Looking Ahead: A Thank-You to HGSE and a Poem

In July, I moved up here from my college town in Louisiana having only been in New England once— on visit day. I came here determined to learn as much as I could about language and literacy, meet fascinating Professors, and be involved in everything I could be. But, that’s not what happened. I mean on face value, yes, I was involved outside of the classroom up to my eyeballs (literally so involved it hurt sometimes), I met amazing faculty, and I gained knowledge in the field. However, in these things I did even more important work— I had conversations about culture, equity, and society in ways that I never imagined; I imagined ways to improve my classroom and public districts, reimagined them, and talked about them with passionate educators and professors from all over the world; I learned about myself through coursework, involvement, and nights spent belly-ache laughing on the HUNAP (Harvard University Native American Program) couch with four of the greatest women I’ve ever known. So, this is my thank-you to those who made this experience exceed my expectations.

I could never list all the people who contributed, but of course, I’m going to attempt to anyways. First, the HGSE student community. It really is like a family—a family that pushes you to expand your consciousness, dishes out sarcasm better than even myself, and gives you their yogurt when you have class until 8pm and didn’t have a chance to eat that day (true story and you’re still the real MVP). I really could never list all of you, but just know I’m talking about every single one of you. Second, HUNAP and FIERCE. Cute Instagram captions aside, they are the greatest people you’ll ever meet. Thank you for being shoulders to cry on, bad influences on my restaurant budget and diet, and beautiful souls. Shelly, Jason, Sam, Damon, Megan, Jordan, Danielle, and Autumn (and Alice), thank you. Third, Tracie and OSA. Is there anything y’all didn’t do for us? I can never thank you enough for the support of FIERCE, HHEI, and me as a student. Fourth and finally, all the professors and other faculty that have had an impact on my learning (including Andrena, my Program Administrator). I am exceedingly thankful for every course I’ve taken this year and the impact it will have on my practice.

As the year closes out, I’m thankful, reflective, and looking forward to a new adventure. When I started the job search, a few people asked me what I was going to be doing next year and were disappointed that I was “just” going to teach. I began to feel like maybe that was an inadequate reach after finishing a master’s program, so I looked into things like research fellowships and central office jobs. However, my heart always returned to teaching. Sometimes in society we devalue teaching as a job that is beneath us once we get experience and education, and while one day I want to pursue a doctorate and leadership, I’m glad I didn’t listen to the little tug to get a higher up job that I don’t actually want. Next year, I’ll be moving back to Dallas, Texas, and teaching ninth grade English as the founding ELAR teacher of a new Dallas ISD public school. It is without reservation that I say HGSE and the beautiful, innovative, empathetic educators I’ve been blessed with meeting have prepared me for my next steps. I can’t wait to incorporate the learning I’ve done this year into my classroom and into some exciting community work outside of the classroom as well (stay tuned). And, in true English teacher fashion, I’ve written this poem to celebrate and look forward.


It radiates with curiosity and bad fluorescent lighting—

Not always inviting.

But a place of promise and future

A place of questioning and, sometimes, confusion

Begging for men and women who care, with innovation and passion at their core—

Not afraid to challenge the status quo and demand the system for more.

More love, equity, support, student voice

Not just more, better, way better

Resources are thin, but the year is long—

Not a simple task that gives birth to a summer vacation song.

It is a place, a place of government and systemic failure

A place of promises

A place of promise

A place

They serve students in abundance—

Sometimes in a monotony of redundance.

But in August I embark to transform

A classroom

Into a home

Surrounded by springtime bluebonnets and Texas heat, adventure awaits—

Adventure to anticipate.

It awaits in the halls, the young lives,

In the coffee shops I’ve yet to explore

And in familiar streets

And the sunshine of the south

And the lullabies of thunderstorms

Within the complex system of both sunshine and thunderstorms—

A home

Wado and donadagvhoi (thank you and see you later), HGSE.

Kaci McClure is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy program. Her primary passions are increasing literacy skills among high school students; addressing inequity in low-income, largely minority schools; and culturally responsive teaching. A transplant out of Louisiana who originally hails from Texas, Kaci has an affinity for sweet tea, spicy food, and the word “y’all.” She’s also an avid supporter of conscious rap and frybread, neither correlated to the other but both very powerful.  

Housing, food, fitness, and more!

