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Overview and Mission: Harvard Neighbors (HN) is a volunteer and membership organization that for over 100 years has worked to create a sense of community across the University. Founded to welcome faculty families new to Harvard, today Harvard Neighbors includes active and retired Harvard faculty and staff (including visiting scholars and researchers, post-doc fellows and program fellows) and their spouses or partners. Harvard Neighbors depends heavily upon volunteers’ time and talents as well as on space and staff support provided by the University. The HN mission remains to enrich the lives of members of the Harvard community through cultural and educational programs and special events, with special focus on helping newcomers and more established members come to know one another in informal settings and take fuller advantage of Harvard’s array of cultural resources. President Faust’s goal, to foster “a greater sense of community across Harvard,” is at the heart of the Harvard Neighbors mission.
History and Governance: The College Teas Association (CTA), founded in 1894 under the presidency of Charles William Eliot by Mrs. Eliot and fifteen other faculty wives, welcomed the wives of new members of the Harvard community at formal teas designed to help the newcomers build lasting friendships. In 1939, a Newcomers Club was added to help new arrivals. Mrs. Pusey added a new focus on small neighborhood gatherings as well as the formal teas at Loeb House. In 1971, Mrs. Bok and the CTA formed a committee to consider the new status of women and to redefine the organization to adapt to a diverse and constantly changing constituency. The group was renamed Harvard Neighbors, with an elected board of volunteers and an office in Loeb House. In 1988, the organization was opened to both women and men, with President and Mrs. Rudenstine as honorary co-chairs. Three years ago, responsibility for space and support for HN was undertaken by the Central Administration under the auspices of Executive Vice President Katherine Lapp, now administered through the office of the Vice President for Campus Services (Events Team).
Special Events: Each year is filled with exciting events, such as the Open House, a Wine and Dine evening led by one of our members, a Holiday Cheer party in December, Tasting Events (which might feature chocolate, wine, beer, tea, local cheese, and honey), Regional and international cooking demonstrations; Tea and Talks with featured speakers from around the university, and the Annual Meeting featuring a faculty member presenting significant new research and its impact on our lives..
Interest groups: Organized and led by volunteer members, these groups meet around a specific topic or interest on a regular basis (weekly or monthly) during the academic year. Group size may range from 5 to 30 participants. Current groups range in focus from English conversation practice to French and German book clubs to “Out and About” gatherings to explore the Boston area. For a full list, see the Harvard Neighbors website: http://www.neighbors.harvard.edu/interest-groups
- To encourage wider participation, Harvard Neighbors became a dues-free organization in 2012, a decision followed by strong year over year membership growth (from 265 to the current 1050).
- To improve communication among members, a greatly-enhanced website provides technology to link HN members interactively as individuals and groups, and members receive a weekly newsletter/calendar reminder. HN also has a presence on Facebook. our FB Page is https://www.facebook.com/Harvard-Neighbors-Harvard-250431608323790/
- To expand programming and make better use of Loeb House space, Harvard Neighbors is exploring additional sites, and the Memorial Church now hosts the popular Mothers and Toddlers group.
Current Priorities: Membership, Core Programming, and Communication:
- To reach new arrivals to Harvard, including staff and faculty and their partners/families, at the time when meeting new people, including those who know the area, is most helpful and often most appreciated.
- To enhance participation “across Harvard” geographically and demographically, given our current weighting toward FAS and HMS connections.
- To maintain awareness of diverse HN constituencies, maintaining strong program offerings for long-term members and supporters.
- To offer continuous enhancement of technological outreach to members.
- To expand programming for group events outside the 9 to 5 framework. Member groups and events are self-managing in appropriate spaces, but currently rely on 9 to 5 options at Loeb House, a secured building, and require staff presence.