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Harvard’s Culture Lab Taps 14 Projects for Diversity and Inclusion Grants

Harvard's Culture Lab Innovation Fund is a joint initiative between the Office of the President and the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.
Harvard's Culture Lab Innovation Fund is a joint initiative between the Office of the President and the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Audrey M. Apollon and Leah J. Teichholtz, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard’s Culture Lab Innovation Fund awarded grants to 14 teams working on projects to further diversity and inclusion on Harvard’s campus, the University announced last month.

Started in 2019 as a joint initiative between the Office of the President and the University’s Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, the Innovation Fund awards grants of up to $15,000 for initiatives that “advance a culture of belonging” on campus, per OEDIB’s website.

This year’s grant cycle offered application tracks on racial justice, mental health, and rebuilding community, though applicants could also choose a topic of their choice.

The 14 chosen initiatives, which Harvard publicly announced on Nov. 16, include standardizing pronoun data for Harvard affiliates, relieving stress experienced by Black students and staff through music, and implementing race-conscious curricula at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In an emailed statement, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Sherri A. Charleston said the Culture Lab — which received nearly 100 applications this year — looks forward to supporting the projects.

“The 14 project teams that received funding to pilot their ideas represent a shared commitment from University leadership and community members across Harvard to advance a culture of equity, inclusion, and belonging,” Charleston wrote.

The grant recipients, who learned of their selection this past summer, have been able to use the Harvard funding to begin implemention of their projects.

One of the chosen proposals, called the Peer Coaching Initiative, aims to equip students with tools to effectively support and listen to one another.

Marc O. Roudebush, a lecturer at the Graduate School of Education who is leading the project, said the initiative can help address mental health challenges for the student population.

“What the peer coaching does, that I thought could be helpful in that context, is it gives people an experience of being very open and honest and safe in talking to a peer about their aspirations and their struggles,” Roudebush said.

Roudebush said he and his team had a “great” experience applying for the grant, and that writing their application helped them further develop their idea, which was piloted at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“It forced us to really think through, ‘How is this relevant to inclusion, equity and belonging? How is this relevant to mental health?’” Roudebush said.

Another project recipient, Pronoun Data, is working to centralize Harvard affiliate pronoun data to help affiliates respectfully address one another.

“People have been asking for it as a show of Harvard’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging,” said project leader Carolyn M. Emberley, who serves as associate director of Harvard’s Identity and Access Management Services. “So where we see it going is being able to serve the data out to a bunch of different places.”

The project Harm to Harmony, which also received a grant this year, seeks to promote the philosophy of restorative justice — which promotes reconciliation and rehabilitation — to address instances of harm on campus.

Harm to Harmony project co-lead Bonnie M. Talbert, a lecturer in Social Studies, wrote in an email that she enjoyed collaborating with her colleagues on the grant proposal during the pandemic.

“Even though there was a lot of uncertainty while planning a project during a pandemic, it felt really good to be able to keep going through the inevitable setbacks and logistical hurdles that we faced,” Talbert wrote.

—Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at audrey.apollon@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at leah.teichholtz@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.

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