Congratulations on matriculating! Now that you’ve decided to join the HGSE community this fall, Arpi and Gabi are back with a Q&A with some practical details for studying and living at HGSE and the Cambridge/Boston area. Food, fitness, and clubs, here we go!

Q1: What types of clubs and organizations are available for students at HSGE?

LAEF 2017 Conference

Gabi (HDP ’17): I have been a part of the Latin America Education Forum, a student organization dedicated to fostering productive dialogue around educational issues in Latin America. Throughout the year, we hosted movie screenings and debates, and a few weeks ago we had our main event, the Latin America Education Conference. It’s been a great opportunity to meet interesting people and learn more from their countries and my own. Cultural clubs are lots of fun here.

Arpi (MBE ’17): I also joined a cultural club, the Armenian Society at Harvard, which is based at FAS but open to the entire Harvard community. There are lots of clubs at the other University divisions that are open to the whole community, so chances are if you’re interested, you’re allowed to join! On our campus – and apart from those that are cultural and identity-based – there are also some clubs that apply their work on local and national levels. Just this year a group of students started a club called EduAct that is taking their activism and promotion of sound education policies on a national level, and often organizes on campus with professors as well. If there isn’t a club for your interest or mission, you can always form one through the HGSE Office of Student Affairs.

Q2: What kind of food will I find on campus and nearby?

Gabi (HDP ’17): You can find all sorts of food nearby! Darwin’s Ltd is one of my favorites for coffee and sandwiches (the Brattle is delicious). Border Cafe is a Mexican bar that understands student life and offers nachos and dip for free when you order other things. Algiers is a cute cafe on Brattle Street that makes you feel like you’re on a temple far away from Cambridge (which sometimes is everything you need). I also love going to Christopher’s, near Porter Square, for hamburgers and the occasional beer.

Arpi (MBE ’17): Gutman Cafe is among my favorite places to eat around campus. The staff are wonderful, the food definitely gets a thumbs-up, and thank goodness their prices are grad student-friendly. I love exploring the other schools’ cafes as well, since some of my courses are cross-listed at the other graduate schools. The Ed school contingency in my Law seminar usually grabs dinner together at the HLS (Harvard Law School) Pub on Wednesday nights after class (conveniently when they have trivia night), which is an awesome place to grab a bite to eat, and is open to the Harvard community. So even in a short walk’s distance, or if you want to stay on campus, your food options are not limited at all.

Q3: What exercise facilities and recreation opportunities are available?

Kayaking on the Charles River

Gabi (HDP ’17): People around here love to go jogging outside, and it’s great to exercise around the Charles River when the weather is nice. When that’s not the case, there are gyms around. I usually go to Hemenway Gym for Zumba, spinning and hip hop lessons–they are so much fun and help me remember that my body is not just this thing that takes my head to meetings. There are also more sporadic activities: I’ve been kayaking with a group of friends and heard of some people who have gone ice fishing and skiing around the area.

Arpi (MBE ’17): Harvard has two gyms on this side of the river, open to anyone who gets a membership – the MAC (Malkin Athletic Center) near Mt. Auburn St., and Hemenway by the Law School. I enjoy going to Hemenway since it’s a short walk from HGSE, although the MAC isn’t too much further for me to complain about it. For the really dedicated, there is also a November Project group based in Cambridge that does workouts one morning at week at the Harvard Stadium across the bridge, and they are fantastic! There are also lots of students who take classes – as an extracurricular and for credit – at the Harvard Dance Studio just a few minutes’ walk from HGSE. They have classes for all ability levels – and when I say all ability levels, I mean they even tolerate me with my two left feet and embarrassing lack of coordination.

Q4: How did you make plans for housing?

Gabi (HDP ’17): I’m an international student and was not familiar with the area at all, so my first priority was to find a place where I could feel safe. My second concern was to find somewhere practical so that I could maximize my limited time around here. Cronkhite made a lot of sense for my set of criteria: I reserved the room online and was able to get settled a couple of weeks before classes started. But even though Arpi and I live in the same dorm, there are so many other options available, from Harvard Housing or not.

Arpi (MBE ’17): I knew I wanted to live close to campus, since I wanted to spend as much time as possible at HGSE and attend as many lectures and events as I could. Of the Harvard housing buildings open to HGSE, Cronkhite was the closest to campus (being two blocks down Brattle Street from Appian Way). It was the best option for my price range and preferred move in/move-out dates (note that leases at Cronkhite tend to run the entire calendar year, from July to end of June the following year). This happened to work perfectly for me since I started my campus job in the summer. But there are plenty of students who commute from Boston or even further, including a cohort member who commutes from Rhode Island since he was based there prior to coming to HGSE. If you would like any referrals of students who commute from these different distances, let us know and we’d be happy to put you in touch.

