Resident Reflections of GCP

BerniceOne of the best decisions we made and always tell others is choosing to live in Harvard Housing, with the added bonus of being a part of the Graduate Commons Program. We have attended a number of events ranging from felting, movie screenings, massage classes to meeting Harvard scholars. I’d say the best part is really getting to know your neighbors from the different schools, who we would never have met otherwise. As a spouse of a grad student in HKS, the GCP has helped me build on different skills and make lasting friendships that I will truly miss once we leave.”– Resident Bernice Dy



10,515 miles. That’s the distance between Boston and Melbourne, Australia, where I come from. While it was exciting for me to make this move to support my husband in his studies, it was a long, long way from home. We were on our own, far away from everyone and everything I knew. At the start of our time in Boston, I didn’t know my place in the Harvard community, as I wasn’t the one who was enrolled as a student. I thought of myself as being “just a spouse”. I asked myself, time and again, how I was going to survive two years of being here.

So, I began my journey of fitting into the Harvard community. Lucky for me, I was connected to the Graduate Commons Program. I made an effort to attend GCP events regularly. Seeing familiar faces laiyneweek after week and knowing people’s names in my neighborhood made a difference to my sense of belonging. I also got connected to the Harvard Kennedy School by auditing classes and working on a student project there; but at the GCP events, I met students (and their family members) from other schools as well.

Being part of the GCP was a lifesaver. I could always count on the program for fun social activities, rather than having to organize them myself. There was a great variety of events to choose from—monthly happy hour and wine nights, painting and cooking classes, “meet the scholar” dinners and talks, trips to museums and cultural activities, and the list goes on. I got to know the Faculty Directors at both Akron and Cowperthwaite buildings, and felt welcomed in their homes.

During our first winter here, we found out that we could borrow board games from the GCP. We decided to organize our first informal games night and invited a few friends and neighbors to come along. We had so much fun doing that, we decided to ask the GCP Coordinator if we could make our games night part of the GCP events. She was thrilled about our idea, and since then we have been organizing a monthly games night (continuously for a year and a half). We are so grateful to GCP for making us feel at home and for letting us host games night every month. We are very sad to be leaving this community soon, as it has indeed become our home.” –Resident Lainey Weiss





This year is my second year of living at Peabody Terrace (PT) and I have enjoyed every moment of it! I had the privilege of participating in the wide variety of programs offered by GCP during my first year, and the pleasure of working with the GCP team at Peabody Terrace as a Community Adviser during my second year. Both experiences gave me the opportunity to encounter people from different programs and countries from all around the world. There have been many great moments to reflect upon. But, the most outstanding has been moments shared with fellow Community Advisers who are passionate about creating wonderful experiences for the students the serve.” –Resident Florence Dennis






What does Cambridge mean to me? If asked this question in my first few months here, I would have coldly answered that it meant Harvard, studies and some old world buildings. Not at all a fair comment on a place that had tried to embrace me with the best she had to offer in those beautiful summer and fall months. Sunny weather, calming breeze, shimmering Charles river, beautiful sunsets and a sensual liveliness all around. Yet, I found myself shrugging off thnayanae embrace and trying to stay aloof. I was missing home and Cambridge’s charms hardly enticed me.

Seasons changed in quick successions thereafter (though the winter did last forever) and as I stand again at the threshold of summer, this blog post has inspired me to repeat the question. What does Cambridge mean to me? Today Cambridge means home to me where I have found intellectual drive and easy companionship at each turn, every day.

If I am to cite the one thing that helped me find my feet in this community and help me truly call it home, it has to be the Graduate Commons Program. The GCP program helped the likes of us struggling to find their moorings in a new place by regularly organizing innovative programs, bringing together people from across the Harvard community and helping us discover interesting things about each other. Some of my best memories of this community involve the weekend group outings organized by GCP where we visited museums and chocolate factories, volunteered in community activities, had truckloads of fun at the regatta or took ballroom dancing lessons all the while learning more about our partners and feeling truly part of a community.

I often refer to the GCP as a speed dating service that brings together people who may otherwise would have taken forever to meet. The GCP events across the year have catered to our varied interests helped us relax over great food and build great relationships. GCP owes its success not only to its members but also to its coordinators who have brought incredible passion into their work each day to ensure that the residents have an incredible experience. I have felt truly thankful to be part of this community that GCP has helped create for us and hope that many more of us will find knowledge, friendship and fun through the program.” –Resident Nayana RenuKumar




There are a few memories that stand out for me: I was passing around a tiny golden crown at the Winter Ball, and got pictures of people being “crowned” in their formal wear. It was adorable. There was also the trip to see the Donkey Show at Oberon, where I was pulled up to dance with the go-go faerie boys and started out petrified…then threw myself into it to cheers from the crowd. Finally, the “after-parties” that follow GCP events that usually involve new friends who want to keep the party going at their place, with late-night card games, and conversations that feel like I’m reliving my university dorm experience…which feels amazing.” –Resident Elissa Badique


A Reflection on Meet the Scholar events…

As we enter this reflective weekend of Easter and Passover across campus, I want to share some great intellectual moments from the year so far.  2015 will undoubtedly be most remembered for its fierce storms and record-setting snowfalls, but for me and those living in the Graduate Commons Program, it was full of wonderful events. Especially our Meet the Scholar series, which begins with dinner and ends with a wonderful lecture and Q&A session for our residents.

