Andrew Castillo, Helena Mello Franco, Emily Ni, Vera Petrovic, Kevin Ray, Caleb Ren, Xaley Yousey, and Meiyi Yu. 6/10/2021. “Higher Education Through Student Eyes: A Collection of Student Research Papers.” Edited by Manja Klemenčič.Abstract

The present collection of research papers reflects students’ perspectives on today’s changing higher education landscape and the challenges or controversies they observe in contemporary higher education. Student research papers featured in this collection are a testimony of students’ genuine interest in studying and contributing to the established and emerging areas of higher education studies, and their commitment to achieving equity and excellence in higher education.

Higher EducationThrough Student Eyes: A Collection of Student Essays
Nicholas Brennan, Jenny Le, Hannah Liu, Lex Michael, Christine Mui, Rukaiya Sharmi, Ann Yang, Jonathan Zhang, Nicole Zhang, Chuwudi Ilozue, and Atuganile Jimmy. 5/20/2021. “Higher EducationThrough Student Eyes: A Collection of Student Essays.” Edited by Manja Klemenčič.Abstract

The present collection of research papers reflects students’ perspectives on today’s changing higher education landscape and the challenges or controversies they observe in contemporary higher education. Student research papers featured in this collection are a testimony of students’ genuine interest in studying and contributing to the established and emerging areas of higher education studies, and their commitment to achieving equity and excellence in higher education.

