This is Harvard

Hello Everyone, this is my first attempt at a blog and I can think of no better reason to try one than to chronicle my year at Harvard University as a Nieman Fellow.

In a nutshell, the experience has been incredible thus far and a needed break after 18 years in a newsroom, including the last 11 as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

My classmates, journalists from all over the world, are fantastic and interesting. The students here at Harvard are as bright as I expected. The professors are as hard as I expected. The campus is as beautiful and historic as advertised. And living in Cambridge has been an eye-opening experience. For those of you who don’t know, let me tell you what the The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, is. Every year, about 25 journalists – usually at the mid-point of their career – come from around the globe to study at Harvard as a Fellow. I have one classmate who lives five minutes from me in Atlanta, while another hails from a place called Circassia.

Others in the class hail from places like India, Ireland, South Africa, Nigeria, Russia, Paris, Korea and China. Closer to home, some came from Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia. Domestically, the class includes journalists from Charlotte, Seattle, Dallas, Cleveland, D.C. and Chicago.

A very diverse bunch indeed. We spend the year, basically as a college student again. Taking classes, attending lectures and seminars, eating in the cafeteria, even going to football games. For those of you who know me, you know that I am a proud 1990 graduate of N.C. Central University, a historically black college founded in 1910 in Durham, N.C.

It has taken some time to re-adjust to college life after all these years. And it has taken a while to adjust to how vastly different that experience was and how this one will be. As a student at NCCU, I lived in all-male dorm called Chidley Hall. In fact, it was the only male dorm on campus and was as notorious as it was glorious. Outside of the classroom, it was probably the greatest learning environment I had ever known. Now, lets see what this year brings.

 I am going try to update this thing daily, although I have been here for about a month, so I am a little behind. I will try to summarize the first few weeks before moving to the daily – uh, regular updates. 

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 2:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Week One (Aug. 25-29) – Early Orientation

 

Our Home - The Lippmann House
Our Home – The Lippmann House

 

            We arrived on campus several weeks before classes started, for three weeks of orientation. All of the Fellows and our Affiliates – our spouses – would quickly see that we would need every minute of it to get accustomed to the huge campus and its customs. The first week eased us into the Nieman family and Harvard. Home base for us for the year would be the Lippmann House, a19th century white clapboard house on the edge of Harvard Yard on Francis Avenue. Tangelique and I were lucky enough to find a house about a five-minute walk from Lippmann, right between the School of Divinity’s Andover Hall. That closeness has already come in handy and will be a Godsend when the temperature dips below freezing. The neighborhood is great and has for years been the home of many professors and scholars. A few weeks after we arrived, the neighborhood held a block party. Aside from tables filled with food was a table filled with books that the neighbors had written. Back to orientation, throughout the week former Nieman’s visited us to give us advice, we got our Harvard email addresses and passwords, met with students and got to know each other. The first night we walked from Cambridge to Boston to take a cruise along the Charles River. Melissa Ludtke, a 1992 Fellow and the editor of the Neiman Reports, recounted stories of her days as a varsity rower for Wellesley.           

For most of us – a few of who were in town hooked up the night before – it was our first evening together, so I imagine that our excitement was a bit restrained as we all got to know each other. Tangelique and I spent a lot of time with Carla Broyles, an editor at the Washington Post, and her husband, Stephen.

            We ended the first week with a New England Clambake, my first of course. As the brothers in Chidley would say, “We had lobster for days.” One thing we all noticed that first week is that there is never a shortage of food at the Lippmann House. Thorne, the affiliate of my Atlanta home girl, Kael Alford, taught me how to use my new camera. (Aside from sounding like a soap opera couple, Kael and Thorne are also excellent photographers who have done several tours in war zones and disaster areas).

            We were all getting to know each other better by week’s end and I spent the evening cracking lobsters with one of the Russian fellows, Andrei Zolotov, and his family. As well Monica Almeida, a journalist from Ecuador, and her husband Marc Saint-Upéry, a French journalist and translator. Marc promised that we could stay in his father’s empty apartment the next time we visited Paris. I have to remember to get Marc’s phone number before the year is over.

            One of the highlights of the first week was our tour of “Hahvahd Yard.”

             The tour was conducted by a couple of students through a student-run business. It was great and the students presented an unofficial tour of Harvard with the flourish of stage performers. It was only later that we learned that while the tour was insightful, some of the details were highly exaggerated. But it was cool. One thing that did catch my attention was the confirmation of just how wealthy Harvard is, sitting on an endowment of more than $35 billion. One of the tour guides asked us if we knew the one private organization whose endowment was bigger. The answer is the Catholic Church.

            “It is said,” bellowed the tour guide. “That only God has more money than Harvard.”

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 2:48 am  Leave a Comment  

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