Comings and Goings: A New Presence in the Region

by | May 8, 2002

In northern Chile, a biologist explores how plants thrive in the world’s driest desert. In a shantytown near Lima, Peru, a medical team treats multidrug-resistant tuberculosis patients in ways that are changing how tuberculosis is treated in poor communities around the world. Atop a 7,800 foot-high mountain in Las Campanas, Chile, astronomers use one of the most powerful telescopes in the world to view heavenly sights that are invisible from the Northern Hemisphere.

In five countries in the Andes, an economist and his team of local investigators study how to promote competitiveness. With the breathtaking backdrop of Cuzco, Peru, a literature specialist and a historian combine forces to teach a new course on history and culture. In ten Chilean cities, a public health researcher studies the negative health consequences of air pollution, while in Santiago, architects and urban planners collaborate on innovative designs in low-cost housing.

Then there’s an undergraduate exploring study abroad in Uruguay, a medical student improving her Spanish in a clinical setting in Bolivia, a public policy student working as a community development intern in Argentina, and a political scientist writing her dissertation on women in elected offices at the municipal level in Chile.

What links these diverse initiatives? All are examples of work being done by Harvard faculty and students who plan to work with a new regional office of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, scheduled to open in Santiago, Chile in July 2002.

“This is an enormously exciting opportunity for Harvard to strengthen its regional presence in South America,” said DRCLAS faculty director John Coatsworth.

The Santiago office will provide important new opportunities for Harvard faculty to conduct research and field projects in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay. The office will also expand opportunities for Harvard students to learn more about these countries through research projects and study abroad at distinguished universities in these countries.

“The research mission of the regional office, with its goal of encouraging collaborative faculty activity, and the comprehensive plan for evaluation of its activities are all consistent with our goals of effective, focused activities outside of Cambridge,” said Harvard University Provost Steven Hyman.

More than 20 Harvard faculty members wrote letters describing how the office would help promote their work. “We are currently treating patients with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in Lima, Peru and hope to extend treatment to the rest of the country,” wrote Professors Paul Farmer and Jim Yong Kim from the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Social Medicine. “We believe that a DRCLAS regional office will allow more Harvard faculty and students to participate in this work, as well as help disseminate research findings from this work through conferences and publications.”

In January 2002, the Provost and a committee of four Harvard Deans approved the regional office after more than a year of discussions among faculty and senior administrators at Harvard. This new regional office will work closely with existing Harvard projects in the region, including the Harvard Business School’s successful Latin American Research Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Coatsworth said that he was delighted that Steve Reifenberg, who has served for the past six years as the Executive Director of the David Rockefeller Center in Cambridge, has agreed to assume the role of Program Director of the regional office based in Santiago, Chile. “This arrangement will insure that the new office is fully integrated with the work and mission of the David Rockefeller Center and the University,” Coatsworth added.

“The DRCLAS regional office represents the first time that Harvard University has created an international presence to promote the work of all of Harvard’s departments and schools,” said Reifenberg, who will be moving to Santiago in July. “This effort will build on the David Rockefeller Center’s many years of experience collaborating with departments and schools across the University to promote the work of Harvard faculty and to engage Harvard students in the region.”

“However, it should be highlighted,” Reifenberg added, “that the Santiago office is a three year pilot project, and that it will not create a “mini campus” for Harvard nor will it offer courses for the general public. Instead, it will be a facilitating center at the service of Harvard faculty and Harvard students, complementing the role that the David Rockefeller Center has played here in Cambridge since it was founded in 1994.”

Many faculty members across the University have voiced enthusiastic support for the regional office.

“Strengthening ties to institutions is best done in face-to-face meeting and I believe that Santiago, Chile represents a superb choice for a branch office,” said Harvard Anthropology Department Chair William Fash. “There are many advantages that the creation of such an office in Chile–with outreach to Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Argentina–will create for Harvard,” added Fash, who is also Chair of the Committee for Study Out of Residence. “President Lawrence Summers has expressed a strong interest in creating linkages in order to facilitate study abroad for Harvard College students, and to that end I believe this office will help forge stronger links with outstanding scholars and institutions of higher education in the region.”

Spring 2002Volume I, Number 3

The regional office will be located in the new building of FLACSO (the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences) at Avenue Dag Hammarskjold 3269 in Santiago, Chile. For additional information, contact Steve Reifenberg atsreifenb@fas.harvard.edu

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