Q5: How did you meet and get to know the members of your cohort?

One of many HDP Happy Hour events!

Gabi (HDP ’17): There were so many events going on in the beginning of the year, I couldn’t tell when exactly I got to know them. There were some that were specific to the Human Development and Psychology program and some for all of the Ed School. I was always on the lookout for other people from HDP and, to be honest, am still getting to know some members of my cohort. We have a regular Happy Hour event every week and every now and then we have special outings–a few weeks ago we watched a basketball game together, and last weekend there was a party at Prof. Rick Weissbourd’s house (our program director).

MBE at John Harvard’s Brewery

Arpi (MBE ’17): Well, it’s hard for my cohort members to not see each other because so many of our classes and interests have overlap (and that’s the case for pretty much every cohort here), so meeting your cohort members is not a problem at all. Orientation week was a great time for us to go on outings together in Cambridge and the Boston area and to get to know each other. Even before then, my cohort organized a few outings since some of us moved into Boston before orientation. We went to the Lawn on D, John Harvard’s brewery, and explored the Harvard campus together. As soon as classes started, the outings turned more into study sessions and study breaks, but we always find a way to meet up at least twice a month. Although, I’d be remiss to not give any credit to Mandy (our program administrator, “P.A.”, who also works with HDP) for organizing some of these study breaks!

Q6: Do you have an internship? How did you find it?

Gabi (HDP ’17): I am a Research Assistant at Agency by Design, one of the many projects at Project Zero (also called “PZ”). I am interested in creativity, and ever since before coming I knew that PZ studied themes around the intersection of arts and education, so I knew I should look for something over there. They had an Open House at the beginning of the semester, where I was able to get more familiar with the specific projects and people who worked there. I tried out for two projects before finding the one that was a good match for both me and the team.

Arpi (MBE ’17): I decided to have a campus job rather than an internship this year. Because I have a research background and less of a professional background, I wanted to prioritize gaining some professional experience while being at HGSE. Talk to CSO (the Career Services Office) early in the year, or even in the beginning of the summer, if you’re interested in such opportunities – they know exactly where to look and who to call based on your interests.

Q7: How do you find out about all of the events happening at HGSE, Harvard University, and across the broader Cambridge/Boston area?

Gabi (HDP ’17): So. Many. Newsletters. You will be flooded with emails about events from your cohort, HGSE, Harvard, research groups, labs, museums, etc. Gutman Library is always filled with posters about lectures. Facebook is a constant source of events in Cambridge, Boston, Somerville and surroundings. It is common for interesting events to cross your path when you least expect, so it’s good to leave time in your schedule to accommodate these pleasant surprises. Trust me, finding things to do will not be a problem.

Arpi (MBE ’17): For lectures and academic events, the Harvard Gazette newsletter is fantastic. It compiles events from across the university into a central calendar and highlights some of the big events of the day in the email. I also echo Gabi – there are lots of email newsletters, and they are fantastic. My favorites this year have been those for Askwith forums at HGSE, the Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior, and the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School. If you have an interest, there’s probably a newsletter for it.


We’re so happy you’ll be joining our community in the Fall! Congratulations again on your admission and your decision to enroll – we’ll be seeing you soon!

Gabriela Talarico is passionate about creativity, education, and qualitative research. She joins HGSE from Brazil as a Jorge Paulo Lemann Fellow and is currently a Master’s in Education Candidate in the Human Development and Psychology Program.

Arpi Youssoufian is a masters candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. A biologist by training, she is fascinated by the classic nature-nurture debate in the context of learning development, and wishes she could take every class in the HGSE course book. She hopes to pursue either a neuroscience doctoral program or medical school to bridge research and practice in the future.

The Job Search

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With just over a month left before graduation, landing a dream job is high on many HGSE students’ priority lists. I’m still working on defining exactly what a “dream job” looks like to me, but luckily I have plenty of resources here to help me figure it out.

The HGSE Career Services Office (CSO) is your main source for support, and is available to students starting Day 1 and remains accessible after graduation. I’ve had multiple one-on-one meetings with career services counselors, and these meetings have been great for clarifying my goals, narrowing the scope of my search and updating my resume. I’ve also attended a few career services workshops. One helpful workshop I attended last month dealt with salary negotiations. The workshop gave tips on how to calculate your target salary and how to sell yourself to get your number. The workshop also touched on how to negotiate other aspects of job offers like flexible schedules, adjusted responsibilities, and job titles. A great perk about CSO is that they will see you within 48 hours if you have a job offer to help you strategize with salary negotiations.

In addition to offering individual meetings and group workshops, career services also holds several job fairs. Two recent examples are the Social Impact Expo, with nonprofit and mission driven employers, and the Education PreK-12 Expo, with charter, private, public and nonprofit schools. I’ve also attended job fairs at other graduate schools on campus, like the Harvard Kennedy School’s Urban Innovations Employer Connections Event. These events are a great way to get an idea of the types of jobs available and network with employers.

As a HGSE student and alum, you have access to Hired which is a job database with a wealth of career opportunities across the country and internationally. Start looking at this as soon as you can. You also have access to a huge network of alumni, professors and classmates with connections in the field. HGSE graduates are all over the world, and being a part of that network of leaders and change agents is valuable not only for your initial job search, but for the rest of your sure-to-be-amazing career!

Sara DeWolf is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. She has experience as both a civil litigation attorney and a public school teacher. When she’s not at HGSE, you can find her playing with her daughters and exploring Boston.

A Day in the Life of a Spring Semester TEP Student

Hi everyone! Spring semester of the Teacher Education Program (TEP) looks very different than a lot of other Ed.M. programs at HGSE. That’s because we are completing full-time teaching practicums for our Massachusetts teaching certification. Here’s what a typical Monday is like for me:

5:20 a.m. – Alarm goes off. Yikes. I hit snooze a bunch of times before eventually rolling out of bed to start my day.

6:15-7:00 a.m. – Commute to my school site. I live kind of far and take the train (MBTA), but I actually don’t mind the long commute at all. I consider my mornings as an important built in time for self-care. I listen to music, drink my coffee, and get mentally ready for the day.  Plus, I get to see this stellar view every day:

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Sunrise view of the Boston skyline from Charlestown, MA

7:15 a.m. – School starts! I work in a middle school that has an advisory period every morning. This spring, I am running a book club two days a week during this time for students who need an additional challenge. Every TEP student is required to take on an “additional responsibility” outside of teaching during practicum, so this is mine.

8:15 a.m. – 2:25 p.m. – The rest of school. My mentor teacher and I co-teach four sections of 6th grade ELA. This spring, two of the classes have become my primary responsibility. Between teaching, IEP and team meetings, and a planning period, the day always goes by super fast!

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My 6th Grade Classroom!

3:15 p.m. – Arrive at HGSE. Grab a quick snack in Gutman Café. (Gutman chocolate chip cookies are the best afternoon snack on busy days! Seriously – get one. You won’t regret it.) Chat with some friends, catch up on emails, and prepare for my 4:00 class.

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Outside Gutman Library

4:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Time for class. Since TEP students start earlier than the rest of the Master’s programs, we technically aren’t required to take courses at HGSE during our spring practicum. But many of us still do since there are so many good classes to choose from. This semester, I’m taking Educating to Transform Society: Preparing Students to Disrupt and Dismantle Racism with Dr. Aaliyah El-Amin. It’s been one of the most powerful classes I’ve taken this year.

7:30 – Finally home! I make dinner, do some last minute review of the next day’s lessons, and occasionally watch some mindless reality TV with my roommates (looking at you The Bachelor…sorry/not sorry).

10:00 – Lights out. Time to sleep and do it all again tomorrow.

Sarah Mintz is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Teacher Education Program, pursuing licensure as a middle school English teacher. She comes to HGSE from Washington, D.C., where she worked at an independent school and a non-profit serving incarcerated youth. Outside of education, she loves to spend her time cooking and exploring the city with friends

The 15th Annual Alumni of Color Conference

On March 2-4, I had the honor of chairing the 15th Annual Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC) with the theme Define. Defy. Dismantle: Forging Our Legacy Through Activism. It was hands down the most rewarding experience for me as a student at HGSE. Five months of planning came together for a weekend filled with social activism. We had over 700 registered participants which consisted of students, faculty, staff, alumni, youth, scholars, and citizens from across the country. We had 7 keynote speakers, a special guest, and about 45 workshops over the course of six breakout sessions.

