Joie Gelband wasn’t supposed to have a career as a union organizer. In 1985, the recent college graduate “tagged along” with friends to Boston and took a job at the Harvard Divinity School as a placeholder until graduate school.“My only goal at that point was to become a famous feminist theologian,” she said with a knowing smile. “That was my lofty ambition.” So when a co-worker approached her and invited her to a meeting about forming a union, Gelband passed.“I said — and I’m embarrassed to admit this — ‘I’m above that,’ ” she recalled. “I just hadn’t thought of the world of workers beyond my friends and I trying to get our first jobs.”That attitude didn’t last long. Her colleague persisted, and within a year of begrudgingly attending her first meeting, Gelband had quit her job to work on union activities full time.“I got very interested in the basic philosophy of this organizing drive,” she said. The nascent Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), which finally formed after a worker vote in 1988, wasn’t just demanding more overtime pay or better hours, she said. “We were organizing around [the idea of] workers having a voice, and being in the room when decisions are made.”That mission has guided Gelband’s work over the past quarter-century. She may not be a world-renowned feminist scholar, but she has certainly changed women’s (and men’s) lives as an HUCTW organizer.After nearly two decades working as an organizer under the auspices of the union’s national affiliate, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Gelband came back on board as a Harvard employee in 2004.She now co-manages HUCTW’s Work Security Program, a partnership between the University and the union that helps to place laid-off workers in new positions around Harvard. Gelband trains case managers to work with the newly unemployed, coordinates with human resources and hiring managers, and serves as an advocate.“Harvard is an enormous and dynamic institution, and changes are going to happen all the time,” she said. Union jobs are especially susceptible to turnover. As grants expire, and as departments in the University expand and contract, support positions are frequently created, phased out, and reshuffled.“It saves the University to hire an experienced insider, and it’s the right thing to do for someone who’s facing job loss,” Gelband said.Gelband’s dedication to the program hasn’t gone unnoticed by the workers she has helped. Laverne Martinez became one of those people in July 2009, when Gelband helped her to land a job at the Office of Sponsored Programs. Gelband would call Martinez before and after every interview. She helped Martinez keep track of her many applications to provide necessary evidence of her job search to the union board. Gelband made calls on her behalf and set up informational interviews for practice.“Every single job that I’ve applied for, she has really been there, to the point where we would communicate every single day,” Martinez said. “She puts her heart into doing it.”Gelband also runs HUCTW’s School-to-Work Program, which places students from Cambridge Rindge & Latin School in paid internships around Harvard. Gelband trains HUCTW members to be intern supervisors and teaches a weekly seminar for the students to learn about workplace skills, labor issues, and collective action.She brings the union home, too. She and her husband, David Cort, a library assistant at Widener Library, met while working on the union campaign. Both work part-time to allow them to co-parent their two children, ages 15 and 7.“One of us is always available to do kid-related or dog-related things,” she said — like being the “resident union lady” at her daughter’s school. Every year Gelband teaches second-graders classic picket songs, including a few HUCTW originals. They’re the same tunes Gelband has been crooning since the mid-1980s, only in a classroom instead of at a rally: “Unions, unions, unions, u-u-u-unions! Unions are a woman’s best friend!”
The Simons Foundation has appointed Michael P. Brenner, Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), a Simons Investigator. Now in its inaugural year, the program offers an appointment of five years with a grant of $100,000 for research support per year, with the possibility of renewal for five additional years. A distinguished panel of scientists in physics chose Brenner for the award.Brenner, who was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during 2011-12, also serves as the area dean for Applied Mathematics at SEAS. Along with colleague David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics, he is a co-creator of the famed “Science and Cooking” general education course. Brenner received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago in 1994, and came to Harvard in 2001 after six years as a faculty member in applied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Over the past decade, Brenner has focused primarily on theoretical modeling in physical sciences and engineering. His research has examined the breaking of fluid droplets; sonoluminescence, the production of light from very high-pressure gas bubbles in liquid; the sedimentation of small particles; and electrospinning, a materials technique for producing small fibers. In addition to his appointment at SEAS, Brenner is a Kavli Scholar at the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science & Technology at Harvard University, a faculty associate at the Harvard University Center for the Environment, and a participant in the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at Harvard. Read Full Story
Read Full Story Massachusetts’ six years of experience with health care reform holds valuable lessons for the nation as it prepares to begin fully implementing the Affordable Care Act in 2014. In a September 5, 2012 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Vanderbilt University’s John Graves and Katherine Swartz, professor of health economics and policy at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), suggest that new policies might be needed both in Massachusetts and the nation to help minimize long-term gaps in insurance coverage for certain groups of people.Graves, a recent graduate of Harvard’s Ph.D. in Health Policy Program, and Swartz said data collected both before and after Massachusetts implemented health care reform indicate that, while the lengths of uninsured spells were minimized for many Massachusetts adults relative to those living in neighboring states after the Massachusetts reforms, the percentage of long-term uninsured did not change dramatically. The authors suggest that low-income people who have access to, but cannot afford, employer-sponsored insurance plans may need increased eligibility for coverage from state-based health insurance exchanges.
