The First-Year Urban Program (FUP) is a student-led preorientation program, offered through the Dean of Students Office, that introduces incoming first-years to the Boston-Cambridge area and the service community in and around Harvard. Students who participate in FUP spend the week preceding Opening Days/First Year Orientation Program working on construction and renovation projects for non-profit community organizations in the area. FUPpies work in teams of 10 with three upper-class leaders at their group’s project site in Greater Boston. At night, the groups come together for dinner, speakers, discussions, and evening events (including on- and off- campus food outings, music jam sessions, spoken word readings, movie nights, and more).

FUP aims to create a week of activity that will orient you to Harvard and Cambridge, allow you to meet other first-year students in a low-pressure setting, enable you to work and hang out with some upper-class students, ask questions about Harvard, and introduce you to some of the public service issues in the area. The program will help you learn about your new urban environment while providing you with the space to share your ideas about social responsibility and the potential for change through action. FUP also provides a wonderful and informative way to get to know Boston, including some of its more off-beat spots. Plus, you’ll become a part of one of the most interesting and interested student groups on campus (if we do say so ourselves).

Previous FUP projects have included: painting a mural in a cooperative housing unit for formerly homeless individuals, reconstructing furniture for low-income families, weeding and planting in a community garden, constructing a deck for an AIDS hospice, and clearing an overgrown lot and constructing a playground for an alternative school/family center.

Not only will you become an expert ceiling painter and learn the joys of spackle, but during FUP week you will get to address the politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality and the impact these issues have on communities and our work in them. Your group will talk with the organizers and neighbors of your project to deepen your understanding of what is going on in that specific community. In the evening, FUPpies (your affectionate nickname) will hear from speakers to gain further insight into social justice issues and the Boston and Cambridge communities. Past speakers have included former Cambridge Mayor Ken Reeves, Massachusetts state legislator Jarret Barrios, and members of organizations such as the Centro Presente Women’s Refugee Project, Queer Nation, Homeless Empowerment Project, and the Boston Tenants’ Rights Association.

Applications are available in April, with decisions made in June.  Due to limited space and resources, we cannot accept everyone who applies, but we always maintain an active waiting list.

FUP 2020 will be made up of approximately 100 first-years and 30 leaders. FUP has a voluntary program fee; which means participants pay what they can afford. Housing and main meals are provided. There are associated costs for subway fares and incidentals. If you have any questions about financial support, please contact us at fup@fas.harvard.edu.