The Social Engagement thesis encourages students to think “outside the box” and incorporate academic work with social entrepreneurship. The thesis requires three parts: academic essay; visual documentary; and policy recommendations.

Sangu Delle

Project Access to Clean Water for Agyementi (Project ACWA)

In 2008, the United Nations-designated “International Year of Water and Sanitation,” two Harvard undergraduates and Sangu Delle '10 co-founded Project Access to Clean Water for Agyementi (Project ACWA), with the goal of providing clean water and sanitation to Agyementi, a village in southern Ghana. His thesis won the Hoopes Prize in 2010. Motivated by the concept that by stepping outside the ivory tower students are better able to understand what they study, Social Engagement emphasizes how and why academic ideas and even technological discoveries are challenged by the lived experiences and cultural prescriptions of communities we work with. Thus, Project ACWA was the product of academic study combined with practical experience and fieldwork.

Iman Taylor 

Iman Taylor


Detroit has the lowest high school graduation rate of any major city in the United States; consequently, a small percentage of its citizens go on to graduate from a four-year college or university. This predominately African American city has the potential to be as powerful as it once was, but one of its most salient setbacks includes the low educational attainment level of the citizens. This monumental issue was the impetus that led Iman Taylor '12 to found Project MUSE (Motor-city Urban Summer Enrichment), along with two peers, Kyla Taylor and George Hardy. MUSE aims to introduce students to multiple aspects of education through the use of creative curriculums and seminars taught by undergraduate college students, and also promotes youth leadership and aspirations of attending institutions of higher education. 

Oluwadara (Dara) Johnson

Project Unveil

During an exploratory research project in 2008, Oluwadara (Dara) Johnson learned that Nigerian secondary schools had an extremely high female dropout rate and that a surprising number of the girls were interested in theatre. This discovery inspired her to create Project Unveil, a social enterprise that uses performing arts to empower and educate “at-risk” girls via an intensive summer camp and complementary after-school program. Project Unveil also provides a wealth of resources to parents and guardians of students through the Project Unveil Academy. Since 2009, Project Unveil has prevented 43 girls aged 11 to 19 from dropping out. Dara devised a clear methodology, entitled “dramatic education by inclusion-and-expression” (DEBIX), which serves as the engine of PU’s success. DEBIX involves active storytelling (which incorporates aspects of the traditional African moonlight story telling), play reading and writing, and acting to help “at-risk” female students express themselves with confidence and creativity. 

Naseemah Mohamed 

Zilolonge Arts-Literacy Project

The Zilolonge Arts-Literacy Project, which Naseemah Mohamed '12 implemented in a high school in her home town of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, serves as pedagogical intervention against the colonial pedagogical legacy of corporal punishment and rote learning in the Zimbabwean classroom. Despite the high literacy rate in Zimbabwe, above 90%, both teachers and students predominantly view education merely in relation to their economic well-being, and have lost sight of the importance of education for human development, the cultivation of love of learning, student agency and higher order thinking skills. The Zilolonge Arts Project was adopted from Harvard’s Cultural Agents Pretext for Arts Literature Program. Based on the theoretical foundations of Paulo Freire and John Dewey, the program incorporates the arts, including music, theatre, poetry and drawing, into the current literature curriculum in order to increase student agency within the classroom and validate student cultures and experiences.

Yasmin Rawlins

Qualitative Study on Client Experience in the Family

Yasmin Rawlins, undergraduate class of 2015, is an African American Studies major with a secondary field in human evolutionary biology. Yasmin's social engagement thesis began the spring of her sophomore year at Harvard. After taking a class on “Race, Poverty and Health,” taught by Professor David Williams in the African and African-American studies department she discovered a passion for the field of health and healthcare disparities. Under the advising of Professor Williams and Professor Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Yasmin began working with The Family Van, a mobile health clinic that serves several medically underserved communities in Boston.

Kristina Tester

Increasing the Effectiveness of Health Care Delivery in Rural Areas: A Case Study of Village Health Teams and Childhood Malnutrition in Rukungiri District, Uganda

Kristina Tester's '14 thesis, “Increasing the Effectiveness of Health Care Delivery in Rural Areas: A Case Study of Village Health Teams and Childhood Malnutrition in Rukungiri District, Uganda,” represents a case study of the challenges to implementation of a community-based model of healthcare delivery as a complement to an in-patient program. It is based on a project in Southwestern Uganda that was conducted in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital’s Division of Global Health and Human Rights. Kristina's thesis researched and analyzed the root causes of malnutrition, situating the disease in the post-colonial context. It also tells of my direct involvement in the development of two programs—Village Health Teams (VHT) as well as Outpatient Therapeutic Care (OTC).