Change Magazine

Change Mag

Circle of Women at Harvard College
An Interview with Harvard Chapter President Emery Poor ’15

Change-Magazine (C-M): What is the Circle of Women Harvard College’s mission?

Emery Poor (EP): Our mission statement is “We mobilize students to provide access to education for girls without it.” That statement relates to our unique status as a non-profit run entirely by full-time students and young professionals, and our non-profit’s goal to bring education to young women in developing countries with a particularly pronounced gender-education disparity.

C-M: What catalyzed its creation?

EP: The germ of an idea that became Circle of Women originated in a Harvard dorm room in 2005, conceived by three roommates who realized that the world under-invests in girls — and decided to do something about it. Since then, the organization has carried out the mission to build and support sustainable secondary schools, making classrooms more accessible to young women in developing countries.

C-M: Why were you, personally, inspired to become involved in this issue? What has been your most rewarding experience/moment?

EP: Prior to coming to college, my older sister was a source of inspiration as she worked with her Harvard classmates to organize fundraisers, catalyze projects, and coordinate the construction and completion of schools. When I myself joined Circle of Women as a freshman, I experienced first-hand the ability of a group of students to effect substantive change in foreign countries. Having held various roles in Circle, I am currently Harvard Chapter Leader, and am incredibly proud to have been a part of building our latest project, Project Indore, from the ground up. Specifically, the funds raised from events on campus and in New York, and the grant we secured from the Forix Foundation, are translating directly to the construction of our school in Indore, India, furnishing the existing building with solar panels, additional dormitories, and a computer lab.

C-M: How does the organization measure success?

EP: Many non-profits struggle with maintaining momentum in completed projects. By partnering with existing on-the-ground businesses and foundations with every project, we ensure that the community surrounding our schools is invested in the project’s success. As a result, we guarantee that our schools will continue to progress even after the official involvement of Circle of Women elapses. We are proud that each of our projects continues to thrive.

C-M: How has it evolved since its founding?

EP: To date, Circle Of Women has completed four projects in India, Pakistan, Malawi, and Afghanistan, and has served over 1,500 girls in the process. Circle has also established over 20 chapters in high schools and universities across the country, and aims to cultivate a new generation of global citizens by providing chapter members with hands-on experience in organizational management, fundraising, and project management.

C-M: What are the next steps for the Circle of Women Harvard College in the next 5 years? 10 years?

EP: In years to come, we look forward to bringing Circle of Women to more schools nationwide, thus enabling our projects to reach and benefit more young women abroad.

C-M: How can Harvard students get involved?

EP: There are many ways to support Circle of Women’s efforts, both directly and indirectly. First and foremost, we’re excited to welcome new students — women AND men — into the Harvard chapter. Once fulfilling our “360” comp process, you’ll join our team in brainstorming and fundraising for, then coordinating and completing, the on-the-ground work that make our projects a reality. As such, roles within Circle of Women offer students the extremely rare hands-on opportunity to take part in running a full-time non-profit. Moreover, many Circle graduates continue to make Circle part of their lives after leaving Harvard in an advisory capacity, and so offer undergraduates access to a well-developed network of successful young professionals. There are many ways to support Circle as a non-member, too — our website ( offers comprehensive details and updates about past and current projects, volunteer opportunities, donation links, and more news about fundraising pushes like our recent Spring Auction. Check out our “Get Involved” link ( for all of the short-term and long-term ways to become a part of our team.

This interview represents the sole opinions of Emery Poor on behalf of the Circle of Women Harvard Chapter, and does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Change-Magazine.

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