About
the Fellowship

Gain new knowledge, expand networks, strengthen resolve, and stretch the limits of the possible.

Loeb Fellows are accomplished practitioners, influential in shaping the built and natural environment, whose work is advancing positive social outcomes in the US and around the world. In the middle of promising careers they step away from their hectic professional lives for one academic year. Fellows audit classes at the GSD and throughout the vast network of Harvard and MIT. They engage with faculty and students, participate in Fellowship events, and collaborate with their peers. They become part of a powerful growing network of colleagues passionately committed to revitalizing communities.

The Loeb Fellowship offers:

  • Up to 10 fellowships per year, drawing applicants from across the US and the world.
  • The time for learning and the intellectual resources to fortify practice and expand vision, all in the service of improving the future of the built and natural environment.
  • The opportunity to audit classes, tuition free, throughout Harvard and MIT.
  • A comfortable stipend and modest housing in Cambridge.
  • A worldwide network of alumni colleagues and supporters.

The
Fellowship Year

It is a year unlike any other: a year of intense learning and challenges; a unique time to explore new ways of thinking and challenge assumptions.

Fellows audit courses at Harvard or MIT, use the library systems, and partake in a dizzying array of lectures, symposia, conferences, and exhibitions. In addition fellows sometimes create their own symposia or exhibitions, or pursue other activities they believe will advance their professional growth. Fellows attend weekly seminars and dinners, and build a community of fellowship that can last a lifetime.


Expectations

There are very few requirements; fellows create schedules based on their goals for their Fellowship year.

Fellows must agree to step away from any significant roles with their employers and other employment responsibilities; to refrain from professional work during the fellowship year, except as approved by the Loeb curator; and to audit a minimum of one course at the GSD per semester. Fellows also must remain in residence in the Cambridge area while classes are in session and participate in all Fellowship programs, most notably weekly seminars and trips.


The Work Plan

Each fellow develops an individual work plan with input from program leadership, which is updated periodically. At the end of the year a summary of the results of the plan is included in the final program report.


Courses

Fellows are expected to audit at least one course at the GSD each semester and may take additional courses that advance their work plan goals. Fellows may audit courses at Harvard College, any of the 11 Harvard graduate schools, and MIT. Fellows may not take courses for academic credit and may not be enrolled in a degree program.


Seminars

The weekly seminars, jointly organized by program leaders and the Fellows, are a time to debate ideas and share work. Fellows may organize additional seminars open to the GSD community and the public on subjects of interest, often bringing outside colleagues to the school to discuss and present innovative projects and ideas.


Dinners

Following longstanding tradition, the class hosts a weekly or biweekly dinner with an invited guest from the professional or academic community. These are opportunities for lively conversation and a deeper examination of the guest’s work and thinking.


Study Tours

Each year fellows participate in two study tours. During the fall semester a study tour to a destination in continental North America is organized by Loeb alumni. Site visits, workshops and discussions with local leaders provide an intensive “Loeb’s eye view” of a place.

In the spring the class embarks on an international study tour to exchange ideas with professionals and leaders in other countries. The Loebs typically travel with a GSD studio and engage with the students in that studio throughout the semester.

Frogtown workshop during the 2013 Twin Cities Fall Study Tour

Engagement at the GSD

One of the most rewarding aspects of the Loeb year is engaging with students: collaborating, critiquing, sharing unique experiences and passions, and participating in student life. Fellows participate in reviews for studio courses and engage students in projects that reflect their interests. Fellows often use the GSD’s January Term as an opportunity to test ideas and share expertise with the GSD community by offering J-Term courses ranging from brief workshops to weeklong courses. Loebs have also led exhibits, symposia, and installations and have opened their networks to provide unique opportunities for the academic community.


The Lifelong Fellowship

The Loeb Fellowship is a lifelong connection. When a fellow completes the Fellowship year, he or she joins over 450 alumni in an unparalleled worldwide network of professional colleagues. Fellows are alumni of the Graduate School of Design as well as the Loeb Fellowship and are invited to participate in the GSD alumni community and events.

Diversity

We believe fellows will best succeed at shaping the urban and natural environment by drawing upon the full range of people who live, work and play there.

