A story in today's NY Times questions the lure of big paychecks for Harvard graduates and the efforts by Harvard School of Education Professor Howard Gardner to encourage students to consider careers in fields other than finance and consulting. Many people commenting on this story note the salary and prestige disparity between public sector and finance jobs, and a great example of the lucrative possibilities is Harvard's new VP Ed Forst who received $44 million in compensation last year from Goldman Sachs.
Harvard has programs to help undergraduates learn more about careers in public service, but programs like the Stride Rite Undergraduate Scholars Program could be greatly expanded. $500 or $2,000 awards to graduating seniors are nice, but not much in comparison to becoming a Goldman associate making $127,000. Of course public and private salaries will never be comparable, but Harvard could do more on and off its campuses in Cambridge, Allston, and elsewhere to show its students what possibilities exist.
President Faust based her 2008 Baccalaureate address on the ideas of wealth, career, and fulfillment and she concluded her speech at the Harvard ROTC Commissioning Ceremony by quoting from the Harvard Yard gate where it is written in stone "Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind." Words are a good start, hopefully they are followed by actions like those at the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts because members of the Harvard community certainly could do a lot more that would benefit themselves and others. Gardner's GoodWork project is a great start.