GSD students bring expertise to Japan tsunami victims

Several students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design spent two months in northeastern Japan over the summer, bringing their expertise to bear on a region still reeling from an earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. Before heading overseas, they researched participatory design and other concepts.
On arrival, they encountered the sights and smells you can’t get out of books. “We were faced with the reality of the situation,” said GSD student Yuhka Miura.
In a Sept. 30 lecture, she and her two traveling companions showed slides of a downtown landscape swept nearly bare by the penetrating sea. It was Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture, where nearly 1,000 people were reported dead or missing. The seaside town is part of Japan’s remote Tohoku region, where three of six prefectures took the brunt of the destruction.
Matching research and reality is the idea behind the GSD’s Community Service Fellows program, endowed since the 1970s to support student projects. Some fellows take 10-week paid internships in domestic settings—at the New York Botanical Garden, for instance. Others travel for research and public service overseas, including this year to Japan, India, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Program administrator Meryl Golden, director of career services at the GSD, said fellowship travel abroad is often to the Third World. This summer one student investigated micro-home technology in New Delhi; another looked into a livable-cities program in Hanoi.
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Harvard Gazette, Oct. 3, 2011