Fundamental to the Fellowship is the belief that the experience of the year in residence is enhanced by sharing it with people from a wide variety of cultural heritages, lived experience, and professional training. The ideal fellows share the Fellowship’s value of mutual learning with people from different perspectives and cultures.

We strongly encourage women, people of color, nationals from countries outside the US, and professionals with experience in diverse community settings to consider applying to the Fellowship. A completed degree in higher education is not a requirement. Professionals with atypical backgrounds or unusual career paths, who have demonstrated the capacity to make a difference in their fields, are encouraged to apply.

The Fellowship supports student groups concerned with diversity issues, including Women in Design, Queer in Design, Latin GSD, and the African American Student Union, promoting activities for a more rich and inclusive community.

Financial Matters

Stipend

The current stipend for the academic year is $50,000 and is considered taxable income. Health insurance and child care costs are not covered by the program.


Tuition

There are no costs to Fellows for auditing regular classes at Harvard and MIT.


Housing

The Fellowship endeavors to provide housing for fellows and their families coming from outside the Boston area. The accommodations are modestly furnished and conveniently located close to the Graduate School of Design.


Travel Grants

A travel grant issued during the fall semester covers approximately one economy class round trip home per semester. The travel grants are considered taxable income.

History

John L. Loeb foresaw a powerful network of colleagues passionately committed to nothing less than revitalizing stagnant American communities.

When the GSD kicked off its capital campaign in 1968, the theme was “Crisis: The chaos in our cities, the loss of control over our environment, the urgent need for leadership for the future.” John L. Loeb (Harvard College ’24 and member of the Visiting Committee of the GSD), the chairman of that campaign, saw the American city in disarray and believed Harvard could help. He imagined bringing highly promising innovators of the built and natural environment to the GSD and Harvard for a year and challenging them to do more and do better, convinced they would return to their work with new ideas and energy.

John and his wife Frances endowed the Loeb Fellowship as part of their gift to the “Crisis” campaign. They worked closely with William A. Doebele, the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design (now Emeritus). Together they designed a Fellowship that would bring emerging leaders in the field to the GSD for independent study, reflection and engagement. Professor Doebele, the founding curator, guided the program through its first 27 years and shaped an experience that has had a powerful impact on generations of urban, rural, and environmental practitioners.

When Bill Doebele retired in 1998, he was succeeded by James Stockard, a 1978 Loeb Fellow and affordable housing expert. Jim’s retirement in 2014 occasioned a yearlong national search for a successor, and in 2015 John Peterson, founder of Public Architecture and a Loeb Fellow in 2006, was appointed to head the Fellowship.

Today’s environmental risks, tensions of race and equity, and global conflicts have an unnerving resonance with the racial tensions, urban riots, decline of cities, and Cold War that alarmed John Loeb in the late 1960s. At the same time, the current spirit of innovation and opportunity is reminiscent of the hope and aspirations of the Great Society and space programs. Now in its fifth decade, the extraordinary, transformative learning experience that is the Loeb Fellowship continues to have a critical role to play in preparing leaders to address these urgent concerns and instigate important future advances through their work in the built and natural environment.

Loeb Leadership

John Peterson, architect, educator, and activist, is Curator of the Loeb Fellowship.

Peterson is the founder of Public Architecture, a national nonprofit organization based in San Francisco. The organization’s work has been showcased at the Venice Architecture Biennale, MoMA, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Benaki Museum in Athens, and the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam. Public Architecture’s 1+ program challenges architecture and design firms to pledge a minimum of 1% of their time in pro bono services to nonprofits in need and has attracted participation from over 1600 firms nationwide. Public Architecture’s projects have been covered by national and international media; its ScrapHouse, a house built from only salvaged materials, was the subject of a National Geographic Channel documentary. The organization was a Harvard Business School case study in 2010 and has been supported by a long list of major funders.

Peterson’s work has appeared in several books and publications, including The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong, the New York Times, Architectural Record, Architect, Metropolis, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. He has contributed to books such as Expanding Design, Urban Interventions, and The Power of Pro Bono. Peterson led the architectural practice Peterson Architects from 1993 to 2010 and has taught at the University of Texas at Austin and California College of the Arts. A recipient of numerous design and social innovation awards, Peterson has played an important part in defining the concept of “public interest design.” He holds degrees in fine arts and architecture from Rhode Island School of Design and was a Loeb Fellow in 2006.