Community Conversations

Students sit at a diversity dialogue at the Grays Hall lounge in the background of the text "The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations presents... Community Conversations" next to the Foundation shield.

Community Conversations is a program sponsored by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, and supported by the First-Year Experience (FYE) Office.  Our team of diversity and inclusion professionals develops the reading list and facilitation curriculum for the Community Conversations program each year. Campus partners provide guidance in preparing texts and facilitation activities, including: Harvard Library (especially the copyright and e-resources librarian teams), Office for BGLTQ+ Student Life, Harvard College Women’s Center, Harvard Office of Undergraduate Education, Advising Programs Office, and Dean of Students Office. Proctors and Peer Advising Fellows lead the conversations with First-Year at their entry ways. Since its beginning, this campus tradition has been marked as an annual occurrence when the entire freshman class pauses to reflect on our community’s diversity and how to make our college more inclusive every year.

This facilitated conversation is just the first of many opportunities to better know and understand yourselves and each other —whether casually in dorm rooms and dining halls, or more formally in classrooms, entryway meetings, and sponsored programs.Beyond Community Conversations, the Harvard Foundation’s recurring events and programming help shape first-years’ initial conversations about diversity and inclusion. Through our internship program, as well as specialized advising for student leaders and student organizations, we aim to elevate campus dialogue about the important ways in which everyone can help create inclusive spaces.

These are the goals of Community Conversations: 

  1. All first-year students will consider what is important to them about their own identity, background, and community as they transition to Harvard.

  2. Students will examine their own assumptions about their peers’ identities and perspectives.

  3. Students will begin to develop a sense of shared responsibility for upholding a compassionate and respectful community.

  4. Students will practice self-reflection and attentive listening with their peers.

  5. Students will be generally exposed to offices and resources that assist students and student organizations foster inclusive, equitable, and empowering environments.

  6. Proctors and Peer Advising Fellows will identify themselves as resources for students as they deal with potential challenges to their sense of belonging at Harvard.

These were the reading selections for the 2022 Community Conversations: 

Claude Steele smiles in front of a background with multiple intersecting colorful circles with the words "Claude Steele's "Whistling Vivaldi: Conclusion: Chapter 11"
  • Claude Steele, “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do,” Chapter 11. Available through Harvard Orientation Canvas

Hundreds of Asian American people are gathered at a relocation camp in the 1940s as the background for the words "Viet Thanh Nguyen's “Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype. And It Creates Inequality for All."

The words M. Leona Godin’s  “Is that ableist? Good Question” appear with a disability pride flag background.

Janet Mock holds a microphone while reading off of her book redefining realness and under that the text reads "Janet Mock's Redefining Realness".

  • Janet Mock. “Redefining Realness : My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & so Much More,” Introduction. Available through Harvard Orientation Canvas 

Several students play ball in the yard while laughing with the following words at the bottom of the banner: “Liz Mineo, Harvard Gazette. “Good genes are nice, but joy is better..”

All materials are accessible to students through the Harvard University Library System. If you have any difficulties accessing any of the readings, please use the libraries’ Ask A Librarian service. To stay up-to-date about future diversity and inclusion events, including further explorations around the themes of this year’s Community Conversations readings, sign up for the Harvard Foundation newsletter.