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As it Happened: Harvard Commencement 2023
Fourteen seniors were announced Friday as senior class marshals for the Class of 2021.
The marshals, who collectively comprise the Senior Class Committee, are tasked with organizing class-wide events up until Commencement in May. They also coordinate the Senior Gift fund and plan post-graduation reunion events.
This group of marshals will undertake a task unlike that of previous classes. With the pandemic displaying no clear end in sight, it is still unclear whether seniors will return to campus in the spring, let alone enjoy its usual pre-commencement events like the senior soirée, senior olympics, senior talent show, and the Last Chance Dance. Harvard has yet to announce which cohorts it will invite back to campus next semester.
After a two-round election last week, Samyra C. Miller ’21 and Prashanth “PK” Kumar ’21 were named First and Second Marshals, respectively.
Miller said she received the news Thursday morning right after Hurricane Zeta had hit her hometown of New Orleans and her house lost power.
“I was kind of laying in my bed and listening to this little emergency radio because it was the only thing that would work, listening to storm recovery updates on the radio, trying to find some way to pass the time,” she recounted. “Then I get a phone call and turn the radio down, and it's them telling me that I was the first marshal.”
Miller said she is excited to create long lasting connections for her class during their final semester at Harvard and future reunions.
“The final few semesters of our time at Harvard, we spent separated, and so I think that will play a crucial role, especially down the line, when having those reunions,” she said. “We might have some big turnout simply because we weren't able to kind of be all together for those last times.”
Kumar acknowledged that the pandemic and social distancing guidelines would inevitably reshape the canonical senior week, which usually involves a number of large, indoor gatherings.
“How do we use our amazing people to create the sense of community for other people who don't feel part of the community as much right now? Or if you didn't feel like Harvard was the best four years of your life?” he said. “We're catering to everyone.”
“I'm sure we can figure out ways to host more outdoor events or more socially distanced and fun events around campus,” Kumar added.“There'll be ways to break down the larger class of 2021 community into smaller groups.”
Christopher M. Altizer ’21, one of the six Program Marshals, said he is confident that the senior class can celebrate itself and its accomplishments this spring, even within the restrictions imposed by coronavirus. The program marshals are people who place third through eighth in the election process.
“I really enjoy putting on events that are inclusive and exciting for students,” he said. “I'm also excited to really just be trying to embody that spirit of the senior class that I know is there, but that might be a little quiet now because of the pandemic.”
In addition to the Program Marshals, six seniors were appointed Gift Marshals by the Harvard College Fund after they underwent an application and interview process.
Lin Zhu ’21, one of these Gift Marshals, said she is eager to help spearhead the senior gift campaign during this “unique and challenging time.”
“The senior gift really goes to support many different clubs and student activities. And I think during this time with Covid and the pandemic, it makes it so important that these clubs do have funding so when students do come back, they are able to have these really enriching and fulfilling experiences,” she said. “It makes a direct impact.”
In the coming weeks, the class marshals will work on interviewing and selecting the remainder of the committee: the secretary, treasurer, media team, and house representatives.
Swathi R. Srinivasan ’21, a Program Marshal, said despite the uncertainty of the upcoming semester, she is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the rest of the committee to serve their class.
“I think it's hard for any of us to know what's next and how we're going to form this community, especially virtually, probably the most atypical time last century,” she said. “My personal focus is to build and bolster a sense of community at a time when this community feels so awfully hard to come by and just to remind people that for the rest of our lives, community will exist and persist through all of this.”
The full list of seniors selected as members of the Senior Class Committee is below:
Samyra C. Miller ’21 (Lowell)
Prashanth “PK” Kumar ’21 (Mather)
Christopher M. Altizer ’21 (Winthrop)
Rachel P. Freed ’21 (Kirkland)
Yuri-Grace B. Ohashi ’21 (Cabot)
Swathi R. Srinivasan ’21 (Eliot)
Matthew Thomas ’21 (Kirkland)
Jackson C. Walker ’21 (Dunster)
Helen H. Huang ’21 (Currier)
Rick Li ’21 (Leverett)
Amanda K. Litka ’21 (Eliot)
Sreya R. Sudireddy ’21 (Adams)
Jack O. Yan ’21 (Adams)
Lin Zhu ’21 (Kirkland)
—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.
—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.
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