Grad Fest returns for the fifth year

Grad Fest.

Grad Fest at the Smith Campus Center. Photo by Bob Keene

3 min read

More than 700 graduate and professional school students convened at the Smith Campus Center  on Sept. 29 for the fifth annual Harvard Grad Fest.  Hosted by the Graduate Student Affairs Circle, Grad Fest brings graduate students and their families together early in the academic year to increase networks and support systems.

The event was supported through generous financial contributions from the President’s Office, Harvard Business School, Harvard Design School, Harvard Divinity School, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard Graduate Council, and the Graduate Commons Program.

The event, championed by President Larry Bacow over the past five years, features booths by different Harvard resources, and performances from Harvard groups and local artists, encouraging socialization and cross-School interactions.

“Currently, Grad Fest is one of the only events that allows graduate students from across the University to step out of our silos to come together as a community,” said Harvard Graduate Council President and HKS/HLS student Carlos A. Gonzalez Sierra, who co-hosted the event. “At the Harvard Graduate Council, we want to build on the legacy of Grad Fest and create more spaces for graduate students to come together as One Harvard.”

One of the enduring impacts of Grad Fest is the focus on inviting spouses, partners, and children as full members of the Harvard community.  Over the years, Grad Fest has offered story time, sing-alongs, face painting and more; allowing graduate student-parents the opportunity to connect with others going through the same challenges.

“I am a father, and this is the type of event where you build memories with your kids and get to know new people. Student-parents at Harvard are always looking for a chance to meet other parents to know how they deal with the stresses of daily life and expand our normal social circles,” shared Juan Pablo Ugarte, a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Design.

Grad Fest seemed more impactful this year as students come out of the pandemic’s social distancing phase. “As a result of the pandemic, people have gotten comfortable at home or working in a hybrid fashion.  While that works for many, it decreases the amount of time we interact and socialize with our peers. This event allows us to hang out with people in our cohorts and meet people from the other Schools,” shared Chanthia Ma, graduate student in the Division of Medical Sciences the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

That sentiment was shared by many, whether they took part in the 360-photo booth, chair massages, or ended their night on the dance floor. “Being back in person is about learning to be your authentic self from a place of sharing and celebrating in community,” said Sari Saint-Hilaire, a graduate student at Harvard Graduate School of Education. “I’ve met a ton of people here at Grad Fest from other Schools and I’m grateful.  I haven’t had a chance to explore outside of my campus, so this has been great!”