During the summer of 2012, hundreds of Harvard Law School J.D. and graduate students benefitted from the largest pool of guaranteed funding offered by a law school for the broadest range of public interest summer work. A select group of 26 students worked in 19 countries under the aegis of the Chayes International Public Service Fellowships, dedicated to the memory of Professor Abram Chayes, who taught at Harvard Law School for more than 40 years. The program is co-administered by the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) and International Legal Studies.Chayes Fellows typically work within the governments of developing nations, or with the intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations that support them. And they draw—before, during and after their summer placements—on the support, networking, and ongoing community offered by the Chayes program.On Thursday, November 29, several Summer 2012 Chayes Fellows will speak about their experiences abroad at a panel discussion on ‘Empowering Communities Through Law.’ The program, sponsored by International Legal Studies, will be held at 12 p.m. in Hauser 104.As in summers past, the work the Chayes Fellows undertook this summer was as wide-ranging as the places they traveled to. Read five brief portraits that reflect some of their experiences on the Harvard Law School website.
The Hasty Pudding Theatricals of Harvard University has named Emmy Award-winning actor Kiefer Sutherland as its 2013 Man of the Year. Sutherland joins Marion Cotillard, recently honored as 2013 Woman of the Year.The Man of the Year festivities will take place on Friday. The producers of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Tyler Lewis ’14 and Peter Riley ’14, will roast Sutherland and present him with his Pudding Pot at 8 p.m. in Farkas Hall, before the opening performance of its 165th production, “There’s Something About Maui.” A press conference will be held at 8:30 p.m. following the roast.The Man and Woman of the Year awards are presented annually to performers who have made a lasting and impressive contribution to the world of entertainment. Established in 1951, the Woman of the Year award has been granted to many notable and talented entertainers, including Meryl Streep, Katharine Hepburn, Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster, Elizabeth Taylor, Anne Hathaway, and, last year, Claire Danes. The Man of the Year award was established in 1963. Its past recipients include Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins, Bruce Willis, Justin Timberlake, and, last year, Jason Segel.Sutherland is a prolific and award-winning actor who recently starred in the critically acclaimed Fox drama “24,” for which he won a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and two SAG awards. In 2011, Sutherland starred alongside Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Alexander Skarsgard in the apocalyptic drama film “Melancholia,” written and directed by Lars von Trier. He also starred on stage as James Daley in the revival of Jason Miller’s Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play “That Championship Season,” which ran in spring of 2011.Currently, Sutherland stars as Martin Bohm in the Fox drama “Touch.” The American supernatural thriller television series was created by Tim Kring and debuted on Jan. 25, 2012. His other credits include the animated film “Monsters vs. Aliens” in 2009, opposite Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, and Seth Rogen; “The Sentinel” in 2006, opposite Michael Douglas and Kim Basinger; “Taking Lives” in 2004, opposite Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke; and “Phone Booth” in 2002, among many others.For more information about the event, please contact the Hasty Pudding Theatricals press and publicity manager Tyler Faux at 617.495.5205 or [email protected] purchase tickets to “There’s Something About Maui,” contact the box office at 617.495.5205, or order online. It will be performed at Harvard University’s historic Farkas Hall, 12 Holyoke St. The show continues in Cambridge until March 10. The company then travels to New York to perform at Hunter College’s Kaye Playhouse on March 15 and 16 (call 212.772.4448 for tickets), then to the Hamilton City Hall in Bermuda for performances on March 20-22.Press credentialing is now open for the Man of the Year event. Visit the website for press information and an online application form. For more information, contact Harvard Public Affairs & Communications by phone at 617.495.1585, or by fax at 617.495.0754.In addition to the annual Man and Woman of the Year Awards, The Hasty Pudding Institute will present the first Order of the Golden Sphinx award at a gala ceremony on March 4 at the Mandarin Oriental in New York. The Order of the Golden Sphinx — a traditional symbol of the Hasty Pudding Institute — will be given to Michael Lynton, the chief executive officer of Sony Entertainment Inc., for his deep appreciation of and dedication to enhancing the arts through both his personal commitment and arts education support.