As a Tri-Chair, I was tasked with turning an idea into a full 3 day conference. Before this year, the largest event I planned was a male scholarship pageant through my sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.) in undergrad. I had never planned a conference before and was honestly unaware of all it would take to successfully execute this conference. I quickly found out the amount of work, dedication, and sacrifice it would take and I am truly appreciative of the phenomenal leadership team that helped make this conference possible.

On Thursday, March 2, Dr. Peter T. Keo provided a kickoff for the conference. He gave a speech that energized participants and excited the crowd about what was to come over the course of the weekend. Many participants commented on the appreciation of hearing a man of Asian descent speak about dismantling racism from a perspective that is often not highlighted.

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Dr. Keo with the Tri-Chairs (from left to right: Kimberly Osagie, Rashaida Melvin, Alfatah Moore)

Friday, there were three breakout sessions and an Askwith Forum. The Askwith forum titled “Take Action: Advancing Justice and Equity in Today’s Climate” was composed of keynote speakers Dr. Arshad I. Ali, Ed.M.’04, Assemblyman Michael A. Blake, Albino Garcia, Jr., and Simran Noor with Christina “V” Villarreal, Ed.M.’05 moderating the panel. We also gave the Courage Award to the Denver Broncos’ linebacker Brandon Marshall for having the strength to fight for justice in regards to police brutality.

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From left to right: Christina “V” Villarreal, Assemblyman Michael Blake, Albino Garcia, Simran Noor, and Dr. Arshad Ali.

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Brandon Marshall with the AOCC Tri-Chairs

For a full video of the Askwith Forum, check out the live video on the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Facebook page from March 3rd. Also, check out this article I am featured in about the conference and specifically the Askwith Forum.
On Saturday, we had three more breakout sessions, a conversation with Brandon Marshall, granted three awards, and welcomed two additional keynote speakers: Dr. Rhonda Williams and Dr. Bettina Love. All of the speakers were phenomenal. Dr. Williams used spoken word to defy systems of oppression and Dr. Love discussed her curriculum on hip-hop education and fired up the crowd as she provided ways to dismantle oppression in education. I am beyond proud of the final product of AOCC 2017. It will be my greatest memory and experience at HGSE.

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Dr. Rhonda Williams, keynote speaker.

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Myself and Dr. Bettina Love (Fun Fact: Dr. Love is a professor at the same university I attended for my bachelor’s degree, The University of Georgia!)

I would love to help recruit the next Master’s Tri-Chair for AOCC 2018! I can give you the ins and outs of the planning process. I had to make sacrifices and give up a lot of free time because of this conference, but it was the BEST decision I made as a student here at HGSE.   

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AOCC Tri-Chairs with Tracie Jones from the Office of Student Affairs

Rashaida Melvin is a Master’s of Education candidate in the School Leadership Program. She has taught for three years and is excited about moving from the classroom into leadership. Rashaida is looking forward to serving both teachers and students in the future.

Community Building with “The Bachelor”

As you might imagine, Harvard is a place filled with really intelligent and driven people. Most times I can feel my IQ increasing just from walking around campus and taking in bits of conversation as I go. I’m grateful for the wealth of knowledge and expertise that exists in the people I get to interact with everyday—it’s a major reason why I chose to attend HGSE. Still, remembering that these very brilliant people are also just regular people, with regular-people interests, is such a comfort. I’m reminded this every Monday night, when a group of us Harvard students meet to watch The Bachelor.

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Being someone who has avoided the entire Bachelor franchise prior to this current season, I have to admit that when my friends Kathryn (HDP ‘17) and Manya (PSP ‘17) invited me to watch, I scoffed at the idea. Though, because they’d be watching the show in the TV room of our dorm, the Cronkhite Center, I figured there was no harm in moseying down to the basement for two hours of levity.

I was surprised to see a solid group of people in the room that first Monday night, and as the weeks progressed—and the number of roses being given lessened—our Bachelor-watching posse grew. Students from across the Harvard graduate schools were convening around our TV to see what Corinne said or did and make predictions about who Nick would and wouldn’t end up with. And I, who was at first a hostile viewer, found myself (gasp!) looking forward to these Monday night gatherings—partially for the show, which is both entertaining and ridiculous, but mostly for the community.

While this season and semester are drawing to a close, I realize that I’m really going to miss Monday night community-building with The Bachelor. On the bright side, however, the next season of The Bachelorette is right around the corner and I will almost certainly be watching.

