An Open House welcome from Dean Sarah M. Whiting

Inside Gund HallCongratulations on being admitted to the incoming Fall 2020 class at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. I encourage you, first, to pause for a moment to bask in that accomplishment: We received nearly 3,000 applications this cycle, and only 540 applicants were admitted into one of our programs. Joining our school means becoming part of a global community of extraordinary students, faculty, staff, and alumni, who all believe in the power of design to foster a better world for all.

Admitting you into our program means that the GSD faculty believe that you can contribute substantially to that shared ethos. We look forward to welcoming you to the Harvard campus this fall.

It’s a true pleasure for me to pause as well, to take this time to focus on admissions—for, in doing so, we look ahead with optimism and with hope for a global recovery. Over these past few weeks, our faculty and students have been developing and sharing innovative ways of using technology to maintain our close ties. I have been deeply struck by how our GSD community has come together during this moment; I’ve encountered a remarkable degree of compassion as I’ve talked with students, faculty, and staff. We will get through this, together.

As you know, we offer professional and post-professional degrees in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, urban design, and design studies. We also offer doctoral, advanced studies, and joint and collaborative programs, among them our Master in Design Engineering, our Master in Urban Planning and Public Policy, and our Master in Urban Planning and J.D. programs.

Since joining the GSD last summer as Dean, I have marveled at the creativity, innovation, and collaboration that course through this entire school, in all of our classes, for one, but also in a range of student-led initiatives, ranging from our biannual Black in Design Conference to our exciting, new, student-run journal, which will debut with your arrival in the fall. The GSD is a school where students make things happen. It has been equal parts thrilling, encouraging, and humbling for me to witness our students’ ingenuity and commitment to design and to imagining a better world.

At Harvard and at the GSD, we position design as a force for broad engagement across disciplines, but also with the public. But in doing so, we never lose sight of the importance of in-depth, concentrated focus. That consistent interplay between design’s breadth and depth is at the heart of everything we do. Our resources within the school that permit our students to go in-depth include the Frances Loeb Library, with its renowned special collections; our Fabrication Lab; and a host of public lectures, conferences, events, and exhibitions that consistently reflect the school’s emphasis on shared conversation as a methodology underlying all of our teaching and learning.

Give our YouTube channel a browse and immerse yourselves in some of our past lectures and events; we are fortunate to welcome and learn from some of the extraordinary voices that cut across the entire design world. Our website also offers a look into some of our museum-quality exhibitions and our robust series of publications. Your studies are the foundation of your Harvard experience—but it is these tangible, public engagements of and with design that will color, sharpen, and amplify your education here at the GSD.

Our students’ reach extends well beyond the GSD to courses and facilities across Harvard University, including in the Kennedy School of Public Policy, the Law School, the Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Business School, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Our students also take advantage of the renowned Harvard library system and museums, as well as Harvard’s new ArtLab and its I-Lab (the Harvard Innovation Lab), among other cross-campus student resources.

I’ve been here now for six months and I still find myself stopping in my tracks at moments and thinking: I’m in the school that offers the world’s oldest landscape architecture program, the top-ranked graduate architecture program, and North America’s oldest urban planning program. The faculty who helped form the GSD’s powerful legacy, on which we stand, include Josep Lluís Sert, Walter Gropius, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., Hideo Sasaki, and others. The current faculty is equally renowned and they have helped to expand design’s definition and reach in profound and innumerable ways: Toshiko Mori, Gary Hilderbrand, Toni L. Griffin, Rahul Mehrotra, Antoine Picon, and others. Each one of our faculty members is committed to teaching – to working with you to find new possibilities for design, to plumb new readings of history, and to point us all forward.

I look forward to welcoming you to the school and to discovering the ways that you, too, will impact our world.