Graduate Commons Program Team

The Graduate Commons Program is driven by a multidisciplinary team that aims to connect the academic and residential experiences at Harvard, bringing diverse and enriching programming to the lives of our residents.

Faculty directors

GCP Faculty Directors act as the intellectual head of their community, welcoming residents and guests into their homes each month to live and learn together. As residents of Harvard University Housing, you are invited to join them every month for Open House events or host conversations with special guests throughout the semester.

Faculty Directors Professor Nancy Hill & Rendall Howell posing together at an event

Professor Nancy Hill & Rendall Howell

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Professor Nancy Hill & Rendall Howell

Nancy E. Hill is the Charles Bigelow Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and a former Radcliffe Professor. Professor Hill is a developmental psychologist and her research focuses primarily on adolescence. Further, she identifies the unique and interactive ways in which race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status influence parenting beliefs, practices, and youth outcomes. In addition, she was a recent recipient of the William T. Grant Foundation Distinguished Faculty Fellowship for her work on improving adolescents’ academic adjustment holistically via interagency collaborations at the state and local levels. Prior to coming to Harvard in 2007, she was on faculty in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. She enjoys cycling, cooking, and kayaking on the Charles River.

Rendall Howell is a Strategic Account Manager at NCR, a financial equipment and technology company serving clients in the financial services industry. He earned his BA in Economics at Oberlin College and his MBA in Finance at Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. In his spare time, Rendall enjoys playing his trumpet and playing any sport.

Together with their two children, Nancy and Rendall enjoy being outside, going to concerts, eating, and are actively involved in their church.

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Faculty Directors Grace La & James Dallman smiling and posing together.

Professor Grace La & James Dallman

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Professor Grace La & James Dallman

With deep Harvard roots, both Professor Grace La and James Dallman received their professional degrees in architecture from GSD and are excited to mentor and support residents in the Graduate Commons community. “James and I are delighted to join the distinctive GCP program, which enables us to contribute to the intellectual life at Harvard in new and expansive ways. We look forward to collaboration across the university,” said La.

La and Dallman are also principals and co-founders of La Dallman Architects, an internationally-recognized firm integrating architecture, engineering, and landscape. The firm’s work has been exhibited widely, including at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Danish Architecture Center, and the Roca London Gallery. They have been awarded numerous professional honors, including the prestigious Progressive Architecture Award, for which their work is featured on the March 2021 cover of Architect, the journal of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

In addition to their Harvard teaching and collaborative design practice, the couple has a variety of interests they hope to share with HUH residents. La enjoys travel, furniture and textile design, and gardening. Additionally, she hosts Talking Practice, a niche podcast with a devoted following of nearly 75,000 downloads. Dallman enjoys drawing and is an avid outdoorsman who hikes, camps, and has portaged throughout the upper Great Lakes and the Canadian Boundary Waters. They will be joined in residence by their two sons and look forward to creating deeper connections with the Harvard community.

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Professor Vinny Manoharan & Michelle Carter

Professor Vinny Manoharan & Michelle Carter

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Professor Vinny Manoharan & Michelle Carter

Vinothan (Vinny) Manoharan is the Wagner Family Professor of Chemical Engineering and Professor of Physics and the co-Director of the Quantitative Biology Initiative at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. His research focuses on understanding how systems containing many particles suspended in a liquid—such as nanoparticles, proteins, or cells—organize themselves into ordered structures like crystals, viruses, and even living tissues. His lab uses optical microscopy and holography to watch these systems self-assemble in real-time. The goal is to discover new, general physical principles that underlie complex systems and to apply these principles to practical problems in materials science, nanotechnology, and medicine. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2004 and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania before arriving at Harvard in 2005. In his spare time, Vinny enjoys volleyball, cooking, and sleeping, though rarely all at the same time.

Michelle Carter, a practicing painter, is Assistant Professor and Chair of the Art and Design Program at Northern Essex Community College, where she teaches drawing, painting, and design foundations. She has a BA in History from Vassar College and an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the Massachusetts College of Art. Michelle has exhibited her own work across New England and has a strong interest in community building, both in and out of the classroom.

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Todd Rogers and Sarah Dadkhah posing together and smiling for the camera.

Professor Todd Rogers and Sara Dadkhah

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Professor Todd Rogers and Sara Dadkhah

Professor Rogers is a professor of public policy and behavior scientist at the Harvard Kennedy School focused on work that supports student success and attendance, strengthens democracy, and improves communication.

He received both his master’s degree (GSAS) and Ph.D. from Harvard (HBS/GSAS) and has started two outside social enterprises.

