Allston Burr Assistant Dean

For advising info, go to the Resident Dean's Office page.

See this page for an introduction to Luke Leafgren, Mather House ABAD, who will be returning from sabbatical in July 2017.

Rachel Esplin Odell
Acting Allston Burr Assistant Dean of Harvard College, Mather House
(A.k.a. Resident Dean of Mather House, a.k.a. Mather House Dean)

As your acting Resident Dean, I am here to support and advise you during your undergraduate career on academic, career, extracurricular, and personal issues. I am also your representative to the College's Ad Board, and I can help you navigate Harvard's numerous resources. I look forward to getting to know each of you. Never hesitate to get in touch (!

I love the students and staff of Mather House and am thrilled to be acting in this position while Luke Leafgren takes a sabbatical for the spring semester of 2017. I have been a Resident Tutor in Mather since fall 2014, where I have directed fellowships advising and prize selection, advised Mather's Government concentrators, and organized support for students in matters of interfaith relations and religious identity. I grew up on a potato farm in Idaho and came to Harvard College as a first-generation college student,* graduating in the class of 2009-10 with a concentration in East Asian Studies and a secondary field in Government.

After college, I worked for four years as a Junior Fellow and then a Research Analyst in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where I am still a Nonresident Research Analyst. I am now a PhD candidate in Political Science and a member of the Security Studies Program at MIT, where I study international relations, Chinese foreign policy, and U.S. strategy toward Asia. I am writing my dissertation on why countries adopt different interpretations of international law and how international law evolves over time and shapes competition among great powers, with a focus on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

I live in the Mather tower with my husband Scott (also a resident tutor) and our three-year-old son. We love living in New England and enjoy both going to the beach and hiking in nearby forests and mountains. We make the most of the winter by cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (yes, our son comes along and even has his own little skis and snowshoes now!). We have loved raising our son in Mather House, where he has hundreds of aunts and uncles and even an extra set of grandparents (Christie and Mike!). We love to eat dinner with students in the dining hall, so if you see us there, please come and sit by us for a meal or drop by to say hello.


*My parents had earned associates degrees at a junior college in Idaho, but after my family had to sell our potato farm, my mother used Department of Labor funding to return to college to earn first her bachelor's and then her master's degrees when I was in high school. So I guess I'm sort of 1.5-gen. :) I believe that diversity in the student body--including first-generation students from a wide range of backgrounds--is essential to enabling all students at Harvard College to have "an unparalleled educational journey that is intellectually, socially, and personally transformative." In fact, one of my favorite quotes comes from the appendix to the principal opinion in the landmark 1978 Supreme Court case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke that upheld the principle of affirmative action in college admissions. In that appendix, Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. wrote, "A farm boy from Idaho can bring something to Harvard College that a Bostonian cannot offer." As a farm girl from Idaho, I hope that I have done and can continue to do the same as your Resident Dean!