Welcome Back!

August 30, 2019

Dear Harvard College Students,

Welcome back to campus! Over the past few days I have seen many of you around campus and it has been great to hear about your summer adventures – your jobs, research, travel, study abroad – and I hope that all of you have had a good summer. I had a wonderful summer of seeing family and friends, doing a little traveling, and even returning to my favorite sport of swimming with some open water races.
No matter what year you are, the start of the fall semester provides a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm for the opportunities ahead. This past Tuesday we welcomed new First-Year students to campus and now the Houses and our new Dudley Community are orienting sophomores to their new communities and preparing for returning students. Juniors might be continuing or taking on new leadership positions in organizations or teams, and seniors may already be deep into thesis preparation, considerations about graduate school, or simply preparing for your fourth year here at Harvard. Hopefully all of you feel more sure-footed as you return, with the year or years of previous Harvard experience now behind you.
We in the Dean of Students Office (DSO) have been working this summer to get ready for the coming year, and the entire DSO team is eager to engage with you in the coming days and weeks ahead. In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about some new faces, new initiatives, and other updates from DSO and share some of our priorities for the academic year.

New Staff

Over the summer we were thrilled to welcome new staff members to the DSO in important roles. 

First, Nekesa Straker joined us as the Senior Assistant Dean of Residential Life and First-Year Students. In her role, Nekesa oversees all aspects of residential life for First-Year students, including first-year specific programming and the coordination of their housing assignments. She has already done a great job making the Class of 2023 feel at home, and I hope you will have a chance to meet her soon.

In addition, we welcomed Lily Castro as the Director of Orientation and Family Engagement. Lily is responsible for overseeing orientation programs, pre-orientation programs, and Wintersession. Lily will play a key role in ensuring the success of these important events, and in leading our communications efforts with parents, families, and other loved ones.

Finally, students in Adams House and Eliot House welcomed new Resident Deans Chip Lockwood (Adams) and Andrea Wright (Eliot), joining an excellent team of resident deans both in the Yards and in the Houses.

The Harvard Foundation and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

One of the fundamental goals within the DSO is to ensure that we are identifying the educational, training and support needs of students around issues of belonging and inclusion, using an inclusive excellence framework in line with the University’s belonging and inclusion efforts. This is a multi-faceted effort, and the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations plays a critical role in helping us to achieve this. To that end, we are delighted that the Foundation is now part of the Dean of Students Office, allowing us to further integrate its work into the day to day lives of students. 

As we continue think about the best structure for the leadership of the Foundation, I am pleased to announce that Sheehan Scarborough, Director of BGLTQ Office of Student Life, will serve as Acting Director. Sheehan has been an outstanding partner in promoting the inclusivity and diversity that is at the core of the Dean of Students Office, and we are grateful that he will be taking on this additional role. Joining him in this effort will be Acting Assistant Director Sade Abraham and Administrative Coordinator Sonia David. The team will report to Associate Dean Alex Miller while the search for the permanent Associate Dean for Inclusion and Belonging continues.

Engaging with you in the coming year

In the upcoming year, we’ve set some broad goals within DSO, including a focus on creating a residential and co-curricular culture of well-being for students that addresses mental health, physical health, personal development and social connections. There are many student organizations and leaders who share in this goal, and we will partner with students and offices across the College and University towards achieving it.

We also want to continue to improve how we communicate and engage with you about your experiences. To that end, I and the associate deans will hold weekly office hours for students and welcome the opportunity to meet and talk with you. We also encourage you to download the Omni App onto your smartphone. There you will find helpful information including shuttle schedules, Dining Hall menus, and information about major events including Crimson Jam, Harvard-Yale, Yardfest, and more. You can also use the Omni App to access critical resources such as HUHSOSAPRAODSTitle IX, and HUPD

Lastly, there are two terrific upcoming events that I hope you will join me for on Friday, September 6:

I look forward to seeing all of you at the Student Involvement Fair, which will begin in Tercentenary Theater at 3:00pm.

Later that night, at 5:30pm, I hope you will join us for Crimson Jam, a campus-wide block party co-hosted by the DSO and the College Events Board, and featuring a live performance from Jaysean.

To help you stay connected to events throughout the semester, our office sends all students the You’re Invited newsletter, which is a weekly email that highlights upcoming arts, cultural, and social events sponsored by the Harvard community.

On behalf of all DSO staff, we are happy you are back and are grateful to work with you!

Kind Regards,

Katie O'Dair
Dean of Students