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UC, Harvard Grad Council Collaborate on Mentorship Program

The Undergraduate Council held its first meeting of the fall 2018 semester in the newly renovated Smith Campus Center. The UC is partnering with the Harvard Graduate Council to form a new mentorship program.
The Undergraduate Council held its first meeting of the fall 2018 semester in the newly renovated Smith Campus Center. The UC is partnering with the Harvard Graduate Council to form a new mentorship program. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Jonah S. Berger, Crimson Staff Writers

The Undergraduate Council and the Harvard Graduate Council plan to create a mentorship program this fall that will pair undergraduate and graduate students on the basis of common interests and career goals.

Catherine L. Zhang ’19 and Max Vani, who lead the UC and HGC, respectively, said the initiative marks the start of further collaboration between the bodies.

HGC is comprised of representatives from each of Harvard’s 12 graduate schools, including the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Though GSAS students also elect a separate student council, the Graduate Student Council, HGC handles matters that affect all graduates students, including those at the Law School and Medical School.

Zhang and Kevin Tian, Vani’s predecessor, first discussed the possibility of a partnership between the UC and HGC in early 2018. After Vani took office in April, he and UC Vice President Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 met to formulate the outlines of a mentorship program, based on input they received from students.

Vani said the diversity of the graduate student community at Harvard means mentors can offer both professional and academic guidance to undergraduates based on their experience.

“What complicated things for the graduate council is that, unlike the undergraduates, we have 12 different schools which attract different kinds of students,” he said. “We have some that are professionally-oriented, where people come with years of professional experience, and then we have some like [GSAS] where the orientation is primarily academic.”

Before they are paired, prospective mentors and mentees will fill out a survey indicating the kind of advice they would like to receive and their experience.

“There’s a lot of interest...not only among graduate students to mentor, but also undergraduate students to be mentored especially with their academic fields of interest or just life paths,” Zhang said. “Many students who are now graduate students have had experience in the workforce and have come back or have specific interests than can be more tailored to undergraduate students.”

Undergraduates already have a myriad of opportunities to engage with mentors. The College assigns each student an academic advisor — oftentimes a graduate student or proctor — who approves class schedules and can offer career advice to the student. Freshman undergraduates can also seek counsel from upperclassmen Peer Advising Fellows.

Still, Zhang said there remains a need for an informal, graduate-undergraduate mentorship program.

“Graduate students...have a specific line of focus that undergraduate students that are interested can learn more about,” she said. “They’re oftentimes closer in age range...than say, faculty members, or professors, or your academic advisor, but a little further along than just your peers.”

“We’re excited to create a partnership that will last for years to come,” she added. “This is something that we’re hoping to institutionalize as well, to make sure we’re collaborating very effectively.”

— Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

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