Dadkhah, the child of Iranian immigrants, is an alum of the HKS Mid-Career Master’s in Public Administration Program and consults with the International Rescue Committee’s refugee resettlement operations in the United States.

Having three Harvard graduate degrees between them, Rogers and Dadkhah are very familiar with the Harvard graduate student experience, “We know that graduate school here can sometimes be socially isolating, especially for students and families from outside the US. We want to cultivate a community where everyone feels invited and accepted by sharing our interests and expertise with them.”

Outside of work, Dadkhah is an animal lover who volunteers at a local shelter, while Rogers saves his Sundays to cheer on the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL team he states, “will win the Super Bowl next year.” Their family, which also includes two children, Fletcher and Caroline, will begin working with the Graduate Commons Program in early fall 2023. “We want to use our new roles as faculty directors to cultivate and support the connection people are craving right now.”

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Professional staff

Our Program Managers support the holistic programming efforts that make Harvard University Housing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all residents. They work with Faculty Directors, Community Advisors, and the Family Programming team to host (virtual) events each month that support your and your entire household’s connections to your neighbors and the wider Harvard community.

Lisa Valela

(she/her/hers)
Director, Graduate Commons
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Lisa Valela

Lisa started her career at Harvard at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study before transitioning to Harvard Housing in 2008. She is currently the Director of the Graduate Commons Program at Harvard University Housing. In this role, Lisa is responsible for community building and co-curricular programming in all HUH properties, overseeing the talented professional team and their nearly 400 events each year. Lisa co-facilitates the Harvard Graduate Student Affairs Circle and is on the Advisory Board for the Harvard Graduate Council, a One Harvard student group focused on supporting and unifying graduate and professional students across campus. 

Lisa previously spent 5 years as a management consultant at Accenture, working for clients such as NYU, the University of Chicago, and The Ohio State University, before returning to graduate school to begin her career in Student Life. 

Lisa has a BA in Political Science and an MA in Education. She loves to explore New England, attends yoga classes when she can, and is a fan of the local live music scene. She also loves to talk about her three nieces and her hometown of Chicago.

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Veronica Dea Santana

Associate Director, Graduate Commons
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Veronica Dea Santana

Veronica began her time at Harvard by earning an Ed.M. in Human Development and Psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). She joined the Graduate Commons Program as Associate Director after previously serving as Assistant Director for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Before her time at Harvard, Veronica obtained her undergraduate degree in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and upon graduating served two years in AmeriCorps VISTA* managing her alma mater’s school partnerships and service learning opportunities. In her academic and professional work, she is passionate about fostering intentional spaces for personal development, community building, and holistic wellbeing.

Veronica enjoys talking with friends and family around a fire, traveling with her partner (to then eat many a thing), and having one-sided conversations with her orange tabby (Fiddle aka Moo) about his level of cuteness (consistently topping the charts).

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Andrea Normoyle

Program Manager, Family Programming
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Andrea Normoyle

Andrea earned a B.A. in History from Loyola University Chicago and a J.D. from the University of Illinois. She was a practicing attorney in Illinois specializing in Family Law and much of her legal career focused on issues surrounding intimate partner violence in under- resourced and marginalized communities. In her role as Family Program Manager, Andrea is eager to introduce new and current families who live in Graduate Housing to everything the Graduate Commons Programs has to offer!

When she is not working, Andrea loves to spend time with her husband and two daughters, Ava and Charlotte. Aside from her professional role with the Graduate Commons Program, Andrea and her family have been long time residents of Harvard Graduate Housing.  

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Maia Paterno

Program Manager, Community Service & Social Initiatives
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Maia Paterno

Maia earned her B.B.A in Music Business and Management from Belmont University in Nashville, TN. She is currently completing her M.S. in Leadership in Higher Education at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology where she tailors her work towards sexual violence prevention. Maia’s background is in Residence Life where she fell in love with supporting students on their educational journeys and creating spaces for them to explore their authentic identities. Outside of her work, Maia enjoys paddleboarding, baking, trying new foods, and spoiling her cat, Neve, who is the loveliest little lady! She is looking forward to connecting with students and welcoming others into the Harvard community.

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Thalia Peña

Program Manager, Academic and Career Initiatives
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Thalia Peña

Thalia earned a B.A. in Communication & English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Master of Higher Education from Boston College. She has experience working in both multicultural affairs and student events, as well as college access and financial aid. She is focused on creating a holistic and thriving experience for our resident population. Through her work, Thalia provides students with new opportunities and tools to excel in their current program and beyond.

Thalia loves all things pop-culture related, trying new dishes with friends, and is an obsessive reader. She is excited to connect with the students at Harvard and build community and long-lasting connections.

