In the early 1980’s and as president of Harvard University, Derek Bok posed the questions, “What are we here at Harvard doing well for our undergraduates?” and “How can we tweak or change what we are doing to strengthen the undergraduate college experience?” Together with faculty member Richard Light, he created the Harvard Assessment Seminars, a working group of faculty members, administrators and students from more than 20 universities, who convened monthly to work on problems related to undergraduate education. The results of the work were used to inform policy decisions on home campuses.

The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning seeks to enhance learning at Harvard by integrating its traditional strengths in cultivating excellent instruction with an expanded focus on discovering new approaches to teaching and learning, and improving the student experience, coupled with researching the efficacy of these approaches in the classroom and beyond. Staying true to the words of its namesake, Derek Bok, the Bok Center is reinvigorating the spirit of the original Harvard Assessment Seminars in convening and leveraging the country’s top leaders from leading American universities for an annual gathering, now renamed the Harvard Summit on Excellence in Higher Education.

Each summit will have a strong focus on educational data. Evidence-based ideas and solutions will be actively discussed and debated by the entire group. We anticipate that the principles that emerge at our gatherings can then be “taken back home” to participating campuses and shared with broader academic communities. It is our hope that the principles and related plans generated at the events will extend, over time, far beyond the original participants. Participants will be people with the capacity to lead change, who dare to be provocative, those with fresh – even unusual – perspectives who aren’t afraid to challenge conventional wisdom among university leaders.

Each year topics will rotate. Rooted in the relevant national conversations of the past year, the inaugural Summit focused on issues of academic inclusion, with the recognition of personal and social inclusion factors as well. This summit seeks to foster fresh and innovative thinking on how to most constructively address these issues.  An executive summary of our first summit can be found here.

We look forward to working with you.

Robert A. Lue

Richard L. Menschel Faculty Director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

Jenny Bergeron

Director of Educational Research and Assessment, The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning