In August 2002, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies opened a Regional Office (RO) based in Santiago, Chile, to offer support to Harvard faculty, students, or staff from any part of the University and to strengthen ties between the University and institutions in the region. The office primarily serves the Southern Cone and Andean countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay. The Regional Office is the first-ever Harvard University international office whose mission is to serve the entire University.
In the fall of 2004, the Office of the Provost created an ad hoc evaluation committee to assess the work of the DRCLAS Regional Office and make recommendations on its future. The committee evaluated the progress of the RO and concluded in its report: “The Santiago Regional Office has been successful, both on its own terms and as measured against the University’s interests and aspirations. It should continue its work. In addition, it should be used by the University as a model for other such endeavors and, perhaps, as a laboratory to try out new programs…The Santiago office represents an extraordinary resource for the University as it begins to build this infrastructure.”
Since its opening, DRCLAS Regional Office has organized, sponsored, and supported Harvard international conferences and public events in the region and has aided over a hundred of Harvard faculty members in research and other projects. The office has supported Harvard faculty-led collaborative initiatives and research projects while helping build institutional partnerships with other universities and organizations in the region. Over the past 10 years, it has engaged over 130 faculty members in advancing research and learning in the fields of economics, education, health, housing, disaster recovery, public policy, anthropology, the humanities and the sciences.
It is the goal of the Regional Office to continue supporting and leading important faculty initiatives that bring innovative ideas that lead to opportunities for Harvard actors to make a positive impact in Latin America. During the most recent years, the RO has worked with faculty on several innovative projects. One of the RO current major initiatives is Un Buen Comienzo (UBC- “A Good Beginning”), an interdisciplinary collaborative project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), the Harvard Medical School (HMS), and DRCLAS that aims to improve the quality of early childhood education programs in Chile. Another major project included a major conference in Valdivia on environmental policy titled Conservation Capital in the Americas, which convened 120 senior conservationists, specialists, and students. In the area of promoting philanthropy, an important initiative is Chilean leaders: Family Philanthropy and Civil Society, hosting seminars that have gathered groups of over fifty Chilean business, religious, and university leaders in order to explore issues related to family philanthropy and civil society.
The Regional Office has also created important opportunities for students. Since 2003, 520 Harvard students -both undergraduate and graduate- have participated in student programs supported and organized by the office.
Working closely with the Harvard's Office of International Programs, the Regional Office pioneered in Santiago in 2003 the University's first Harvard administered term-time Study Abroad Program (SAP) for Harvard College undergraduates and Harvard Law School students. In 2006, the Regional Office expanded the Study Abroad Program to Buenos Aires.
In the summer 2005, the Regional Office launched the Summer Internship Program (SIP) for Harvard College students in Santiago, which was expanded later to Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Uruguay.
Additionally, in 2009 the Regional Office launched two new summer programs for credit for Harvard College students: the Health & Spanish Immersion Program, in collaboration with Universidad Católica in Santiago, and the Spanish & Community Service Program, in conjunction with Universidad del Pacífico in Lima. For graduate students, the Regional Office continues supporting a winter term course with the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), introducing students to key actors and issues in the Chilean health care system, and the Harvard Medical School Exchange Clerkship program among students from Universidad de Chile, Universidad Católica, and the Harvard Medical School.
As Harvard aims to create more thoughtful international initiatives in the future, the RO has received a number of faculty and staff visitors wanting to learn more about its international model. The RO has become a consultant for other international offices, including the Asian Center, the US Japan Center, the Davis Center for Russian Studies, the China Fund, among others.
The success of initiatives led by the Regional Office has been and continues to be made possible by the deep commitment and support from many individuals and collaborating institutions. Special thanks go to DRCLAS board member Andrónico Luksic Craig, whose ongoing support has been invaluable to the Regional Office and to Harvard more broadly. That success, in turn, enables the office to continue to play an increasingly important role engaging the University with Latin America.