Brian D. Farrell
Director, Regional Office, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
Harvard entered a new age of international engagement when DRCLAS took the bold step of opening an overseas office in Santiago, Chile in 2002. This unprecedented move was enabled by the commitment óof our distinguished Advisory Board Member and donor Andrónico Luksic, the dedication of our DRCLAS Founding Director John Coatsworth and the zeal, organization and charisma of our Santiago director Steve Reifenberg. Harvard thus launched an experiment that exceeded all expectations, enabling research and educational experiences across every country in South America, now for more than 180 faculty and some 1430 students-- and introducing Harvard to many dozens of Visiting Scholars from the region (two dozen from Chile alone), who come north to Cambridge for visits from a few weeks to an academic year.
My own interests in Chile began a decade earlier, in the early 1990’s when I first realized that certain beetles could be found there in the famed Araucaria forests that stretch around the globe to southern Australia. These forests and the insects and fungi that depend on them in the south temperate zone are often referred to as remnants of Gondwana, a landmass that existed 100 million years ago when Australia and South America were connected through Antarctica. I published many papers on the evolution of the beetle/Araucaria association that offered new insights into the great age of modern insect-plant associations.
Today, my colleagues in Harvard biology pursue path breaking research on plants, animals and fungi from the deserts to Antarctica, and I am honored to be the DRCLAS Director charged with writing this introduction to a document celebrating their research and that of our colleagues from Anthropology to Astronomy, from the Harvard Medical School and the T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health to the Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government.
The demonstrated success of the DRCLAS Office in Santiago inspired the establishment of a second overseas office in 2006 in Sao Paulo, Brazil and in 2012 of an office in Mexico City. Today, other Harvard centers are following our model in establishing offices in Shanghai and Johannesburg. DRCLAS leads the many other centers at Harvard both in our overseas presence and in our broad coverage of the disciplines--from the arts to the sciences--and in our active engagement of the Harvard Professional Schools as well as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and especially the remarkable undergraduates of Harvard College. For me personally, as a scientist interested in Latin America, I can say that the two greatest surprises for me when I came to Harvard in 1995 were first, the brilliance of the undergraduate students, and second, the extraordinary synergy that is enabled by DRCLAS. Again, I am honored to be among you readers of this eBook, written as a gift from Nieman Fellow journalist Paula Molina to Harvard, celebrating 15 years together, and look forward to the ever growing engagement between our collaborators in Chile and the region, and Harvard University.