Cantabs to take ‘life skills’ classes

Harvard students may be able to ace “Advanced Classical Electromagnetism,” but the university is now teaching them to fix their radiators and make pasta alfredo.

Harvard’s Office of Career Services is now offering “life skills” classes — which, according to the OCS website, will “help you survive in the Real World” — for free to interested members of the undergraduate student body. According to Julie G. Fox, assistant dean for life skills curriculum development at OCS, the “life skills” classes come on the heels of the success of a popular etiquette dinner and “future planning programs” that have been offered over the past several years.

“We’ve been meeting with many partners throughout the [Harvard] College and University for several months, as well as speaking with our students and looking into what is offered at other schools, to think about what we could offer that students would find fun and useful,” Fox said in an e-mail.

The one-session classes will teach practical skills necessary for students to live on their own, Fox said. Classes will include “Car Care,” “Cooking Skills,” “Money Made Simple” and “Plumbing and Pizza.” Space permitting, all students interested will be able to take part in the free classes.

Fox said interest in the classes has been high, with waitlists established for some classes and pending repeat sessions in place.

While there are no such classes offered at Yale at this point, the introduction of such classes may be a possibility in the future.

“Dean [of Student Affairs Betty] Trachtenberg has been looking at the way we can teach leadership and other practical skills, perhaps as part of a re-orientation program or through student organizations,” Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said in an e-mail.

Fox said the most popular class at Harvard so far is “Money Made Simple,” which has already filled up, even though it had more seats than some of the other classes.

“This fact indicates to me that we are responding to a real need — that students are very concerned about their financial health,” Fox said.

Fox said some of the other classes will be taught by dining hall chefs and the employees who maintain the University’s vehicles and power equipment. One goal of the program is for students to get to know the workers at Harvard as well as to learn important skills from them, she said.

Some Yalies agreed that personal finance workshops would be helpful to teach skills that are not offered through other means at the University.

“The money management classes would definitely help students the most,” Edgar Diaz ’09 said. “I think of all the classes I would probably take [those].”

Soultana Grigoroglou ’10 said she thinks that the life skills classes would be an interesting asset, but she doesn’t think that “Money Made Simple” would be the most useful class.

“I’d rather take a cooking or repair class which is practical and something I would need to learn in a class,” she said. “Money management should be a skill I develop on my own because I can make my own budget and must learn to act accordingly.”

But not all students were necessarily interested in the idea of life skills classes. Jin Su Joo ’10 said she believes that students come to schools like Yale to be educated in topics that cannot be learned at home.

“Cooking and repair are not things you come to Yale for,” Joo said.

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