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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

The Entrepreneurs of Ideas

January-February 2014

Public-health dean Julio Frenk

Public-health dean Julio Frenk

Photograph courtesy of Harvard School of Public Health

During the final week of October, three academic units unveiled their goals within the $6.5-billion Harvard Campaign. Complete details are available at http://harvardmagazine.com/ topic/capital-campaign; highlights are summarized here.

 

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) disclosed its $450-million campaign on October 24; $167 million—37 percent of its goal—has already been pledged or received. The fundraising comes amid challenging financial times: in fiscal year 2013, HSPH derived 71 percent of its income from sponsored research (principally from the National Institutes of Health), and just 14 percent from its endowment—less than any other school—even as federal research funding has fallen sharply amid sequestration budget cuts.

The school outlined its priorities within four themes: old and new pandemics (from AIDS and malaria to obesity and heart disease); harmful physical and social environments (from respiratory illness and certain cancers to gun violence and suicide); poverty and humanitarian crises (preventable deaths and injuries across the globe); and failing health systems (impediments to effective, affordable healthcare and preventive health services). Slightly more than half the campaign will underwrite research and innovation ($226 million); the remaining funds are sought for endowed professorships ($64 million), student financial aid ($60 million), infrastructure improvements ($52 million), and educational innovation ($48 million). A recently completed curricular review was discussed in its “Second Century Symposium” on November 1; the school plans wide changes in teaching and its degree programs (see “Health Professionals for a New Century”).

During the campaign launch, which coincided with HSPH centennial celebrations, President Drew Faust and Dean Julio Frenk pointed to the 30-year increase in U.S. life expectancy during the twentieth century—25 years of which are attributed to public-health initiatives. The school bestowed three, one-time Centennial Medals and an inaugural Next Generation Award (recipients included Bill and Chelsea Clinton). Celebrations continued with a leadership summit on October 25, culminating in a panel of ministerial-level public-health officials representing four continents, reflecting the school’s role in advancing what Frenk called “bountiful ideas that have created a healthier world for millions of people everywhere.”

 

Introducing the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ (FAS) campaign in Sanders Theatre on October 26, dean Michael D. Smith highlighted changes in teaching and learning—a $150-million component of his faculty’s $2.5-billion fundraising goal (toward which $1 billion has been given or pledged, 40 percent of the goal). That priority encompasses technologically assisted pedagogy (Smith has championed and is a board member of edX and serves on the HarvardX leadership committee), course development, reconfigured classrooms, teacher training, and more.

Other priorities will serve to shore up FAS’s finances, as well as enable some new initiatives. Among the significant goals undergirding current needs are: undergraduate financial aid ($600 million, to help pay for the significant increases in scholarship support during the past decade); House renewal ($400 million toward the huge costs of the renovations, already under way) and the student experience (another $100 million, uses unspecified); and faculty and the scholarly enterprise ($600 million, about half of which would endow existing professorships; remaining funds would pay for a very limited number of new positions, graduate-student fellowships, new research initiatives and start-up support for junior-faculty members and newly tenured professors, and the libraries and other academic programs).

Forward-looking initiatives, including teaching and learning (listed above), encompass decanal discretionary resources ($250 million in annual current-use gifts from the Harvard College Fund, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Fund, and the Harvard College Parents Fund) and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS; $450 million, meant to support 20 additional professorships and their associated research, plus endowments for 10 existing faculty positions; teaching support, some of which overlaps Smith’s FAS-wide learning goal; research and innovation funds; and graduate-student fellowships).

Given that the University is separately raising the money (perhaps as much as several hundred million dollars, if donors can be found, to reduce reliance on debt financing) to build the Allston science facility where much of the SEAS faculty will be housed in coming years—its scope and program are being determined now, in tandem with the fundraising—the University’s newest school in many ways emerges as the defining priority of the entire Harvard Campaign.

 

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (RIAS) launched its $70-million campaign ($26 million, some 37 percent, is pledged or in hand) in Radcliffe Yard on October 28. Dean Lizabeth Cohen described five campaign priorities, beginning with the institute’s capacity to invest in experiment: “Just as venture capital invests in the entrepreneurs of industry,” she said, “so we invest in the entrepreneurs of ideas.”

Other priorities include diversifying programs and expanding global reach (in part by digitizing the Schlesinger Library’s collections to give more scholars around the world access to its unparalleled resources on women’s history); educating more students via collaborative research (by enlarging the oversubscribed program that pairs as many as 100 Harvard undergraduates with Radcliffe fellows each year); “advanc[ing] our impact across Harvard,” in Cohen’s words (by offering more exploratory seminars and workshops involving faculty members, for “multidisciplinary conversations”); and “sharing transformative knowledge with the public” (beyond already successful library outreach, webcasts of institute lectures, and so on).

“All of this happens,” the dean told the attendees, “because you believe in the importance of advanced study—of stretching beyond the expected to the barely imagined.”

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