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Harvard Graduate Commons

Since 2008, the Graduate Commons Program has grown ten-fold from an experiment in two Harvard University Housing properties to a thriving living-learning community for all the Harvard graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, staff, faculty and their families who live with us. During that time, I have sat at dinner tables with great authors and scholars and listened to lectures on astronomy, health care, leadership, the death penalty, and so much more. I have worked with students at all stages of their academic career and had the privilege of developing close relationships with Harvard faculty, students, and staff from across the University’s twelve graduate and professional schools. 

Personally, I am so grateful to the residents, the Program Managers, and the Faculty Directors for the parts they have played in growing this program. I also want to thank the myriad campus offices and community resources, including my Harvard Housing colleagues, who have provided support and programming opportunities for us over the years. Their generous contributions of time and creativity have allowed us to serve our community and the University in more ways than ever imagined. It has been the joy of my career to be a part of Graduate Commons’ story. 

Ten years from its inception you’ll find that the Graduate Commons Program is so much more than our initial goal of making connections; we are a team of faculty, staff, and students truly ‘Making Harvard Home’.


With gratitude,
Lisa Valela

Director, Graduate Commons Program


Over ten years ago I was invited to tour a new Harvard University Housing apartment building on Cowperthwaite Street in Cambridge. Little did I know that the tour would change the trajectory of my career at Harvard and have a profound impact on my life.


In that meeting, I first learned that Harvard University Housing was looking to launch a pilot program focused on building connections between graduate students living on campus. As we walked the new spaces, including a beautiful Faculty Director apartment, the conversation quickly turned from countertops and air handlers to the importance of community and interdisciplinary opportunities amongst Harvard University Housing residents. I was instantly excited about the possibilities and a few months later I had a new job and new sense of purpose. 

A Letter from the Director