A practical good, continued
For Dealy, selling the program to those who might be hesitant is all about providing options. "No matter what career students are going into, no matter what their ideology," she said, "there are ways to do pro bono work that will appeal."
For Bryan Killian '05 and his classmate Mark Yohalem, that meant coming up with their own project. Yohalem said he was initially "more than skeptical" about the requirement, and both objected to the idea that anyone could benefit from being made to do good. Yet by spring semester, both are so enthusiastic about their project that they plan to continue working on it well after graduation. The friends, who both have an interest in intellectual property, are designing a legal crash course for teenage creators on the Internet, supervised by an IP attorney at a San Francisco law firm.
They got the idea from Yohalem's connections to the world of video games, where he'd been earning income since he was a sophomore in college. One day, he was telling Killian about a question he'd received from a young Internet artist ("a classic second-week of copyright hypothetical"), and it clicked: Here was their project, an online and hard copy resource for young IP creators who don't have the means to pay an attorney.
Dealy says Harvard has one of the most broadly defined public service programs. For Killian and Yohalem, getting to apply what they'd learned in class to a project of their own devising has made all the difference. "We come out of here and we're taught that, for at least another eight years, we're going to be taking intense direction from other people," Killian said. "The way we've designed this project, and the way the pro bono office has blessed it, has given me an opportunity to take the education I have and run with it."
Students can also fulfill the requirement by working with a professor, as long as the work isn't purely academic. For Daniel Richenthal '05, that wasn't a problem. What he loved about his project, supervised by Professor Christine Desan, was how real-world it was--in this case, the world of politics in a Boston-area town. Desan worked with Richenthal and two other students to help the city of Brookline decide whether and how to implement campaign finance reform. "I'd been interested in campaign finance reform," he said, "but I had no idea how it worked on the local level." The students did research, wrote memos and went to town meetings. "We basically ended up serving as the town's counsel."
At the time, he was taking a local government class taught by Professor David Barron '94. "It was a great experience," Richenthal said. "We were discussing some of the very issues in class that I ended up working on."