A special notice regarding Harvard’s 363rd Commencement Exercises to be held May 29.Morning ExercisesTo accommodate the increasing number of people wishing to attend Harvard’s Commencement Exercises, the following guidelines are proposed to facilitate admission into Tercentenary Theatre on Commencement morning:Degree candidates will receive a limited number of tickets to Commencement. Parents and guests of degree candidates must have tickets, which they will be required to show at the gates in order to enter Tercentenary Theatre. Seating capacity is limited, however, there is standing room on the Widener Library steps and at the rear and sides of the Tercentenary Theatre for viewing the exercises.Note: A ticket allows admission into the theater, but does not guarantee a seat. Seats are on a first-come basis and cannot be reserved. The sale of Commencement tickets is prohibited.A very limited supply of tickets will be made available to all other alumni and alumnae on a first-come, first-served basis through the Harvard Alumni Association. Alumni and alumnae and guests are requested to view the Morning Exercises over large-screen televisions in the Science Center and at designated locations in most of the undergraduate Houses and graduate and professional Schools. These locations provide ample seating, and tickets are not required.Alumni and alumnae attending their College reunions (25th, 35th, 50th) will receive tickets at their reunions. Alumni and alumnae in classes beyond the 50th may obtain tickets from the College Alumni Programs Office by calling 617.496.7001, or through the annual Treespread mailing sent out in March with an RSVP date of April 15.Afternoon ExercisesThe Harvard Alumni Association’s Annual Meeting convenes in Tercentenary Theatre on the afternoon of Commencement. All alumni and alumnae, faculty, students, parents, and guests are invited to attend and hear Harvard’s president and the Commencement speaker deliver their addresses. Tickets for the afternoon ceremony will be available through the Harvard Alumni Association, or by calling 617.496.7001.— Jacqueline A. O’Neill University Marshal
On April 9 the members of the Faculty Council discussed multi-year financial planning and continued their conversation about University finances.The council next meets on April 30. The next meeting of the faculty is May 6 at 4 p.m. The preliminary deadline for the May 6 meeting of the faculty is April 22 at noon.
A new theoretical framework outlined by a Harvard scientist could help solve the mystery of how bacterial cells coordinate processes that are critical to cellular division, such as DNA replication, and how bacteria know when to divide.For decades, scientists have believed that cellular division is triggered when bacterial cells reach a particular size. The new model, described by Ariel Amir, an assistant professor of applied mathematics and applied physics, in a paper recently published in Physical Review Letters, suggests that cells coordinate the replication of their DNA not through size, but by how much they grow over time.“The focus of this work is on how bacteria regulate their size — how do they know when to divide, so they all remain largely identical,” Amir said. “The question is: How do they do that, and how does that couple with other processes in the cell, such as DNA replication?”Scientists have long known that bacteria can double their population in as little as 20 minutes, but a series of pioneering studies in the late 1960s revealed that it takes about an hour from the time DNA replication starts until cell division occurs.The remaining mystery has been in how those two processes are coordinated.“The answer is quite remarkable,” Amir said. “Earlier studies showed that what bacteria do is actually start the DNA replication process for subsequent generations. A single bacterial cell may actually be replicating DNA for its grandchildren, or even its great-grandchildren.”In the 1960s, researchers showed that DNA replication begins when cells reach a critical size, leading to the belief that bacteria somehow know how large they are, and that DNA replication is triggered at a certain size.Later studies, however, challenged that model with the finding that the size of bacteria at birth was correlated to the size of bacteria at division. Those findings — that smaller bacteria produced smaller offspring, while that of larger bacteria was larger — suggested that bacteria were measuring something other than their size.“What I propose is something that can reconcile these two pictures in a very simple way,” Amir said. “Rather than trying to reach a critical size, cells try to add a specific volume from the initiation of DNA replication to the next replication event. To do this, the cells need to measure a difference in volume, which is much easier, and they can achieve this in a biochemical way that doesn’t include any absolute measurement.”Though the exact biochemical process hasn’t been identified, Amir suggested that it might be similar to a system described in several studies in the 1970s.“Within this hypothetical model proposed in the ’70s, one protein is found at a constant concentration throughout the cell, and as the cell grows in volume the number of new copies it makes has to be proportional to the change in volume,” Amir said. “By thresholding the number of new copies, the cell can measure a change in volume.”Ultimately, Amir said, understanding how bacteria regulate their size could spur advances on a host of questions connected to the ways cells regulate biological processes.“This is a doorway to a larger question of how cells regulate and coordinate all the processes which occur in them, which is a huge question in biology,” Amir said. “This is an example where we can quantitatively understand some aspects of that, so I think this might lead us to some broader questions.”