Kevin Ray (Computer Science and Government '24). 5/20/2021. “Free Speech and Social Justice: Opposite Sides of the Same Coin”.Abstract
College campuses have long been at the forefront of activism, social justice, and free
speech. For most of the history of campus activism, these movements worked together,
recognizing that they had to rely on each other to reach their goals. However, recently it
seems to be that these movements have moved against each other. Many campus
social justice movements do not look favorably on campus free speech movements and
vice versa. The goal of this research project is to determine and analyze the current
attitudes toward free speech and social justice movements on campus and the factors
that have contributed to these feelings, both political and social. The results of this
research can help students and administrators learn more about what is driving both
movements and how students feel about the efficacy of each movement.
Andrew Castillo (Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology '21). 5/20/2021. “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Perception of Mentorship Quality Among Undergraduates Engaged in Life Sciences Research : Evidence from a Survey”.Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted higher-education, the training ground of young scientists. A critical aspect of science education is mentorship, yet it is poorly understood and is seldom measured for quality by higher education institutions. The pandemic has the potential to disrupt mentorship relationships and existing literature suggest under-represented minorities are likely to be particularly vulnerable. This study reports the findings of a survey on how senior thesis writers in a life sciences concentration at Harvard perceive their relationships to their faculty mentors during the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. In brief, this study finds that self-reported attitudes towards PIs did not change at a population level relative to recalled perceptions but draws attention to the presence of outliers. This study was not powered to ascertain changes in the perception of mentorship across subpopulations of students. This study also aimed to use theoretical frameworks of mentorship to propose and validate metrics of PI mentorship quality. This study recommends 4 of 5 survey questions used for future validation studies.
Xaley Yousey (Government, Secondary in Educational Studies '21). 5/20/2021. “In-Person and Emergency Remote Learning: An Examination of the Perceptions and Experiences of Seniors at Harvard University”.Abstract
Many higher education institutions previously offered online courses, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rate at which higher education institutions transitioned to emergency remote classes. Research on the effects of this emergency transition is limited due to how recent the events have occurred and given the fact that these events are ongoing. The emergency shift to remote learning due to the sudden onset of COVID-19 makes remote learning distinct from typical remote learning circumstances. In this context, it is critical to understand how students are perceiving and experience their classes. The aim of this study was to compare 4th year students’ experience and learning in their emergency remote and traditional in-person class settings. Using qualitative data from six interviews with Seniors at Harvard, I found that student motivation and engagement have dramatically fallen while taking emergency remote classes, largely due to a lack of social interactions inside and outside of their classes. However, the students felt they had greater access to resources and their professors which they saw as a primary benefit of their remote experience. This study found that while students saw several benefits of learning remotely, overall the students expressed a strong preference for in-person classes.
Caleb Ren (Statistics '21). 5/20/2021. ““Shadow Market”: A Historical Analysis of the Rise of the Private College AdmissionsCounseling Industry”.Abstract
Recent controversies in the world of the private college admissions industry such as
Operation Varsity Blues have led to increased scrutiny on independent education consultants. The shadowy, often-opaque college admissions industry has led to conversations about whether or not the process of college admissions is as equitable as institutions would have the public believe. The aim of this paper is to examine historical factors in the rise of the modern private college admissions industry and argue that key factors and decisions by institutions, economic cycles, and shifts in society are responsible for creating the modern-day private college admissions industry. By interviewing admissions counselors to gain insight on their backgrounds, analyzing primary data and industry reports, this research paper attempts to create a historical lens through which the current private admissions counseling industry can be analyzed. Finally, suggestions for future pathways toward equity and access in the industry are provided.
Vera Petrović (English, Secondary in Education Studies '23). 5/20/2021. “Sink or Swim: Non-Profit College Access Outreach to High-Achieving, Low Income Students in a For-Profit Industry”.Abstract
While institutions of elite higher education have made progressive steps toward admitting more low income students, notable socioeconomic disparities still remain. At Ivy Leagues, in particular, affluent and upper-class students significantly outnumber their lower income peers. Multiple factors contribute to these inequities, including the fact that few low income students apply, but the rise of the private, for profit college counseling industry has given wealthier students an advantage in an increasingly competitive application process. This study seeks to investigate the other side of the college counseling industry: non-profit “access” organizations that specifically target high-achieving, low income students and provide pathways to selective colleges. While several studies address counseling and mentoring programs, no literature currently explores student perceptions of a national nonprofit like QuestBridge. Through my own research, I investigate student experiences with QuestBridge, as well as collect qualitative data on the perceived value, community, and impacts of outreach programs geared toward high-achieving, low income students. Although I do not draw conclusive statements, I do identify several key commonalities across my interviews. My findings reveal that participants came into contact with QuestBridge through chance encounters or individual mentors, found its services valuable (for various reasons that include money and community), and, contrary to most existing literature, did not generally feel that QuestBridge drastically impacted the selectivity of the institutions they chose to apply to.
Emily Ni (Economics ’23) and Helena Gallotti Mello Franco (Economics de ’24). 5/20/2021. ““Worth It?”: An Analysis of Tuition Prices for Institutions of Higher Education”.Abstract
The purpose of this research paper is to explore the factors that drive the rising prices of higher education and to further break down the various market forces and strategic considerations that contribute to tuition pricing. The rise in tuition prices and amplifying concerns with college affordability motivated our interests in understanding the ways that institutions of higher education are allocating their students’ tuition fees. This paper aims to use the case study method to understand how tuition prices are governed by higher education institutions by delving into the decision-making process of pricing academic services under pressure from competitive markets and in light of institutions' strategic positioning. Harvard University, an elite, private non-profit four-year research university, serves as the case institution of this investigative paper. By conducting expert interviews and carrying out qualitative research methods, this empirical-conceptual paper will explore how the pricing mechanisms of higher education institutions are established. Using the unique case study interview data, existing literature, and archival financial records, the collected evidence advances research on how tuition prices are governed. The paper puts forth explanations for how tuition costs are determined in the context of academic markets and the varying revenue sources of Harvard University.
Meiyi Yu (Chemistry ’22). 5/20/2021. “Yes, You Can Get into Medical School: Guide to Being a First-Generation, Low-Income Pre-Med Student at Harvard College”.Abstract
Pre-medical students follow a specific track in order to become competitive applicants to
medical school. The general knowledge is that students should maintain a high grade point average, score well on the Medical College Admission Test, have clinical experience, obtain
excellent letters of recommendation, etc. The pre-med track with rigorous coursework and heavy load of activities that need to be completed in a short period can be especially stressful for first-generation, low-income students who are navigating college on their own. This project studies the challenges that first-generation, low-income pre-med students at Harvard experience throughout their journey to medical school by conducting interviews with these students. The findings of this project will contribute to the understanding of student experiences at the intersection of being first-generation, low-income, and pre-med, which will allow potential development of interventions that can provide better support for this population. The findings of the research are also applied to develop this guide containing what first-generation, low-income pre-med students at Harvard should know, institutional resources that can support them, and tips compiled from pre-med advisors as well as students at the college.
Truong Nguyen '23. 5/10/2021. “Increasing Member Engagement, Enhancing Membership, and Building an Inclusive Environment for the Harvard Vietnamese Association”.Abstract

Cultural and identity-based organizations in higher education, such as the Harvard Vietnamese Association (HVA), often have the mission to foster community and provide space to celebrate a specific culture and heritage. However, due to the highly demanded focus for academics in higher education, there are often low member engagement in social organizations like HVA. This action research project is set to investigate the reason behind HVA’s low member commitment and how to increase its member engagement. Interviews were conducted on fifteen Harva students ranging from the most active members to non active members of HVA. From the interviews, some reasons for low member engagement in HVA were found to be time commitment, different priorities, small size of HVA, amongst other reasons. Suggestions for how to increase member participations, potential events, and how to make HVA more inclusive were collected. A blueprint of actions for increasing member engagement within HVA was produced that put emphasis on outreach focusing on first-years, increasing social media presence, and expansion of type of events while keeping the already existing chill vibe of the organization.

Keywords: Higher education, cultural organization, identity-based, Vietnamese,

Sociology of Higher Education Through Student Eyes. A Student Course Review Handbook.
Kevin Ballen ’22, Samantha Gamble '21, Joshua Hong ’23, Abigail Koerner ’21, Allison Lee ’21, Romina Liollari ’21, Samyra Miller ’21, Tommy O’Neil ’23, Starr Rhee ’21, Rachel Seevers ’23, Idan Tretout ’23, and Kimberly Woo ’20. 1/20/2021. Sociology of Higher Education Through Student Eyes. A Student Course Review Handbook.. Edited by Manja Klemenčič, Pp. 78. Cambridge, MA, United States of America: Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.Abstract

This handbook is a compilation of student reviews of the course modules starting with the introduction to the field of sociology of higher education and theories in sociology of higher education, followed by the reviews of the aforementioned eight domains of inquiry in sociology of higher education. The module reviews offer students’ insights on the topics covered, reflection on the discussions in the discussion posts and in class, as well as suggestions for topics that would be interesting to explore further.


Abigail Jade Koerner '21 (Sociology). 1/13/2021. “The Harvard “Bubble”:Understanding Institutions of Higher Education as Residential Property Owners”.Abstract

This project seeks to explore the intricacies of the Harvard “Bubble:” a term that students often use colloquially to define the space around Harvard’s campus. As a real estate professional, I am interested in understanding the ways in which institutions of higher education interact with surrounding real estate markets. As such, Harvard is a case study in understanding how institutions of higher education access exclusive residential properties, and what this exclusive housing creates around it. Through interviews, use of mapping tools, and qualitative research methods, I came to understand that the Bubble is real and exists physically as much as it does culturally, economically, and socially. In the case of Harvard specifically, university housing is made exclusive to the general public by particular legal and tax allowances. Within the bounds of the Harvard Bubble, there are low levels of crime, high property values, and high-income residents.

Joshua Hong ’23 (Sociology). 1/12/2021. “Escaping the Exodus:Exploring Korean-American Seminarians and the Korean Church”.Abstract

One common experience shared among Korean Americans is a relationship with the Korean immigrant church. The strengths and weaknesses of the church have affected many second-generation Koreans. Having personally grown up in the Korean Church, I have come across countless Korean Americans with varying opinions on the church. This paper attempts to hone in on one particular group of second-generation Koreans: Korean-Americans attending seminary. In particular, I attempt to observe how, if at all, the Korean church has affected these students’ decisions and aspirations in regard to seminary and further career prospects. To explore this, I conducted six interviews through Zoom. All of my participants are male students who attend Westminster Theological Seminary. My questions remained broad, allowing my interviewees to comment on what they believed was most relevant. Questions ranged from asking about the value of a seminary education, to the events that led to their decision to attend seminary, to their background and thoughts on the Korean church. With such a small sample size, it was difficult to discern any solid patterns, but it was clear that the Korean Church had played a major role in shaping some part of my interviewees’ thoughts on seminary and on their plans after seminary. Overall, this project aims to provide a starting ground for this sparsely populated research topic. Though there is research and writings on Korean Americans and the Korean immigrant church, this paper explores a more specific area in this field, and the findings point to further areas of research.

Starr Rhee'21 (Government). 1/11/2021. “Fulfilling the Promise: Creating a New Community College for Tennessee”.Abstract

Tennessee community colleges have cracked the code on student access to higher

education, but they still lag behind in completion rates, making the state’s ambitious Drive to 55 goal difficult to attain. This paper investigates what it would look like for Tennessee to create a new public community college that was suited to the needs of students and employers in a post-COVID-19 world. It also investigates the logistics of such an endeavor. The paper employs a mixed-methods, primarily qualitative approach that includes interviews, investigation of successful alternative models, and a review of institutional data, state laws, and community college budgets. Ultimately, the research asserts that Tennessee’s community colleges are currently coming up short of meeting the needs of the state’s students and employers. Alternative, innovative models with proven track records should instead be implemented at a new two-year public institution to later be expanded throughout the Tennessee Board of Regents Community College system. Establishing such a college is both feasible and necessary to meet the state’s goals and to best serve its residents.

