Connecting beyond the classroom

Pilot event provides unique opportunity for faculty-student engagement

On April 5, more than 60 Harvard Law students and 27 HLS faculty members, including Dean Martha Minow, took over the typically quiet tables of the library reading room for the first “Notes and Comment” event. Students seeking guidance on their research and writing for publication met individually or in small groups with faculty members and librarians.

The idea for the gathering came from Professor Jonathan Zittrain, the George Bemis Professor of International Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources, who saw it as a way to create new student-faculty interactions on scholarly topics and to reinforce the library’s position as the home of scholarship on campus. “A gathering like this creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts: our librarians help faculty and students forge on-the-fly discussion groups to let ideas develop in unexpected directions,” said Zittrain. “I’m excited at the prospect of making this a regular event.”

Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive. Several students commented that professors provided substantive feedback on their ideas and offered direction for further research. “It was casual and fun, and the professors were open and encouraging,” said 1L Catherine Padhi. “I left the event feeling that professors here are genuinely interested in getting to know students and helping them write.”

“We wanted the event to be comfortable for all who attended—to provide a workable balance of structure and flexibility,” said Claire DeMarco, research librarian and event organizer. “We partnered students and faculty, but left room for connections to grow organically—and they did. We have continued interest from both faculty and students and plan on offering the event again.”