Exploratory Seminars


Inspired by the Exploratory Seminars of the Radcliffe Institute, Bok Exploratory Seminars offer faculty a collaborative space to deliberate the most urgent problems and potentially transformational opportunities in Higher Education, with the primary goal of developing interventions that will chart the course of future teaching and learning at Harvard. The Bok Center provides funding, logistical support, and thought partnership to faculty interested in assembling background materials and writing follow-up documents related to the seminars. Seminar outcomes receive support from the Bok Center for implementation.

Current Seminar: Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery

Our 2022–2023 Exploratory Seminar will focus on the theme "Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery: From the Committee Report to the College Classroom." Together, we will explore what the landmark Report of the Presidential Committee on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery means for how we in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences teach the entangled histories of slavery, the United States, the Atlantic World, and higher education. In particular, participants in this seminar will focus on three ways in which the committee’s powerful findings can be integrated into our curricula:

  1. the development of new courses on the history of Harvard and/or higher education in the United States and abroad that include substantial coverage of the sector’s ties to slavery;

  2. the creation of innovative assignments/experiences in which students are asked to use the findings of the Presidential Committee's report in order to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they are acquiring in their courses; and

  3. the creation of innovative assignments/experiences in which students are asked to do research and/or create materials that contribute to the Presidential Initiative’s ongoing research efforts.

The seminar, which is open to faculty of all ranks and postdoctoral researchers engaged in the teaching of Harvard undergraduates and graduate students, will be offered in two phases in February and March 2023:

  • In Phase 1 (2–3 February 2023, Barker Center Thompson Room; program here), participants will engage with colleagues experienced in teaching the history of slavery in order to develop principles and models on which faculty can rely when developing assignments, modules, and full courses related to the themes and findings of the committee report. Speakers will include Sven Beckert (Laird Bell Professor of History, Harvard University), member of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery; Vincent Brown (Charles Warren Professor of American History, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Acting Director, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University), member of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery; Martha A. Sandweiss (Professor of History, Emerita, Princeton University), founder of the Princeton and Slavery ProjectKathleen M. Brown (David Boies Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania), Lead Faculty Historian, Penn and Slavery ProjectAdam Rothman (Professor of History, Georgetown University), member of the Georgetown University Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation and Curator of the Georgetown Slavery Archive; and Laura Goldblatt (Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia).

  • In Phase 2 (2–3 March 2023, in-person), participants will engage in a collaborative course design workshop, applying the principles developed in Phase 1 to the creation of course materials to be used in Harvard classrooms with support from the Bok Center, as applicable.

Participants are encouraged to register for both phases of the seminar, but may elect to participate solely in Phase 1 or 2.

Register at right

Visit the Canvas site for full details

A selection of speaker images related to the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery exploratory seminar

Past Exploratory Seminars