Smith Campus Center

The Graduate Commons Program is taking its "Meet the Scholar" speaker series to the top floor of the Smith Campus Center. The series kicks off Feb. 20 with Harvard Business School Professor Anita Elberse.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard file photo

Campus & Community

A ‘Meet the Scholar’ lineup

6 min read

Graduate Commons Program to host five speakers whose career and work exemplify program’s core values

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.

Professor Anita Elberse will represent the GCP pillar, Learning Outside the Classroom.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard file photo

HBS Professor Anita Elberse

This year’s “Meet the Scholar” series is built around the GCP’s defining core values, called the Four Pillars: Building Community; Bridging Divides Across Cultures and Disciplines; Service to Self and Others; and Learning Outside the Classroom. Each upcoming speaker for GCP will show how these pillars have guided them through their own journeys. During each session, GCP faculty directors will moderate a question and answer session with the speaker, which will be followed by a networking reception.

Seating for the series is extremely limited. Residents may sign up for individual lotteries to each event by following the links below. Limit one guest per registration. This event is intended for adults only. Registrants must supply a Harvard email account and confirm a calendar invitation from GCP to attend. Calendar invitations must be accepted within 48 hours, or your spot may be given to another lottery registrant. Each event is on the 10th floor of the Smith Campus Center.

Here’s the full “Meet the Scholar” speaker lineup. The events are open to residents of Harvard University Housing:

Anita Elberse

Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
Feb. 20, 7-8:30 p.m.
GCP Pillar: Learning Outside the Classroom

Professor Anita Elberse is an award-winning scholar focusing on business, entertainment, media, and sports. Her talk, titled “Blockbusters and Superstars: On the Business of Media, Entertainment, and Sports,” will explore what drives the success of products in the entertainment, media, sports, and other creative industries, and how firms can effectively manage products and talent in these sectors.

Sign up for the lottery here

Hugh Herr

Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, and Co-Director of the MIT Center of Extreme Bionics
Feb. 25, 6:30-8 p.m.
GCP Pillar: Building Community

Harvard alumnus and MIT professor Hugh Herr is responsible for breakthrough advances in bionic limbs that provide greater mobility and new hope to those with physical disabilities. A double amputee himself, Herr is the author or co-author of more than 150 peer-reviewed papers and patents, chronicling the science and technology behind his many innovations.

Sign up for the lottery here

Thomas Glynn

Chief Executive Officer, Harvard’s Enterprise Research Campus in Allston
March 6, 6:30-8 p.m.
GCP Pillar: Service to Self and Others

Thomas Glynn is a former CEO of Massachusetts Port Authority and current senior official in charge of developing the 36-acre enterprise research campus in Allston, the largest non-academic commercial development in Harvard’s history. Glynn will focus on the University’s efforts to strengthen and expand partnerships throughout the region, especially among peer institutions, local hospitals, businesses, and investors.

Sign up for the lottery here

Cornel West

Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard Divinity School
March 26, 6-7:30 p.m.
GCP Pillar: Bridging Divides Across Cultures

Professor Cornel West is a political activist, social critic, and author. West focuses on the role of race, gender, and class in American society. He has written 20 books, most notably “Race Matters” and “Democracy Matters.”

Sign up for the lottery here

Mark Gearan

Director of the Institute of Politics, Harvard Kennedy School
April 2, 6:30-8 p.m.
GCP Pillar: Service to Self and Others

Closing this year’s “Meet the Scholar” program is HKS’s Mark Gearan. A leading voice at the intersection of education and public service, Gearan has held numerous leadership roles in American politics, government, and education, including director of the Peace Corps, White House communications director, and White House deputy chief of staff. Gearan will speak on what it means to be a servant leader, especially during these turbulent political times.

Sign up for the lottery here