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Leo Smith

Staff Assistant
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Leo Smith

Leo Clifford Smith IV is a Boston-based creative and educator. Leo earned his B.A. in Africana Studies and English from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and his M.Ed. in Higher Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before his time at Harvard, Leo worked as a ninth grade English teacher in Boston and in the residential life programs at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences (MCPHS) and his alma mater, UMass Boston. Leo is passionate about utilizing creativity and technology to reimagine education.

Leo is responsible for the GCP Newsletter, Social Media, Financial Processing and Room Reservations. Outside of Harvard, he serves as a Graphic Designer and Live Production Manager at his church, Kingdom Full Tabernacle, located in Darien, CT.

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Community advisors

Community Advisors (CAs) are an integral part of the GCP team. They are residents of Harvard Housing from all Harvard affiliations, including graduate students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, partners, spouses, and family members. Passionate about hosting events, they enrich the Graduate Commons community and help residents get to know the people, places, and resources available at Harvard and the greater Boston area.

Alexia Simon

Community Advisor
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Alexia Simon

Harvard Affiliation: Ph.D. student in Astronomy

I am originally from France, and my family owns a restaurant where I grew up and learned how to cook. I would love to bring some of my cooking learning to the GCP community. My interests are mainly sports related: yoga, gym, circus, ice skating, and kickboxing. I am looking forward to being part of the GCP community by creating a wellbeing environment in Boston

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Ana Rita & Vincent Huson

Community Advisors
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Ana Rita & Vincent Huson

I am Ana Rita, a Portuguese girl that moved to Boston in 2019 with the love of her life. I am currently completing my postdoc at MGH and Harvard Medical School (HMS) studying the mechanisms of neurological diseases. During my free time, I knit, practice yoga, and explore New England. I love to spend time with friends, travel with my husband, get advice from my parents and play with my sister and little brother. I am very excited to be part of the GCP and contribute to the sense of community at Harvard, which I think is so important for people's well-being.

I am Vincent Huson. I come from the Netherlands and am currently doing a postdoc in the Neurobiology department at HMS studying synaptic transmission. I like plants, baking bread, and almost breaking my laptop with Linux. As a foreigner, I feel very lucky to have gotten a house that comes with a community. The GCP has been great at making me feel at home here and keeping me and my wife company during the long months of 2020. We hope that now we can start doing the same for others.

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Baoqing Qian & Jack Rabinovitch

Community Advisors
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Baoqing Qian & Jack Rabinovitch

Baoquing Qian

Hometown: Beijing, China

Interests: Biking along the Charles, taking care of indoor plants, teaching Chinese, and cooking.

Jack Rabinovitch

Harvard Affiliation: Graduate student in the Department of Linguistics

Hometown: Boston, MA

Interests: Learning about languages and cultures, playing guitar, poetry, hiking

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Keira Walsh & Ben Mclarey

Community Advisors
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Keira Walsh & Ben Mclarey

Keira Walsh is a Project Specialist on the Creative Services Team at Harvard's Alumni, Affairs, and Development Office. She is also pursuing her Graduate Certificate in Marketing Management and Digital Strategy at Harvard Extension School.

From: Saratoga Springs, New York

Interests: Walking and running along the Charles River as well as traveling and trying new restaurants around Harvard Square and Boston. She is most excited about meeting new people in the Graduate Commons community and learning more about people's diverse and interesting backgrounds.

Ben Mclarey is the Program Coordinator at the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. He is also pursuing a Master's in Management (ALM) degree at Harvard Extension School.

From: Scituate, Massachusetts

Interests: Exercising, playing basketball with friends, and traveling to new cities and states across the country. He is most excited about hosting social events for the GCP community that make everyone feel welcome at Harvard.

 

 

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Kristin Qian

Community Advisor
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Kristin Qian

Harvard Affiliation: Ph.D. candidate in Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Hometown: Portland, OR

Interests: reading, going to art museums and concerts, performing classical music, exploring new foods and walking around the city, science communication

I'm looking forward to joining the GCP team and helping build community within the residents in Harvard University Housing through fun events and activities.

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Maya Balakrishnan

Community Advisor
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Maya Balakrishnan

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Harvard Affiliation: Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School

Interests: Maya is a doctoral candidate studying Technology and Operations Management. Outside of work she enjoys cooking and baking, reading sci-fi and fantasy novels, and exploring Boston.

Why I want to support the GCP Community: I've really enjoyed being a part of the GCP community for the past few years and I'm excited to help new members make connections and build a community here.