Monique Hall is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Technology, Innovation, and Education program. She is passionate about children’s media, ice cream, and educational equity.

 

Congratulations!

It was on a Friday, March 4th, 2016, when I received an email on my phone regarding an admissions decision from Harvard Graduate School of Education. I was sitting at home, watching Parks and Recreation after a long day of reading applications (I worked in Admissions for Lafayette College). I made a delicious burger and french fries and was mid-bite when I saw my phone light up. I dropped the burger. Grabbed the phone with my less-greasy hand and used my knuckle to open the email while moving towards the kitchen to wash my hands.

Even more tantalizing was the fact that I needed to pop into ANOTHER webpage to actually see my decision–how CRUEL! But I did. And watched the pixels congratulate me. I cried. You may have as well. Or maybe you screamed? Or maybe you didn’t drop the burger and made that email wait until you consumed all of the calories in front of you. But I cried.

I cried not because I was simply admitted to a wonderful institution with human capital and a reverberating signal–I cried because I thought about my statement of purpose. I ask you to think about the same. You are in the midst of making your decision of where to enroll, which can be a heartwarming challenge to have, but I challenge you to take a moment and read your statement of purpose once more. Remember the hours you spent diving into why you want to make this career move? Think about the personal narrative you let bleed into those 1500 words. That story is who you are. And who you are, down to your core, is what HGSE wants.

You are welcomed into a community who plan to serve the scholars across the world. Of course, HGSE is not the only community that plans accordingly. So explore your options, friend! What I can say from personal experience is that your cognitive and emotional intelligence matters here. Education is the intersection of both, and we look forward to sharing validation and growth to promote our collective social change. Join us at HGSE or join the larger movement–regardless, we are happy to have you in the field.

Taaha Mohamedali is a Master’s of Education candidate in Higher Education. Prior to enrolling at Harvard, Taaha was an admissions officer coordinating efforts to improve access for marginalized groups at Lafayette College.  He hopes to improve transitional support structures for these groups in the years to come. His passions include spoken word, comedy, and rock, paper, scissors.

We FINALLY Got a Win!

The 2016-2017 School Leadership Cohort is a good group of competitive individuals. We are always looking for ways to be strategic, efficient, and win! I truly believe we have taken leadership to a brand new level at HGSE. We have turned one class project into a gallery showing, published book, and a presentation at AOCC (Alumni of Color Conference). We have come together to support each other in times of academic, professional, and personal needs. But one thing we have yet to accomplish, is a win. For some reason, during every competition entered, SLP has never won. During the softball season, we had a team with the best team spirit, yet we never won a game (we even had cheerleaders and team hype music). During the HGSE basketball tournament, we made it to the semi-finals round and lost by one point in overtime. We tried so hard, yet we could not pull out a “W”, until….the Class Gift Challenge! (The Class Gift Challenge asks current HGSE students to donate funds to go towards financial aid opportunities for the incoming class at HGSE.)

Each year, students compete to see which cohort can reach 100% contribution to the class gift first. This cohort wins a “not a pizza party.” I am proud to say that the 45 members in the 2016-2017 School Leadership Program ALL contributed to the class gift fund within 48 hours of the competition opening! We finally earned our “W” and of course the bragging rights to go along with this win. I was most proud to be told that this was the FASTEST a cohort has EVER reached 100% participation. Although it took us long enough, I think this was a good win for SLP!

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Rashaida Melvin is a Master’s of Education candidate in the School Leadership Program. She has taught for three years and is excited about moving from the classroom into leadership. Rashaida is looking forward to serving both teachers and students in the future.  

You’ve Been Admitted to HGSE! Now What?

So, you’ve been admitted to HGSE for the 2017-18 academic year – CONGRATULATIONS! Now what? How do you decide whether to attend or not? Here are a few thoughts as you consider HGSE from Gabi and Arpi:

Q1: Where were you and what were you doing when you found out you were admitted to HGSE?

Gabi, HDP: I was out on vacation in Salvador, Brazil, with my parents. The process of gathering material and writing statements can be very stressful, so some time after I was done submitting my applications, I decided to take a work leave to let off some steam and distract myself from the anxiety of waiting for answers. One day when we got back to the hotel I checked my email and it said there was an update to my Harvard application. My parents sat down by my side as I opened the message, and we celebrated together in a crazy mix of laughing, crying and hugging.

