November 25, 2019
Last week, you learned about the HLS dorms. This week, we’re featuring a unique housing opportunity at HLS: serving as a residential advisor for undergraduate students at Harvard College. All residential advisors at Harvard College are graduate students, known as “proctors” for first-year students and “tutors” in the twelve undergraduate Houses (where sophomores, juniors, and seniors live).
Current HLS students Armani, Irfan, Kathryn, and Princess Daisy (PD) sat down with Dean Jobson to share their thoughts on living with Harvard undergraduates as proctors and tutors.
Let’s start with the terminology. What are “proctors” and “tutors”?
Armani: It’s a hybrid role, helping undergraduates adjust to and navigate college. You are part residential advisor, part academic advisor, and part university officer. As a proctor for first-year students in Weld Hall, I see myself as a bit of a life coach for people who are new to college and arrive from a variety of contexts and backgrounds.
PD: I also see tutoring as a multi-part role. Residential tutors in the undergraduate Houses are primarily there to support students throughout their time as sophomores through seniors. Academic support is top of mind, of course, but the social component is important, too. House tutors each have a specialty area of academic advising. At you might expect, I am a pre-law tutor in Dunster House, assisting students with the law school application process.
I know your advisees must really benefit from having you in their dorms. What do you see as the benefits of proctoring and tutoring for a law student?
PD: Sometimes I feel like I get more from tutoring than I could ever give back. Tutoring while I’m a law student has given me a strong sense of home. I leave the HLS campus each day and return to a family of 400 people in Dunster House. By living together and building connections in the House, you go past introductory conversations and really get to know one another as people.
Kathryn: I see tutoring as an opportunity to help others build community, which fulfills me just as much it helps others.
How do you do that? How do you build a community among your undergraduate advisees?
Armani: I work to facilitate connections but I want the students to feel empowered to build community on their own. I provide opportunities for them to come together in informal ways. For example, I host open door hours in my room, where they can come eat snacks and play video games. I ask my first-year students to let me know if they have any upcoming extracurricular events for me to attend, like concerts or sporting events.
PD: I always introduce everyone to one another so that they get to know their fellow students.
Kathryn: I think remembering students’ names and what’s happening in their lives is important. It’s easy to see yourself as primarily a problem solver, but I find that the most important part of my role is just being a part of my students’ lives.
How much time do you spend each week proctoring or tutoring?
PD: It varies. September is pretty busy with academic advising.
Armani: The time commitment definitely falls off after fall advising winds down.
PD: On average, I’d guess I spend between eight and fifteen hours a week tutoring, including meals in the Dunster House dining hall. I eat every meal in Dunster, which is a nice time to catch up with students.
Irfan: I also see a varied time commitment. It can spike for a tutor when you are responsible for House programming throughout the year. In Winthrop House, each tutor is responsible for certain House activities, like yoga, wine tastings, a masquerade ball, and a Casino Royale event.
Would you recommend proctoring or tutoring as a 1L? Why or why not?
Armani: Yes! I did it. It can be tricky at times to juggle both, especially at the beginning of the year. My 1L Orientation overlapped with my first-year students’ orientation activities, for example. But it’s important to form a community outside the law school during your 1L year, and by definition proctoring gets you off the HLS campus. It also gave me an easy way to meet graduate students at other schools, since so many different types of graduate students serve as proctors.
Irfan: It definitely requires you to time manage and prioritize. Your undergraduate advisees are relying on you, so you don’t want to drop off, especially at important times. But overall, I think it’s a plus to tutor as a 1L. It’s been really affirming to have the House community as part of my experience.
Armani: On the days during 1L year when I felt like I knew the least of anyone in the entire law school, I could go home to my first-years, who were all confident that I knew the answer to everything.
Kathryn: I have enjoyed tutoring as a 1L. It’s a good source of balance, and forces you to not spend your entire day in the WCC. Connecting with undergraduate students who are brilliant and excited and engaged keeps you stimulated and provides a good perspective on 1L year.
Irfan: It’s such a breath of fresh air, and keeps my brain sharper. I like to talk to my undergraduate students about cases and hypotheticals from class. They often offer a fresh perspective that you might not hear from a fellow 1L who is deeply embedded in the material.
Kathryn and Irfan, you each tutor alongside a partner. What’s it like to proctor or tutor as part of a couple?
Kathryn: It’s pretty wonderful, actually. We have dinner together every night in the Adams House dining hall. If we lived alone in an apartment, we might be inclined to turn our brains off in the evening and watch TV while we eat dinner, but in the dining hall, we spend time talking with our students and each other. Tutoring has been a meaningful experience to share.
Irfan: I agree. It’s nice to tutor with a partner, because you can tag team and pick up responsibilities from one another.
What type of law student would like to proctor or tutor?
PD: Someone who likes mentoring others, and wants to engage in conversations with people who aren’t lawyers or law students.
Interested in proctoring or tutoring? You can find out more about the proctor application process and tutor application process online. Applications for proctor positions are due on January 6, 2020, and tutor applications are due on January 27, 2020.