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Natalie Nicolas

Community Advisor
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Natalie Nicolas

Harvard Affiliation: Ph.D. student in SEAS

From: San Diego, California

Interests: When not in the lab, Natalie enjoys visiting museums, taking photos of wildlife, crafting, and exploring Cambridge and Boston.

Why I want to support the GCP Community: I'm excited to meet new members of the GCP community and to help them feel more at home at Harvard.

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Paulina Rowicka

Community Advisor
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Paulina Rowicka

Affiliation: Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School

Hometowns: Tokyo/Warsaw/Sydney

Interests: Neuroscience, rowing, korfball, and traveling

GCP: I'm really excited to join the vibrant GCP team and help connect everyone living in Harvard University Housing :)

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Thomas Vasili

Community Advisor
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Thomas Vasili

From: Greece

Interests: Hiking/walking, volunteer service, and exploring the new restaurants.

I became a Community Advisor to create various events for the broader community to share, establish friendships, and interact with people from other cultures and backgrounds.

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Brooke Huisman

Community Advisor
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Brooke Huisman

Brooke is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Immunology at Harvard Medical School. Before beginning her postdoc, she completed her PhD in Biological Engineering at MIT and is originally from Michigan.

She enjoys playing volleyball, hiking, and traveling. Brooke has lived in university housing for the past ten years and loves the academic residential environment. She is excited to serve as a community advisor to foster connections within Harvard housing.

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Grace Lam

Community Advisor
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Grace Lam

Harvard affiliation: Joint MBA/MPP student at Harvard Business School & Harvard Kennedy School

Hometown: Hong Kong

Interest: In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, traveling (especially to the national parks), and having good conversations with friends at a nice cocktail or wine bar. You can also catch me at a BSO concert or a Boston Ballet show!

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Sydney Moak

Community Advisor
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Sydney Moak

Hi! My name is Sydney Moak, lab manager at Harvard School of Public Health. I am from Brookhaven, Mississippi. I am a southern girl at heart (hey y'all!) who loves to meet new people, play tennis, go walking/biking along the Charles river, and attend all kinds of events around the greater Boston area.

I am excited to work with my fellow CAs this year to create a home away from home for all of our amazing residents here in Harvard Housing and to make new friends across all different schools in the Harvard Community!

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Oluwatosin Odugbemi

Community Advisor
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Oluwatosin Odugbemi

Tosin is a final year Master of Architecture student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is a Canadian academic and design practitioner. After earning her Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from the University of British Columbia, she founded a design agency specializing in branding and commercial architectural design. Alongside leading her practice, she is completing her design thesis and is a cross-enrolled student at MIT Sloan School of Management.

Now entering the final semester of her master’s degree, Tosin is thrilled to partner with the GCP as a Community Advisor, working with students on academic and career development initiatives. She hopes to create a welcoming atmosphere where Harvard residents can learn, grow, network, and have fun together

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Arcita Pramudita

Community Advisor
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Arcita Pramudita

Harvard Affiliation: HMS Student, Master of Clinical Investigation

Hometown: Semarang,Indonesia

interests: Community Empowerment, Learning culture through Food, And Environment Sustainability

Why you're excited to support the GCP community: To connect, share and create long-lasting friendship and profound experience!

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Nandini Thogarapalli

Community Advisor
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Nandini Thogarapalli

Outside of her work, Nandini loves to hike, climb, read, and listen to music

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Family programmers

The GCP Family Programming team is composed of Community Advisors who are dedicated to supporting the engagement and wellbeing of residents with children. GCP Family programming includes a wide range of educational and community-building events and resources for both children and caregivers, as well as opportunities to connect with and explore family-focused Harvard resources and offerings.

Ander Caballero & Maider Alonso

Family Programming Community Advisors
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Ander Caballero & Maider Alonso

Harvard affiliation: Maider is a lawyer in the corporate sector and an alumna of the University of Basque Country Law School. Ander is also a lawyer and an independent consultant. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for American Politics at Harvard Griffin GSAS and a Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Deusto University Law School alumnus.

From: Donostia (Maider), Bilbao (Ander) both from Basque Country and New York (Kattalin and Maialen) and Cambridge (Irati).

Interests: Traveling the world, learning new cultures, scootering along Memorial Drive, lots of drawing, gastronomy, and family time together.

Why we want to support GCP families: through years of personal experience we know that feeling part of a community, especially when moving to a new place, makes a difference -for university affiliates generally, and their families in particular. We're eager to contribute to meaningful social relationships, to join you all in embracing the richness of diversity in our community, and to help our families to explore the local culture and hidden gems, especially after several challenging months for quality in-person time.

