John Harvard's Journal
The Campaign Context
Contemporary university fundraising drives collect stupendous sums: the Stanford Challenge attracted $6.23 billion; the University of Southern California has set a $6-billion goal. Given Harvard’s place in American higher education, a similar sum is likely to headline coverage of The Harvard Campaign at its public unveiling on September 21. But the academic aims for which the campaign seeks support, and the changing context in which it is conducted, matter far more to Harvard’s future. In summer conversations, President Drew Faust and Provost Alan M. Garber provided a broad overview of their capital-campaign goals. Dan Shore, vice president for finance and chief financial officer, put it in the context of forces reshaping research universities (see “Financial Focus”).
The campaign aims to make Harvard “stronger in every way,” Faust said: intellectually, in facilities, and financially. The latter objective, she noted, sounds obvious but is not: gifts can initiate but not fully pay for new programs that require additional University funds. Such demands can compete with the core goals: strengthening Harvard’s capacity to attract superb students and scholars and support their learning, teaching, and research; and selectively pursuing new priorities. In this sense, Faust emphasized, the campaign is carefully balanced. That reflects continuing costs from Harvard’s robust expansion during the past dozen years (in expensive laboratories and other facilities, the professorial ranks, and financial aid); the long period since the University Campaign concluded in 1999 (many peers have conducted two or more fund drives in the interim); and newly challenging economic circumstances (the $11-billion decline in the endowment’s value in fiscal year 2009, uneven investment results since, and now reduced federal research support).
University-wide, Faust emphasized four broad themes:
- Access and talent. “What we are,” she said, “is going to depend in no small part on who we are.” Hence, a strong campaign focus on financial aid and on faculty resources.
- Interdisciplinary scholarship and learning. Faust pointed to “the changing nature of knowledge and the integration of knowledge across fields”—a University focus, atop schools’ priorities, to enable inquiry across disciplinary boundaries.
- Internationalization. She pointed as well to the importance of “enabling Harvard to be global”—to take advantage of a more open world by bringing people to campus to study and conduct research, and enabling students and professors to work worldwide.
- The digital world. “New digital opportunities in higher education,” she said, impel broad focus on teaching and learning, and on broader questions of privacy, data security, and so on.
How these motifs play out as specific campaign goals will unfold over time—at the September 21 launch events; during the following 18 months as the individual schools begin their own fundraising efforts; and throughout the anticipated five-year public Harvard Campaign itself, Faust indicated. Some priorities will become more concrete as academic leadership coalesces around desired aims; she pointed to the 2012 creation of edX, Harvard’s online-learning partnership with MIT, as an example of a significant effort that did not exist two years earlier, when campaign planning was already well under way.
But a few concrete objectives can be discerned now. Beyond financial aid, priorities that loom large, Provost Garber said, include a flagship intellectual goal and its associated building needs: securing sufficient endowment and other funds to support the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS, formally established as a school within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences [FAS] in 2007) and its planned expansion; and providing the large new facilities it requires for teaching and its burgeoning interdisciplinary, applied research in association with other Harvard schools. That facility will be the foundation for future Harvard growth in Allston. Another major goal is the comprehensive renewal of the College’s residential Houses—a $1-billion-plus program already under way. (Other, substantial building plans include more investment in common spaces, like the renewed Science Center plaza (see “Uncommon Space”), and especially the Allston construction and renovation envisioned for Harvard Business School [HBS] and the athletic facilities, detailed in the University’s regulatory filing with Boston authorities on July 26, covering 1.4 million square feet of projects during the next decade, much of it tied to campaign support—see “Allston Advances,” page 57.)
Faust sketched some of the inherently cross-school programs the campaign will attempt to support—many pursuing new intellectual opportunities where research and teaching can have “a real impact on the world”—in fields such as global health; energy and the environment; stem-cell science; and neuroscience. Presumably, elaborating such programs will also help specify how Harvard wishes to define its global footprint.
Harvard will also “foreground” pedagogy and learning, Faust said, building on diverse elements such as the Harvard Initiative on Learning and Teaching and edX. This encompasses “hands-on learning” of a sort the University has not previously embraced, she noted, via the “making” aspects of cognition in at least two realms: engineering and applied sciences (tying into the priority given to SEAS) and the arts (aspirations detailed in a 2008 task-force report Faust commissioned early in her presidency; implementation has been slowed by the financial crisis and recession). Comparable interest appears in HBS’s experience-oriented first-year FIELD course, which complements the traditional case-based pedagogy, and in the Harvard Innovation Lab, used by students from many schools. (Discussing work on teaching across the University, HBS dean Nitin Nohria recently said, “I’ve been struck by how much of the experimentation does have this quality of making learning more visceral, team-based, and action-oriented.”)
As the emergence of applied-sciences and arts initiatives suggests, priority-setting for the campaign has itself been a protracted undertaking. Garber said the schools’ academic plans played the most important role, as refined through meetings of the council of deans (who identified common and cross-school wants) and the work of such existing entities as the University Committee on the Arts (an outgrowth of the 2008 report) and the University Science and Engineering Committee (dating to 2007).
Their recommendations were refined using criteria developed by Reid professor of law (and former acting dean) Howell Jackson to identify goals of University significance (whether multiple schools were involved, potential intellectual impact, and so on). That helped Garber when he assumed his post in 2011 and, Faust joked, “became the repository of people’s aspirations” for campaign funding. Of late, he and colleagues have determined which initiatives have leadership in place, how they fit with or augment existing programs, and so on. A group of supporters who helped test the feasibility of funding ideas has morphed into the campaign executive committee. The result will be the first truly all-University campaign, with every school participating.
Individual school objectives—how many existing professorships to try to endow and where to try to establish new ones, for instance, or discipline-specific substantive goals—will roll out in turn (FAS, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Radcliffe Institute are on deck for late October). Faust mentioned as examples the undergraduate concentration in architecture and design and a proposed program in theater and dance performance, both with teaching connections well beyond the College.
As the effort gears up, Faust and Garber both stressed the reinforcement of community among alumni—and not just for the hoped-for, tangible benefits of wide, successful philanthropic participation. During the planning process, Faust said, it became clear that this is a “particularly salient moment for higher education,” a time to think through Harvard’s priorities as higher education itself changes—intellectually, and under pressure from external economic and social forces—and to help define directions for the academy at large. “Rallying the community on behalf of higher education”—as she put it—during a period of uncertainty, or even doubt, in the larger society would in itself be an important accomplishment.