It was a tiny plastic coin purse that launched an empire. Four decades ago, a Japanese dry goods company began putting colorful decorations on its humdrum products in an effort to appeal to preteen girls. That company, Sanrio, experimented with several images to see what best grabbed young consumers — a flower, a strawberry — but it was a stylized white kitten with a red bow and no mouth that hit pay dirt.Kitty White, better known to generations of her fans around the world as Hello Kitty, is a global marketing phenomenon that generates a reported $5 billion a year and is among the most recognized corporate logos in the world. The ubiquitous Sanrio mascot, designed to convey a message of happiness and friendship, turns 40 Nov. 1.“The question that everyone asks is: ‘Why is she so popular?’” said Christine Yano, the Edwin O. Reischauer Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Harvard and a professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who has studied Hello Kitty for the past 16 years. “I think it starts with a very clever, aesthetically pleasing design, which a lot can be read into.”The character’s elegant and essentially unchanging appearance over the years, taking on only slight variations to reflect changing fashions, is a deliberate corporate strategy that adds to Kitty’s universal appeal. “This notion of always being the same but always being different allows her, in my mind, to travel not only across oceans, but within somewhere like the United States to different populations,” said Yano.Next Tuesday, Yano will discuss her 2013 book, “Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific,” with Susan Pharr, the Edwin O. Reischauer Professor of Japanese Politics and director of the Weatherhead Center For International Affairs Program on U.S.-Japan Relations. The talk is co-sponsored by the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies.Yano recently curated “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty,” an exhibit on the pop icon’s history that opened earlier this month at the Japanese American Natural Museum in Los Angeles. While promoting the show last August, Yano started a brief Internet sensation when she told a Los Angeles Times reporter that, to Sanrio, Hello Kitty is not a cat but rather “a girl or friend.”This week, Yano will be a featured panelist at “Kitty Con,” the first convention dedicated to all things Hello Kitty, a sold-out event organized by Sanrio to commemorate the 40th anniversary at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles.Yano became immersed in the curious world of Hello Kitty super-fandom in 1998 while teaching a course on Japanese pop culture at the University of Hawaii that briefly referenced the character. After learning of its popularity among the anthropology department’s middle-aged, Japanese, female staffers, and its elaborately crafted backstory, Yano said she had an epiphany of sorts.“What I found was the richness of the narrative was pretty incredible,” she said. “But the other wow moment for me as an anthropologist” was the combination of Sanrio’s unusually “rich, fictive world” with the “very human element of the fandom. I thought, now that’s something worth studying.”She has since interviewed Sanrio employees and executives, as well as hundreds of fans, to better understand Hello Kitty’s popularity. “What I found for a lot of the fans was they like this particular cute because it comes with a kind of quirkiness. It’s the cute that can become cool.”Yano places Hello Kitty in the continuum of kawaii, or Japanese cute culture, that grew out of the rise of girls as a powerful consumer and cultural force in Japan in the 1970s and ’80s, one that later spawned a distinctive street culture. The aesthetic embraced cuteness and spunkiness, but played with notions of female sweetness or demureness, often in an ironic or subversive manner — although at times not ironically.“There’s a Japanese concept of play, asobi, which I think is important for us to keep in mind. There’s a willingness to play with image, to throw things together in what might even be considered almost a postmodern aesthetic,” said Yano.Not everyone thinks Hello Kitty is so likable or benign. Some critics despise the shameless commercial ubiquity of the image, while a common Western and Japanese feminist critique centers on the character’s female identity and her absent mouth as an implicit statement of submissiveness, not a chameleon-like blank slate.“That’s one of the first things that a lot of the critics will say, and logically so, if the idea of having a mouth means having a voice, [which] means having agency. In the West, we put those equivalences together, so having no mouth means having no agency,” said Yano. “It’s interesting to me how you will have the fans and the critics looking at the same thing, but just coming down on different sides of the fence.”Unlike the familiar criticisms of sexually or violently themed toys like Barbie or BB guns, “Cute stuff kind of goes under the radar of the normal Western critique,” said Yano. “I think that was part of my impulse in looking at Hello Kitty. I thought cute was in some ways under-theorized, under-researched, and maybe — even from a critical stance in terms of children and what might or might not be appropriate — really forgotten.”
From helping to launch a nutrition program in Tanzanian villages to learning how the World Health Organization (WHO) develops global policies, eight Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health students spent this past summer getting a taste of real-world public health. They all were awarded travel grants from the Maternal Health Task Force, part of the School’s Women and Health Initiative, to support internships in countries including Brazil, Nigeria, and Pakistan. They recently shared research findings and spoke about their experiences.Severe malnutrition is the third highest cause of death for children under five in Tanzania, and stunting (diminished growth in children) is estimated to be around 35 percent, according to Alexandra Bellows, S.M. ’17. She spent the summer in Tanzania working on a project that aims to prevent malnutrition in children and their mothers through better dietary diversity.Many rural women in Tanzania maintain small home farms, so Bellows and her fellow researchers at the Homestead Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative—a collaboration between Harvard Chan School, the Ifakara Health Institute, and Sokoine University of Agriculture, and part of the School’s Africa Health Partnership—wanted to see if the addition of new crops would improve their health and their children’s health.The program provided vegetable seeds at no cost to participating households and will monitor their health for one year. The hope is that women and children’s height, weight, body composition, and blood tests will show signs of better health at the end of the study period. Read Full Story