September saw the launch of the Graduate Commons Program across the Cambridge area, as well as the completion of our 29 Garden Street Common Space.  New Faculty Directors, Chris and Nancy Winship, wasted little time inviting scholars in to share their work with our residents:

  • Professor Ed Glaesar (HKS) shared his talk entitled “Triumph of the City” on September 17th
  • Professor James McCarthy (FAS) shared his work entitled, ““Severe Weather, Oceans, and Climate Change” on October 15th
  • Professor Carol Steiker (HLS) shared her talk entitled, “The Future of the American Death Penalty” on November 12th
  • University Professor Gary King, shared his recent work on Censorship in China on February 11th
  • Professor Nancy Hill (HGSE), shared a talk entitled, “Teenage Dreams: Sense of purpose, perceptions of the future, and the role of schools and families”
  • And soon, Faculty Director Chris Winship will speak on his work at both HKS and FAS.
Nancy Winship

Residents chat with Faculty Director Nancy Winship

Chris Winship

Dinner with Faculty Director Chris Winship

The Meet the Scholar Series has been well established by our Inaugural Faculty Directors in the Riverside Communities, Dr. Jennifer Lerner and Dr. Brian Gill in Cowperthwaite, and Dr. David Carrasco and Dr. Maria Luisa Parra in Akron.   The kept that tradition going this year by hosting an all-star line-up themselves:

  • Professor Stephen Walt (HKS) shared his talk, “”The Paradox of American Primacy”
  • Michael Norton (HBS) shared lessons from his book, “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending”
  • Daniel Shapiro (HLS) shared a talk entitled, “Negotiating in Times of Crisis”
  • Arthur Kleinman (FAS) talked openly with residents about Caregiving, especially with elderly family and friends
  • Steve Leveen, CEO of Levenger, shared his life story, including the creation of his company and plans for the next chapter of his life
  • Michael Puett (FAS) shared a talk entitled, “Why does Ritual Matter? Theories from Classical China”
  • Professor Ahmed Ragab (HDS) shared a talk on “A House for the Sick and Poor:  Development of hospitals in the medieval and early modern period especially around the Mediterranean”
  • Meghan O’Rourke (Radcliffe Fellow) shared a meal and book talk with residents on her upcoming release, “What’s Wrong With Me? The Mysteries of Chronic Illness”
  • And soon, HDS Professor Harvey Cox joins the distinguished group towards the end of April.
MTS_REsident Led

Resident Led Scholar Talk with Mihir Mankad


Meet the Scholar with Arthur Kleinman at Akron

Peabody Terrace could not be left out and held wonderful Meet the Scholar events of their own.  For good measure, they even included residents, who shared their work in a TED-style format.  Hosted by Jim and Doreen Hogle, these events were held in the PT Common Room this year:

  • Professor Vijay Iyer (FAS), also an accomplished composer and musician, discussed “Creative Music, Collaboration and Community” in September
  • Jeff Lichtman, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, spokeon “Connectomics: Mapping the Brain” in October
  • Michael VanRooyen (TCSPH) and Director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, spoke on “Humanitarian Futures and New Frontiers in Aid” in November
  • Wesley Wong (HMS), gave a talk entitled, “From Blood Clots to Nanobots: How Molecular BioPhysics is Changing How We Diagnose and Treat Disease”
  • Resident-Led Talks included:
    • ENDLESS FIGHTING AGAINST DEMENTIA: Is it possible to keep as far as we can from dementia? And how?” by LI XIONG, MGH-HMS
    • THE ART OF ORAL COMMUNICATION by MIHIR MANKAD, HKS Alum / Lecturer in Communication (Fletcher School)
  • Coming in April, Professor Tom Conley, Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies and of Romance Languages and Literatures will join the list.

Finally, GCP will hold its first ever LQBTA-themed lecture event featuring HKS/FAS Professor Timothy Patrick McCarthy this month.  The title of his talk is “Stonewall’s Children:  LGBTQ Equality and the Paradox of Progress.”  Professor McCarthy will discuss the history, politics, and culture of the U.S.-based LGBTQ movement from the Stonewall rebellion (1969) to the present day.


Looking for a few good residents….

Community Advisor Recruitment starts in February!

