “Meet the Scholar” speaker series to the top floor of the newly renovated Smith Campus Center, offering a special lineup of speakers including former CEO of Massachusetts Port Authority Thomas Glynn and political activist and social critic Cornel West.
Starting Feb. 20, GCP will host five speakers whose career and work exemplify the program’s defining core values. The events will allow GCP residents to explore topics beyond their daily pursuits while providing an opportunity for them and their spouses to connect with the larger Harvard community. Over the past decade, the GCP has welcomed dozens of prominent scholars, business leaders, and alumni from across the University and beyond as part of its speaker series, helping to bridge the divides among the learning, living, and cultural experiences at Harvard for GCP residents.
“Graduate Commons is all about the idea of One Harvard,” said Lisa Valela, director of the GCP. “We were started by President [Drew] Faust with the idea that everyone here belongs and that interdisciplinary engagement is a starting point for those inclusion and belonging issues on campus. We want to make people feel like they belong here. We want to provide opportunities for people to have these important cross discipline conversations in a more relaxed setting.”
Since its inception in 2008, the GCP has been known for its unique interdisciplinary effort to create a “home away from home” for a diverse residential population including graduate students, faculty, staff, and their families. Hundreds of events each year — organized by live-in faculty directors, resident community advisers, and staff — provide enriching social and intellectual opportunities for residents, including lecture series, dinner discussions, themed nights (coffee, wine, games), classes such as cooking and fitness, outings to local music and sporting events, kid-friendly activities like apple picking, and international holiday and cultural celebrations.
What began as a pilot program of 300 University apartments in two buildings near campus has been scaled up to a dynamic community, accommodating 5,000 residents across 108 buildings in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston. Resident surveys show the program is a success. Ninety-two percent of residents feel like the program helped them feel settled at Harvard and 86 percent said it made them feel part of the community.