The Arete Fellowship

bystecas 7d14th Aug 2019No comments

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Summary: Harvard College Effective Altruism’s Arete Fellowship program has been a successful way for collegiate EA clubs to recruit new members and spread EA ideas. The resources for it are available here, and we encourage other EA groups to use them. Please contact about anything fellowship related at scasper@college.harvard.edu.

Arete [AIR-uh-tay] is a Greek word that loosely translates to excellence and virtue. It’s the namesake of Harvard College Effective Altruism’s (HCEA) fellowship program which aims to give participants new to Effective Altruism (EA) a rigorous introduction to its concepts and community.

I just finished my year-long term as the fellowship chair for HCEA. We had generally encouraging results with high participant satisfaction and other university groups adopting our fellowship model. After two semesters’ worth of experimenting with the fellowship, collaborating with other college EA organizers, acting on fellow feedback, and getting input from members of the EA community, we have a set of resources here which are freely available to anyone seeking to use them for EA-related purposes—especially college clubs. We and others have found the Arete Fellowship to be valuable for spreading EA ideas among undergrads, increasing club membership, and boosting our presence on campus.

HCEA has had a fellowship program for years, dating back to the origins of the club circa 2012. However, by the spring of 2018, the fellowship suffered from a lack of central organization or a well-organized set of resources. In the summer of 2018, the HCEA board appointed a dedicated fellowship chair (yours truly), archived the old fellowship resources, renamed the fellowship program “Arete,” and began creating these resources from scratch. We aimed throughout the process to keep them well-organized and transferable so that other EA groups could use them. (They include a detailed handover document.)

The fellowship program has a 9-week curriculum and resembles a reading group crossed with a small seminar. Each week, fellows complete approximately an hour’s worth of reading, fill out a short Google form, and attend an hour-long discussion session (we do ours over dinner). Additionally, the fellowship involves socials, one-on-ones, a giving game, and a blog-post writing assignment. Anyone with a general familiarity of EA and who is willing to familiarize themselves with the curriculum can be a good fellowship leader.

The fellowship is the principal way we gain members and is key to our club’s presence on campus. Out of a total of 45 fellows last school year, 43 completed the fellowship and approximately half continue to be involved in the club with varying degrees of activity. The Arete Fellowship has started to become known at Harvard and associated with our club, and a large proportion of applicants for our spring semester were people who had heard about the fellowship from one of their friends in the fall track. Despite being two semesters old, it has spread rapidly among college EA groups in the US including MIT, Duke, Stanford, University of Houston, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and Minerva. Additionally, we have collaborated with the Yale Effective Altruism Fellowship, and clubs from at least 7 other US and Canadian colleges are planning on starting a chapter of the Arete Fellowship in the fall of 2019. The fellowship resources have proven to be fairly easy to adopt (see first the Arete Fellowship Guide document in the folder linked above). I can also be a good resource. Email me at scasper@college.harvard.edu.

I and other Arete fellowship leaders believe it to be a useful model for the top of an EA group’s funnel and potentially a very valuable resource for new and established EA clubs alike.

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