The Star Family Prizes for Excellence in Advising were established by James A. Star, AB 1983, to recognize and reward individuals who contribute to the College through their exemplary intellectual and personal guidance of undergraduate students.
Please also join us in recognizing the full cohort of advisers nominated for a Star Prize, by the students who they advised this year.
This year's recipients are also featured in The Harvard Gazette
Reflections on Advising at Harvard from this year's recipients:
First-year Proctor, Mower Hall; Project Manager, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics; Head Teaching Fellow, Harvard College Program in General Education
Every day, each student, and every advising interaction is unique. Meeting students where they’re at by understanding and responding to their individual needs is key to building a strong advising relationship. As a Proctor and a First-Year Advisor, my focus has been to create spaces where students can be themselves and are able to discuss what’s going on below the surface. By practicing compassionate candor in my advising conversations, that is being honest, authentic, and transparent in my care for my students, while still asking the tough questions or challenging their perceptions, I have been able to connect with them as individuals with unique stories, and develop mutually inspiring relationships across our differences.
Assistant Director, Harvard College Program in General Education
Harvard matches exceptional talent to extraordinary opportunity, and I see my primary role as adviser as showing my students the incredible fullness of that opportunity. I’m enthusiastic about possibility and try to model a willingness to try new things and use available resources, as well as a commitment to finding answers when I don’t know them. I also find that being present in non-transactional ways, whether that means sending a card or just chatting without necessarily expecting answers or meeting takeaways, leads to building trust and strengthening advising relationships.
Preceptor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
I love advising because it is a journey of mutual transformation: I desire to be transformed by my advisees and our advising relationship as much as I desire my advisees to be transformed. I hope my genuine curiosity to know my advisees gives them the freedom to be themselves and creates a safe space for them to grow in trust of their own insights and convictions. Seeing them step out of their comfort zones and pursue their passions is so inspiring that I too found myself changed by them: taking greater risks to become my truer self.
M.Div. '19, Harvard Divinity School; Director of Wellness and Self-Discovery Initiatives, First Year Experience Program, Dean of Students Office, Harvard College; Wellness Consultant, Center for Wellness and Health Promotion, HUHS; Teaching Fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Resident Tutor, Mather House, Harvard College
I have found that one of the most powerful ways I can support students is to simply hold up a (metaphorical) mirror to show them their own growth. When I reflect back to them how I see that they are changing, it offers a way for them to chart their own progress with an encouraging, supportive witness to that process. A key aspect of this is remembering the details of what they've shared with me previously; I bring up specific examples of past challenges, compare those with their current accomplishments or perspective, and then connect that with the version of themselves they're evolving into as they move forward.
PhD, Tutor at Quincy House, MD Candidate at Harvard Medical School
The approach I have been learning to take with students is to help them distill focused answers to the question: what is most important to you? Students overwhelm themselves with trying to balance their own considerably diverse interests with competing expectations of external parties - faculty, career advisers, parents, peers. I always aim to start the discussion with that open-ended introspective approach, listening to understand what it is that each particular student cares most about.
Preceptor, Music Department
Students are almost always their own best advisors; I work hard to truly hear what they want or are concerned about, and guide them through the problem-solving and decision-making process. Most often my role is to ask “how can I help?”
Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies and Lecturer on Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology
Sometimes doing what it is best for the student means saying no. Harvard provides an enriching environment for our students with a wealth of opportunities to help them grow and develop as intellects and individuals, but all these opportunities can also be overwhelming and promote both a fear of missing out and a sense of competition. Often students find themselves overextended and as student advisors, it is important to help them recognize the value in doing a few things really well instead of many things with limited effort and investment. It is a fine line between encouraging them to explore their passions but also helping them recognize their limits.
James Williamson Mickens
Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science
I think that successful advising is built on emotional openness. Students appreciate advisors who are excited about what's happening in a student's life, and what's happening in the advisor's life. However, the advising relationship is also strengthened by honest communication about the challenges and frustrations that we all face at various points. Honest reckoning with the good and the bad creates an advising relationship that will endure.
Linsey C. Moyer
Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies in Biomedical Engineering
As an advisor I try to listen more than I advise. Sometimes it’s having hard discussions, sometimes it’s just about coaching or mentoring, and sometimes it’s just being a calm ear to hear them out. By getting to know my students holistically I can be a better resource for individualized advice and can better advocate for them and their pursuits
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Social Studies
Advising Harvard undergraduates entails forming and maintaining long-lasting relationships that are intellectually stimulating and meaningful to both the faculty and the students. Students come with ambitious, fascinating ideas about what they want to explore and understand and why it matters to them, and the faculty advisor’s role is to listen and help them create a plan and select the tools – research methods, approaches, concepts and theories – that they need in order to embark on their pursuits. I like to think of advising as a journey of adventure and discovery that is based on mutual respect and support.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
When advising students, we often draw upon our own formative experiences, as these stories are powerful to us and provide intimate details to share, but these anecdotal narratives are usually limited by our own specific paths and biased by the decisions we made and the perspectives we currently have. Due to this, I aim to inform students more so than directly advise, by not just sharing my own stories but by connecting them with other key people I may know, so they can balance their advice portfolio, or point out opportunities for them to potentially explore. Also, simply providing a safe space where students can share their thoughts, dreams, or worries and you can just listen and be a sounding board or active listener goes a long way in helping students make their own decisions; students often give their own best advice!
Assistant Professor of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and Carol K. Pforzheimer Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute
The most successful advisors lead with compassion and respect for students. Successful advising happens when advisors make the time to listen to and learn from the extraordinary ideas and exciting aspirations of Harvard students. The most effective advisors listen, offer expertise, and advocate for students to have equitable access to knowledge and resources.