We’re here because we care

This offering of CS290 was created, developed, and is currently run by a group of volunteers (us, the course staff!) to improve Ph.D. student well-being and to create a more supportive and inclusive culture at Harvard. We are dedicating ourselves to this course because we care about its mission and about your experience in the program. So what does that mean? It means that…

We want you to come to our office hours

We want to get to know you all, both in the context of the class and as individuals – we want to know what research you’re working on, what you do for fun, what you’re finding most challenging in the program, what you find most rewarding, etc. This is one aspect of the course we enjoy most.

We want to see you even more when you’re struggling, lost, or down

Those of us that finished the Ph.D. have had our fair share of struggles throughout, and those of us still doing our Ph.D. are currently struggling. We recognize that there are “good” types of struggle – ones that build you up and help you grow – and “bad” types of struggle – ones that don’t make you a better researcher and negatively impact your Ph.D. experience. When things get hard, the worst thing you can do is isolate yourself, and seeking support is the absolute best thing you can do. We can, together, find ways to productively deal with both the good and the bad.

We have high expectations for you to be thoughtful and engaged

CS290 is not supposed to overwhelm you with work. We specifically designed it this way because we understand the pressure first-year Ph.D. students are under, juggling courses, research, and their personal lives. However, we do expect you to be thoughtful in your engagement with the course materials and in your interaction with your peers. Substantial amounts of research have shown that Computer Science programs and Ph.D. programs can create cultures of isolation and impostorism, in which students feel judged for common struggles many experience, instead of coming together to support one another. We ask you to be thoughtful in how you validate your peer’s identities and create a safe and supportive space for everyone.


This post is inspired by and adapted from Evan Peck’s What I want you to know about me as your professor.