Community Advisors are Graduate Commons residents who want to make their community a vibrant and engaging place to live.  GCP Community Advisors plan a number of events throughout the academic year–everything from rock climbing, to tea tasting, to networking workshops, and much more.  The Community Advisor positions are selected after an application and interview process that starts in February.  Applicants must be a current resident of Graduate Commons Properties and in good standing with Harvard Housing to apply.  Look for information regarding Info Nights starting February 1st.

Positions available:  Family Programmer(2), Community Advisor (multiple locations)

It’s the Holiday Season…

For many individuals, a late Thanksgiving can make it tough to get into the winter holiday spirit. Additionally, colder temperatures and final exams here at Harvard can certainly put a damper on merriment and fun. Fortunately, the Graduate Commons Program didn’t miss a beat after a long weekend of turkey and all the fixings—indeed across all three areas, GCP embraced the opportunity to dance to classic Christmas tunes, decorate amazing trees, and take funny photos with holiday-themed props.

Garden Street Tree

Garden Street Tree

Akron Holiday Happy Hour

Akron Holiday Happy Hour

The monthly First Friday Happy Hour event kicked off holiday shenanigans in all areas. Over at Peabody Terrace, CA Lauren took over the dance floor, encouraging residents to swing along and enjoy holiday cookies and caprese skewers. There was quite an abundance of red and green, that’s for sure!

Lauren groovin to the beat

pt food

Holiday Eats!












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The Peabody Terrace Tree

At 29 Garden Street, residents struck a pose in front of a decorated fireplace, all the while trying on a variety of props to show their Christmas spirits. Garden residents also got a chance to sample awesome cannolis from the famous Mike’s Pastry Shop. Holiday-themed events continued throughout the weekend, including a customizable hot cocoa bar and family-oriented arts and crafts.

holiday props

Santa! I know him!


Choose your Picture Prop

ca fun

A Very Merry Cannoli Christmas

cocoa barartscrafts

Down at the Riverside properties, Christmas character gloves made an appearance at the last Happy Hour of 2014. The following day, Cowperthwaite FDs Jenn and Brian welcomed residents over to help decorate their 12 foot tall tree! From babies to doggies, everyone was in a festive mood. And despite the exams and final papers, Riverside residents took advantage of a DIY gingerbread house decorating event hosted by CA, Vaughn. Letting the creative juices flow all while enjoying a holiday film and the good company of neighbors and friends definitely helped alleviate the worry and stress so often associated with the end of the semester.


These bring a whole new meaning to ‘spirit fingers’


CA Tiffany tackling the holiday roulade

tree trimming

Trimming the CWP Tree

santa pup


jing and linda




gcp riverside 2014 holiday

Riverside Holiday Tree Trimming Group


Master gingerbread house makers


Rooftop decor











Even though we are all about to bid adieu to 2014, we hope you look forward to joining GCP in 2015 to take advantage of great events and programs like those you see above. If there is something you want to see on the GCP calendar, tell us! Your GCP Coordinators are eager to hear from you and provide you with activities that you want to do. Thanks for a great first semester, and as always, keep an eye out for more great events and happenings brought to you by the Graduate Commons Program.

Head of the Charles 2014

Last weekend GCP celebrated the 50th annual Head of the Charles Regatta with brunch!  Again, we held three simultaneous events at 10 Akron Street, Peabody Terrace, and the Cronkhite Center with nearly 400 residents in attendance.  In case you missed the festivities, here are a few of the highlights:

Getting in the mood with a “rowing” themed photo-booth at Peabody Terrace.


Great crowd at Peabody Terrace.


Beautiful day for racing.


More photo-booth fun!


No better view of the course then from the 10 Akron Street deck!


A little post-brunch rowing session.


Enjoying the race, weather, and great company.


A relaxing (and delicious) brunch at the Cronkhite Center.


September 2014 Recap

The end of the summer through September was quite a whirlwind of excitement here at the Graduate Commons Program! This period also marked the inaugural months of programming for the Garden Area, which expanded GCP programming to 95% of Harvard University Housing residents. From our weekly Cambridge 101 orientation sessions and socials, to large scale welcome events, our first Meet the Scholar lectures, and outings around the city—it’s been a great kick-off to the 2014-15 academic year. Here are some of the highlights from the last few months in our various communities:

Sept. blog 2
Labor Day Welcome Bash
The Graduate Commons Program kicked off the 2014-15 academic year with our Annual Food Truck Bash, which doubled in size this year! To accommodate our growing community we held two simultaneously at Botanic Gardens and Peabody Terrace. Throughout the day, we served close to 800 residents between both locations with the help from fabulous local food trucks: Chubby Chickpea, Bone Daddy’s BBQ, Mei Mei, and Benny’s Crepes. Additionally, the Office of Sustainability satisfied everyone’s sweet tooth with whoopie pies from Whoopie Pie Wagon, along with providing a variety of eco-friendly activities. All and all, it was a very exciting kick off to the year!

