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As it Happened: Harvard Commencement 2023
As students prepare for online instruction for the remainder of the semester in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, arts concentrators are facing a number of challenges in completing their thesis projects and coursework.
Dean of Arts and Humanities Robin E. Kelsey acknowledged these challenges in a letter sent to divisional faculty and staff on March 10. In the letter, he highlighted the need for new forms of instruction and evaluation of work.
“The core pedagogy in our Division involves face to face interaction, and some of our courses are grounded in resources — studios, art supplies, equipment, ensembles, galleries, etc. — to which students will lose access when they leave campus,” Kelsey wrote. “Those of us who were planning to evaluate students based on projects using Harvard equipment or supplies, will need to think creatively about other forms of engagement and assessment.”
Theater, Dance & Media concentrator Genevieve S. Lefevre ’20 found herself navigating uncharted territory when the planned production of her thesis play in Farkas Hall was halted. Lefevre wrote the show, called “In the Beginning,” and had planned to act in it as well.
Lefevre said her departmental advisors have provided support and increased flexibility in regard to the completion of her thesis.
“I’ve been in conversation with my advisors about the changes to the way my thesis will be evaluated, and the concentration is being really flexible with shifting the criteria around,” Lefevre said. “Some things will remain the same — for example, I will still turn in my script and a 20 page critical paper — but for assessing my work as an actor, we’re talking about writing monologues for myself and filming them.”
Lefevre noted that while the coronavirus outbreak has complicated the completion of her thesis, she is not completely disappointed in the prospects of her project.
“On a personal note, I’m not concerned about the grade I get for this project, because I didn’t do it for the grade or even for the honors distinction,” Lefevre said. “I chose to write a senior thesis, because this is a project that I care deeply about.”
“I have learned a lot from this process, and while it won’t be exactly what I imagined due to coronavirus, I will still hopefully be able to wrap up this experience in an artistically meaningful way,” she added.
In addition to impacting the completion of senior thesis projects, the COVID-19 outbreak has also affected instruction within the Theater, Dance & Media department, creating novel challenges for practical courses, such as acting and dance.
Julia H. Riew ’21, a Theater, Dance & Media and Music joint concentrator, said a highly-anticipated field trip in her class “The Making of a Musical: The Creative Process” to New York City had to be cancelled as a result of the outbreak, which led to disappointment for many of her classmates.
Lefevre underscored the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak, noting the lack of definitive plans for instruction in her acting classes.
“I think monologue work will be pretty straight-forward, but I am especially curious about how scene work with partners will function virtually,” Lefevre said. “Basically, I have no idea how this is going to work, and I think my professors are still figuring it out themselves.”
—Staff writer Meera S. Nair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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