No doubt one of the primary aims of the Dean of Students Office is to ensure the smooth transition of the 1,670-member first-year class from secondary school to college – personally, socially, and academically – and to provide support in a variety of ways throughout the process.
During the summer prior to matriculation, for instance, students whose home or native country is a long distance from Cambridge are invited to join the host family program; and the week before the College’s orientation period – known as Opening Days – about half the first-year class arrives early for one of the six pre-orientation programs. Housing assignments in the first-year dorms are arranged by the Resident Deans based off a comprehensive housing application, and are done extremely carefully, by hand.
The DSO works in conjunction with other College offices to provide a strong advising network including Resident Deans and Proctors. The First-Year Residential and Wellness Program also provides ample opportunities for students to learn and grow academically outside the classroom. And, of course, the DSO promotes opportunities for faculty-student interaction through luncheons, dinners, language tables, and Into the Hub trips.
Finally, given that Harvard College and the DSO value integrity, respect, industry, and compassion both toward individuals and the academic enterprise, there are moments during the first year for students to consider how these fit into their own priorities. During Community Conversations, for instance, students engage with faculty members on topics ranging from diversity to academic integrity. And in Reflecting on Your Life students consider their own values and life’s big questions.
Harvard College is a dynamic and diverse place and the Dean of Students Office staff seeks to help students feel simultaneously supported and challenged, at home and out of their comfort zone. But above all else, whether it is in the classroom or outside, the DSO aims to foster both learning and understanding.