400+ Student Organizations. 1 Open Database.

The beginning of Harvard Open Data Project.

By Chris Kuang10-23-2016

Hello all, my name is Chris Kuang! I’m a freshman at Harvard (Class of 2020!) originally from Winchester, MA and currently living in Weld Hall. Fun fact: Neil deGrasse Tyson used to live in my room! I plan on studying Applied Mathematics with Economics, and I am the lead for HODP’s Student Organizations project team!

The lack of an open, accessible clubs database at Harvard is something that I noticed after arriving on campus — there are few opportunities besides the Activities Fair in early September — and is something we are excited to be working on. Hearing from many freshmen, it would have been immensely helpful to have a comprehensive list of student organizations at the beginning of the year.

Opening Days and the first couple weeks of classes at Harvard are overwhelming to say the least: meeting new friends, starting college classes, and having your email inboxes and Facebook notifications deluged with club “pubs” each publicizing their own intro meetings. If only there was a better way…

Harvard College loves to advertise the fact that it houses “more than 400 student organizations” in its admissions materials. Despite this wealth of opportunities, many freshmen find themselves drawn to the clubs with the biggest email lists or Facebook presence, which leaves many small organizations in the shadows.

Our goal is to use current resources like the Office of Student Life to compile data about every organization on campus, and build a user-friendly front-end website or app that will make it easier for freshmen and upperclassmen alike to search for clubs that match their interests, availability, and skills.

Our project team

I’m excited to introduce the awesome members of our project team:

  • Catherine Wu ’18: Product designer, data scientist, back-end web developer
  • Danielle Okezie ‘18: Data visualizer and app developer
  • Daniel Shen ‘19: Data scientist, data visualizer, policy/partnership consultant
  • Allison Kao ’20: Front-end web developer and policy consultant

First steps

Here are some resources we are hoping to use in creating our open data project:

Our project team is really excited to hit the ground running in creating a resource that all students can use. We have set up a meeting with Dean Alex Miller in the Office of Student Life, seeing an opportunity for cooperation and collaboration.

Catherine is looking into how we can design our final product to be long-lasting and not fizz out, as have some other attempts at a clubs database, Allison is working to reach out to individuals on campus who could be helpful in our project, and we are trying to create a simple survey for students to gauge their current attitudes towards existing resources, and what they would like to see in ours. Lastly, we are researching at how other colleges and universities use their respective clubs databases.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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