Graduate Commons Program helps residents ease social isolation

Zoom screenshot.

Anthony Jack discusses his book during a Zoom event.

2 min read

In mid-March when undergraduate students were preparing to quickly leave campus, most Harvard University Housing residents remained in place. The Graduate Commons Program (GCP) continues to serve them to combat the social isolation that comes along with physical distancing.

GCP quickly moved from in person to online programming to maintain social connection and important conversations. As one resident noted, “The Harvard Housing Community seems to constitute the majority of people remaining on campus. We are now faced with the huge challenge of how to be productive and connected during an extended period of social distancing.” To meet this challenge, GCP offered a variety of programs.

Academic Initiative programming including a family-centered collaboration with the Harvard Ed Portal called “Mind Matters: Families Make a Difference.” GCP continues to support affinity learning groups through virtual meet-ups, such as the Next Gen Initiative, a collaborative programming effort from across campus that serves first generation graduate students at Harvard.

Virtual Office Hours with GCP Faculty Directors allowed Faculty to check-in with residents and make sure they feel supported. One resident responded to their efforts by sharing in a recent survey, “Faculty director office hours have been very helpful recently for identifying ways to adapt to the career challenges caused by the shutdown.”

This year’s program, Forging Futures in Divided Times, began with in-person lectures from the Institute of Politics’ John Della Volpe and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay. Faculty Director Nancy Hill hosted Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Anthony Jack to discuss his work, “The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students.” The series concluded with a conversation featuring Harvard Business School professor Zoe Cullen’s research on pay equity with Graduate Commons Program Faculty Director Guhan Subramanian.

Social and family-focused programs continue virtually as well. Community Advisors host gaming tournaments and story hours for HUH’s school-aged residents, as well as book clubs, fitness classes, and mindfulness opportunities open to residents. Graduate Commons ended the semester with a variety of online events including a trivia tournament and arts and crafts session. Plans for summer programming are currently underway.