By Jon Murad
One of the amazing things about Harvard is the degree to which it can be both immutable and ever-changing. In the next five years, big changes may be coming to the Kennedy School.
The school has just completed a new campus framework plan that lays out some of the challenges associated with our current physical space and proposes a potential campus of the future. Although many ideas are still being explored, starting next year the school will begin the approvals processes and capital campaign to support many new initiatives, including a significantly enhanced campus.
On Nov. 7, the staff of the Harvard Kennedy School squeezed into a packed Starr Auditorium for a meeting led by Dean David Ellwood. The standing-room-only crowd was treated to a description of the current academic plan, titled “A Call for Exceptional Public Leadership,” in which Dean Ellwood outlined the school’s priorities for the near future. But the real draw was a peek into the plan that is projected to expand and change the Kennedy School’s physical space.
Dean Ellwood’s academic plan may have been less intriguing than the campus framework plan, but it provided an important explanation of why the school would choose to embark on such a significant project in a time of economic uncertainty.
He proposed four priorities for the Harvard Kennedy School: 1) that it must reach the very best leaders; 2) that it should equip its students to drive positive change; 3) that it must generate powerful ideas to address the world’s most pressing problems; and 4) that it needs a campus that amplifies its mission. In the administration’s estimation, each of the first three leads up to and necessitates the last.
In discussing the first, Dean Ellwood noted the importance of financial aid, as well as the success of the Executive Education program. To the relief of anyone who’s tried to find a seat in the Forum at 1 p.m., he said that the school has no plans to increase the number of degree students, although expansion of the Executive Education program is likely.
But while the size of the student body may not change, the ways they’re educated will. Equipping students to lead means finding ways to integrate more field-based, experiential learning into the curriculum.
Standing in the well of an overflowing Starr auditorium, Dean Ellwood noted that spaces built for a lecture-based pedagogical paradigm aren’t necessarily fitted for new methods of scenario-based learning.
“In the future,” he said, “great universities will be selling not great lectures, but great interactions” between students, faculty and guests.
But it was priority four that had lured the crowds.
After promising that the school will not borrow to build, and that financial aid—which has doubled since 2004—will not be compromised, Dean Ellwood turned over the meeting to Executive Dean John Haigh.
Haigh outlined a comprehensive campus framework plan consisting of renovations, extensions and possible new infrastructure.. Two of the most significant aspects envisioned in the plan are a Collaboration Pavilion and a Forum Pavilion. The Collaboration Pavilion is expected to include collaboration labs designed to bring researchers and practitioners together with students to work on some of our most pressing public problems. The Forum Pavilion would include enhanced dining spaces as well as new study areas and social spaces.
Extra space is not the only goal. Flexible classrooms are the style du jour and the new pavilions, according to the plan, will have plenty of them. These are rooms that allow lecture-style case learning, but also facilitate group breakouts with chairs and tables that are easily reconfigured. Ironically, it appears that the graduate school of the future bears a lot of resemblance to the elementary schoolroom of the past.
While all of these plans are still in their nascent phase, if approved, other renovation efforts could include an extension of the Malkin Penthouse and renovations to parts of the Littauer, Belfer, Taubman and Rubenstein buildings.
Asked about the mitigating effects of campus renovations on the student experience should the framework plan win approval and move forward in the years ahead, Ellwood admitted that “we’re not there yet.” He suggested that logistics specifics were several years distant, but stated that in general finding alternative space during any construction phase is a possibility..
Another staff member asked about funding, prompting the Dean to reiterate his opposition to borrowing.
“I thought maybe I should fund this the way the Business School does: have the Business School pay for it,” he said, “but realistically we need to do much more with our alumni” as well as finding generous donors.
Jumphead: HKS to seek approval to renovate from University