Student Coordinator

David Olvera-Sanchez, ‘18

Concentration: Government

House/Dorm: Pforzheimer

Employer: Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program

Official Title of Job: Student Coordinator

David, a Government concentrator from Los Angeles, has been interested in expanding college access for minority students from day one. “Many of the people in my family still don’t really know what Harvard is and the staggering amount of resources it provides for its students.” 

David is one of eleven student coordinators in the Undergraduate Minority Program (UMRP) which uses a number of tactics to reach talented minority students to encourage them to apply to schools like Harvard. The office employs students across racial and ethnic backgrounds; he is one of their Mexican-American coordinators. “To work alongside Asian-American, Latino, African-American, Native-American, and Mexican-American students to build cultural competencies within the office and reach people from our backgrounds make me feel like I am making a real impact. This is the institutional arm for multicultural affairs and I think it’s important that the experience of POC’s is being prioritized and is not being overlooked.”

Their primary objective is to help ameliorate the existing information gap that prevents people from applying to Harvard. “We want to make Harvard as accessible as possible and doing that effectively usually means we have to do more than tout our financial aid package.”  UMRP boasts an incredibly diverse work portfolio with coordinators being responsible for organizing and leading campus tours and information sessions, building partnerships with community based organizations, answering the concerns and questions of prospective students from across the country, and planning events for currently enrolled students of color. They also conducted large scale operations to try and connect with prospective students in person with the hometown recruitment program held during J-Term, panels and hosting during Visitas, and a corps of students who work and live on campus during the summer. “UMRP and the other offices under admissions (HFAI, HCC, UAC, FirstGen) work year round but it needs to be if we want to reach these key students.”

David’s commitment to bringing marginalized groups into the fold and the promotion of equity is reflected in his commitments outside the office: co-leading the Institute of Politics program the Politics of Race & Ethnicity as well as being an active member in the Harvard College Democrats, the Harvard Undergraduate BGLTQ Society, Fuerza Latina, and the CIVICS program. “Being connected with cultural, advocacy, and service organizations is really helpful especially when it pertains to setting up one-on-one appointments and facilitating hosting. We’re all essentially working towards the same ends of developing a more inclusive and representative community both in and around Harvard. Our means may be different but as a collation there’s so much we can do.”

Adding to its impact, Olvera-Sanchez points to its notable accommodations as adding to his experience “Our office is right between the Yard and the Quad so it’s pretty convenient, it’s also a beautiful part of campus” remarked the sophomore who currently resides in Pforzheimer; UMRP’s office is nested at the top of the Agassiz visitors center sandwiched between Brattle Street and Garden Street. The office also has long practiced a policy of extreme flexibility with students being able to set their own hours. “This job fits into my schedule really well. I can change hours and set my own schedule which can be really clutch given those awkward 1-2 hour blocks that fall between classes meals and activities that we all seem to have.” His favorite part however is interacting with students. “I’ve met kids from all over the country, and I always have to be on my toes. Often I’m their first interaction with Harvard and as someone who wants them here it’s important that I can make them feel welcome and justified in choosing to apply here. I vicariously remember what the process of applying was like. Being here, it’s easy to forget the hunger and wonder that comes with wanting to be a Harvard student so seeing that excitement in them is inspiring and nostalgic.”