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Suzanne Bergenhenegouwen

Family Programming Community Advisor
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Suzanne Bergenhenegouwen

Harvard affiliation: Suzanne is the spouse of a postdoc at Joslin Diabetes Center (HMS).

From: The Netherlands

Interests: Suzanne loves spending time with her energetic two-year-old son and being outdoors. She enjoys riding her bike along the Charles and cooking tomato soup—a family favorite.

Why I want to support GCP families: She joined the GCP team to help families make Harvard their “home away from home.” When her family became part of the Harvard community, the support of the GCP team through events, socials, and just a simple chat with neighbors, was essential in making her feel part of a community. She wants to achieve just that for new families arriving in Cambridge.

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Sharon Wand and Hong Qu

(Peabody Terrace Playroom Manager)
Family Programming Community Advisor
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Sharon Wand and Hong Qu

Harvard affiliation: Hong is an adjunct lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School

From: China & New York City

Interests: Sharon is registered dental hygienist and enjoys yoga, swimming, and water coloring. Hong enjoys foreign films, street food, and blues music. We love to travel, hike, bike with our kids.

Why we want to support GCP families: We thoroughly enjoy meeting and getting to know our brillant neighbors from all over the world. We love to help residents make the most of their time living in Harvard and discovering its bountiful resources. GCP brings people together to form lasting friendships through its exciting events which generate delightful memories for our entire community.


 

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Alena Yermalovich & Pavel Paramov

(10 Akron and One Western Ave Playroom Managers)
Family Programming Community Advisors
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Alena Yermalovich & Pavel Paramov

Harvard affiliation: Alena is a postdoctoral fellow at Dana Farber Cancer Institute/ Harvard Medical School studying human cancer, with a focus on lung cancer. She received her Ph.D. Degree in Biological Sciences from Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Pavel is a litigation lawyer in the Boston area and an alumnus of the Boston University School of Law.

From: Belarus (Alena), Russia (Pavel), and the US (Max and Victoria).

Interests: Spending time together reading, cooking, skiing, hiking, swimming, and eating ice cream from Lizzy’s in Harvard Square.

Why we want to support GCP families: We know firsthand how challenging it is to move to another city or country. We joined the GCP team to help residents to feel settled and adjust to their new lives, connect with neighbors, make friends, and create happy memories that will last a lifetime

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Iryna Kovalchuk & Michal Miaskiewicz

Family Programming Community Advisor
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Iryna Kovalchuk & Michal Miaskiewicz

Harvard affiliation: Michal is a Ph.D. researcher in developmental psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Iryna is a faculty member teaching Polish at the Harvard Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

From: Ukraine (Iryna) and Poland (Michal). Our children Marta (4) and Tymon (1) were born in Poland but have both now spent more time in Cambridge than anywhere else.

Interests: Michal enjoys singing traditional Ukrainian songs and recently got into sailing. Iryna loves dancing, pottery, and reading (both with our own and other people’s kids, and by herself.) We both love nature and everything outdoors – from cycling and going to the beach to hiking in the mountains (with kids, why not?)

Why we want to support GCP families: We know that raising a family in a busy and expensive town like Cambridge is hard, but we believe it can be easier (and more fun) if friends and neighbors join forces and spend more time together. Harvard is a place so full of interesting people but paradoxically we seem to not know that much about one another; as FPCAs, we would like to work on programming that will foster authentic and lasting connections among residents. We are also keen to share with you all the hidden natural gems of Massachusetts (all those mysterious green patches on Google Maps…) that kept us sane during the pandemic.

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Abdullah and Mu'aaza Mahomed

(Soldiers Field Park Playroom Managers)
Family Programming Community Advisors
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Abdullah and Mu'aaza Mahomed

Harvard affiliation: Abdullah is an MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School, and Mu'aaza is a Masters student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

From: South Africa

Interests: We love to travel and get to know people of different cultures. We’re also passionate about sports including basketball, horse-riding, and go-karting.

Why we want to support GCP families: As playroom managers, we want to support families by creating a safe and inclusive space where children can play and families can connect. We believe in the power of play for a child's development and aim to provide a positive and educational environment. We also strive to empower parents with resources and guidance to support their child's growth beyond the playroom. Our goal is to make a lasting impact on children and families, fostering memorable experiences and a strong foundation for their future success.

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Andrea Normoyle

Family Programming Community Advisor
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Andrea Normoyle

Harvard affiliation: spouse of a research fellow at Harvard Medical School

From: Chicago, Illinois

Why I'm excited to support the GCP community: I am excited to help other Harvard families feel just as welcome and included as we felt when joined this community in 2018. I look forward to showing them all the wonderful things Harvard and Cambridge has to offer!

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