Tommy O'Neil '23 (Government) and Idan Tretout ’23 (Sociology). 1/10/2021. “The Pay-for-Play Debate”.Abstract

The topic of Pay-for-Play is something that has been widely explored and debated over the years due to the growth of the NCAA and the college athletics industry as a whole. Through both qualitative and quantitative research, expert interviews, and policy analysis, this paper goes in depth into the world of college athletics and the idea of compensating athletes for the product that they provide. A deep dive into scholarly work, review of current legislation that is in place, and interviews performed on both current and former professionals within the college athletics realm, conclusions surrounding this topic on next steps within the debate were able to be made. The California State Senate Bill that was passed in 2019, and is synthesized within this paper, should be the model that is used going forward for paying college athletes. This bill allows for the most effective and efficient solution to the disagreements that continue to be had between both sides of the debate, and would be a way to satisfy both parties involved while presenting the least amount of disadvantages or areas for controversy in the future.

Conlan Olson'21 (Math Computer and Science). 6/1/2020. “Beyond Pre-Orientation: Using the First-Year Outdoor Program for Custom Education”. conlan_olson.pdf
Meghan Tveit '20. 5/30/2020. “Seeking a New Lens: Improving the Visibility and Recognition of Dorm Crew on Campus”. senior_capstone_final_paper_meghan_tveit.pdf
Ellie Taylor'22 (Social Studies). 5/29/2020. “Student Agency and the Possibility of Institutional Change through Harvard’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Offices”. student_agency_and_the_possibility_of_institutional_change_through_harvards_edi_offices.pdf
Denisse Cordova Carrizales '22, Izzy Perez '23, and Jess Williams '20. 1/31/2020. “ Agency, Responsibility, and Security:A Decision Framework for the Careers of Harvard FGLI Seniors”.Abstract
This descriptive study untangles the complex influential forces on post-graduate plans for first-generation, low-income undergraduate seniors at Harvard while they think about jobs after college. Through twelve narrative-style interviews, the authors constructed a decision framework with three different branches or themes of decisions: social, financial, and personal. The three social factors that influenced their decisions include: 1) a liberal arts education differing from the vocational education they and their families had envisioned, 2) their parents’ lack of education increasing agency and autonomy, and 3) Harvard’s culture of elitism, wealth, and consulting. The major financial decisions centered around a great desire for financial security and success. Students felt indebted to their parents’ sacrifices and did not want to endure the same financial issues they did growing up. Lastly, FGLI students were very intrinsically motivated to find a career with a strong mission to give back to underserved communities and faced internal conflict while trying to reconcile their personal values. 
Danielle Green '20, Chelsea Guo '23, and Arnav Srivastava '23. 1/31/2020. “ A Sense of Community on Campus in Pre-Professional Student Groups”.Abstract
In this paper, we explored how exclusivity contributes to a sense of community in exclusive pre-professional Harvard College student groups (clubs mandating multiple interview rounds for admission) in contrast with Harvard-mandated “default” communities (the Harvard dorm/housing system). We sought to find the most impactful attributes that fulfill one’s sense of belonging within a community, and potentially advise how to build more fulfilling communities. Specifically, we chose two prominent and visible pre-professional organizations on campus and surveyed students on various community-evaluating questions. We found that default communities produced a greater sense of community in many scenarios than more exclusive student groups in which membership was handpicked. Some of the underlying mechanisms for these results might be that default communities involve cooperative or collaborative living, which lends itself to giving up certain aspects of privacy and likely makes it easier to communicate and share private matters in general. Nevertheless, more than 90% of students in both pre-professional groups still believed exclusivity of their pre-professional community to be valuable to the sense of community established.
Reflecting upon our research implications, we suggest that more exclusive pre-professional student groups can make efforts to strengthen their sense of community through group outings, socials, and mixers. We also commend the university for making efforts to create more intimate and close-knit social spaces beyond the realm of more exclusive student groups, which are necessary to celebrate/encourage intimacy, warmth, and inclusion regardless of students’ personal and professional interests.