Sept. blog 3

Sept. blog 4

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Faculty Director Events
Newly appointed Garden Area Faculty Director’s, Chris & Nancy Winship, hosted a number of wonderful events, from brunch and Shabbat dinner, to “Meet the Scholar” with Professor Edward Glaeser. The Winship’s have literally opened their home to our community and we encourage all residents to take the opportunity to get to know them throughout the year.


Peabody Terrace Faculty Directors, Jim and Doreen Hogle, regularly invited residents to their home for gatherings early this term. At the end of the summer they hosted a Welcome (Back) Luau party that close to 90 residents attended! More recently, they hosted a “Fall” themed event with traditional New England favorites like apple cider and pie, which was a great success.

Luau 1
The Hogle’s also invited Grammy nominated composer, MacArthur Grant Winner, Jazz Pianist and Professor Vijay Iyer to give our first “Meet the Scholar” lecture of the year. Professor Iyer enjoyed dinner with a small number of students, followed by a large open lecture in the common room, where he shared his creative process and some of his favorite works!

vijay 1

Our Akron and Cowperthwaite Faculty Directors, Davíd Carrasco, María Luisa Parra, Jennifer Lerner, and Brian Gill, welcomed residents to their respective GCP buildings with Meet & Greet evening events in their apartments. These were great opportunities for residents to make the acquaintances of our fantastic Faculty Directors and to learn a bit more about the events they routinely host.


For the Riverside Area, the monthly Meet the Scholar series started out with quite a captivating speaker. We were very lucky to be visited by Professor Stephen Walt from HKS who presented on “Why Does US Foreign Policy Keep Failing?” Prior to his presentation, Prof. Walt had dinner with the CWP Faculty Directors, their daughter, Siena, and 5 lucky residents. It was a treat for these attendees to get to engage in deep conversation with such a renowned academic.


Community Advisor Programming
Take me out to the ball game! All GCP properties had outings to Fenway Park to cheer on the home team this September. Even though the Red Sox didn’t make the post season, a great time was had by all!

The Garden Area Community Advisor/Resident Advisor staff hosted numerous events and outings including: a Harvard Tour, Buzz about Bee’s Lecture, Boston Harbor Island Tour, International Student social, CPR Training, Botanic Beer Garden, Oktoberfest, Scandal Premiere Party, and Monday Night Football… just to name a few! Our fall “Safety Series” kicked off with a FREE CPR certification taught by the Office of Environmental Health, Safety & Emergency Management.

At Peabody Terrace the Community Advisors hosted a number of exciting events including: Grab and Go Breakfasts, a trip to the MIT Furniture Exchange, Charles River Runs and Work Out Groups, a “How To Surviving Grad School” presentation, Patriots Tailgate Party, and an Intro to Computer Programming class.

The Riverside Community Advisors also contributed an impressive array of events in September. Here are a few snippets: Group Outing to watch “Finding Neverland”, Charles River Group Run, Peabody Museum Tour & Picnic with Dr. David Carrasco, a Guided Architectural Walking Tour of Boston Grab ‘n Go Breakfasts, Professional Development Networking Night, Game Night , Post-Graduate Brunch & a Patriots Viewing Party.


Family Programming
The Garden Area Family Programmer, Julie Hodges, welcomed our youngest residents with ice cream socials at Shaler Lane and Holden Green. Botanic Gardens “Beat the Heat” program gave residents a much needed chance to cool down while enjoying tasty treats! September brought baby yoga and music classes for the whole family to enjoy.


Family Programming has also been wildly successful at Peabody Terrace, thanks to the hard work of Bernice Dy, our new Family Program Community Advisor. From a magician performance by Boston Pizzazz at our welcome bash, to family cooking classes, and a terrific outdoor movie, our youngest residents have had a very fun month!
Both family coordinators collaborated to bring 100 GCP residents on a family farm and apple picking outing. This trip to Honey Pot Farms was enjoyed by all in attendance…who doesn’t love apple cider doughnuts and apple picking?
Stay tuned for more family events, including weekly story hour, art classes, baby massage classes, and holiday celebrations!



We hope that all GCP residents enjoyed our kick-off events and programming efforts thus far. We are greatly looking forward to many months of engaging activities to come & hope you’ll join us at an event soon!

3rd Annual Labor Day Food Truck Welcome Bash

Yesterday GCP hosted our 3rd Annual Labor Day Food Truck Welcome Bash, with simultaneous events at Peabody Terrace and Botanic Gardens. We has a tremendous turn-out at both locations, serving more than 700 residents in a little over an hour (a new record for sure!). It was terrific to meet so many new residents, and of course to catch up with a number of our returners.

In case you missed the festivities, here are a few of the highlights:

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sustainability and whoopie pie wagon

crowd shot2