The Academic Ventures Program at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is helping the Institute shine as a source of intellectual innovation and collaboration. Embodying the Institute’s multidisciplinary mission, Academic Ventures brings together scholars from across Harvard and from around the globe to create and share knowledge in settings ranging from intensive seminars led by Harvard faculty and Radcliffe Fellows to large-scale public conferences.
Perrin (Penny) Moorhead Grayson AB ’72 and her husband, Bruns H. Grayson AB ’74—longtime supporters of the Radcliffe Institute and Harvard more broadly—recently created a $2 million fund for Academic Ventures. “The Academic Ventures program is what really separates Radcliffe from similar institutes around the world,” says Penny Grayson. “At Radcliffe, Harvard has a center where all its Schools can come together to share and expand their knowledge. The program allows Harvard to share the fruits of that collaborative work with people outside the University.”
Grayson, a member of the Institute’s Dean’s Advisory Council, says she is particularly struck by the ability of Academic Ventures to convene researchers, activists, educators, and practitioners from all over the world. “Bringing all these people together—who knows what it will spark as a result?” she says. “You’re planting all these seeds and encouraging something to grow from that.”
John Huth, Donner Professor of Science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and faculty co-director of the science program in Academic Ventures at Radcliffe, says that support from donors like the Graysons is crucial, especially for “cross-disciplinary activities that don’t fit neatly into any one box.”
“The nature of the work at Radcliffe is inherently broad, and the intersections of fields lead rapidly to advances in knowledge,” he says. “We have a number of possible programs, particularly in the sciences, for which innovative funding is needed to get things started.”
Lizabeth Cohen, dean of the Radcliffe Institute and Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, notes that the success of the Academic Ventures program is “made possible largely through the generosity of donors such as Penny and Bruns. Without important gifts such as theirs, the program would be much more limited in the scope of what we can imagine and what we can implement. We are tremendously grateful to the Graysons for their ongoing support.”