Arpi, MBE: I was in my dorm room, running late for dinner with a friend. I was a heartbeat away from closing the lid of my laptop when suddenly the email popped up from the admissions office. In some incomprehensible blur of happiness and exhilaration I called my parents to tell them the news. I still attribute my breathlessness over the phone to the excitement of receiving the decision rather than physically racing out the door.

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Q2: What was important to you in deciding to attend HGSE?

Gabi, HDP: The factors that most influenced my decision to join Harvard were the focus on research and financial aid (I should note that financial aid information doesn’t always come at the same time as the general admission decision).

Arpi, MBE: The connection between students and professors was definitely of importance to me. I was nervous that one year was too short to make meaningful connections with our academic advisors and professors, but was impressed when I visited for the admitted student open house day how fond the students were of their professors and the connections they made with them. The professors here make themselves readily available to their students, get to know us by name and aspirations, and are genuinely invested in our achievement and success. Even Professor Brennan knew all 100+ of her students in T550 by name!

Q3: Did you speak to anyone at HGSE who helped you make the decision to enroll? What advice did they give you?

Arpi, MBE: Less than a week after being admitted, a current HGSE student in my program called to congratulate me and answer any questions. I, being pleasantly surprised by the unexpected phone call, yet again running late for dinner with a friend, and still in shock of receiving the admissions decision a few days earlier, could only formulate one question: “Do you like it there?” (Geez, could I think of a more blunt question?) The student I spoke with couldn’t convey her love of her HGSE experience more, and even rallied a few other MBE students in the room with her to express this. I also visited campus and was entirely taken by the community here, just as I had felt in my virtual interactions until then. So it wasn’t necessarily advice that solidified my decision; it was more so a vibe and reassurance that this community would be welcoming of me and my goals in the MBE program. (Note to the newly-admitted MBE students: I will be one of the current students on the HGSE end of the phone line this year during call night (woohoo!). Please feel free to ask us any questions about our experiences as MBE/HGSE/Harvard students, we’re all very excited to speak with you!)

Gabi, HDP: I spoke to so many people in order to make my decision: my family, my boyfriend, friends, HGSE alumni and my HDP Program Administrator from Harvard, other schools I was considering, and finally my undergraduate professors from Brazil. I would say it was especially helpful to talk to recent alumni, as they still had the fresh experience in their mind, but were able to have some distance when looking back. To find these people, I reached out to the Admissions Office and asked to be connected with alumni with similar backgrounds as me. I think more than giving me advice, they gave me valuable information about what the program would be like and the life I would have here, which made me confident to make my own decision.

Q4: Are you happy that you ultimately enrolled at HGSE?

Arpi, MBE: Unquestionably. I still feel butterflies whenever I walk through the main University gates, onto Appian way, or into class each day. This has persisted since day one of orientation.

Gabi, HDP: Yes. It has been a crazy few months since I arrived at Cambridge in August, but some things I know for sure: I love my friends. I learn from them everyday. I love my professors. They push me to do my best and inspire me to be my best self. I love being here.

Q5: What information do you wish you knew when you were deciding whether or not to accept your offer of admission from HGSE?

Arpi, MBE: I wish I more fully understood how quickly one year flies by. Suddenly it’s March, and the Ed.M. and finishing doctoral students are realizing that graduation is on the horizon. It makes every moment here invaluable. While I’m still incredibly happy to have enrolled in HGSE’s full-time Ed.M. program, the length of the program is certainly an important consideration and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Q6: The idea of Harvard can be intimidating. When did you begin feeling like you belong at Harvard? What helped you feel this way and what advice would you give to someone to help them along this journey?

Arpi, MBE: Oh undoubtedly, the Harvard name can be intimidating. It carries a lot of prestige and respect and I wasn’t sure if I would fit the mold. It turns out that mold does not exist – at all. Within the first hour of orientation I felt a connection to my cohort as we exchanged stories and we realized that we all had the same apprehensions and excitements for being here. When Dean Ryan came onto the dance floor at the “Back to School BBQ” before the start of classes (I have photographic proof below!), I knew that HGSE welcomed me as a person, and not just as an application for admission. It took some time for me to feel like a member of the greater University, as being admitted to HGSE tends to keep you on Appian Way, but that adjustment came with a little help from the rest of the HGSE community. We attended lectures hosted at the main campus, the Harvard-Yale football game, cross-registered for classes at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and bought a couple sweaters in the process. It only took a short walk into main campus every so often with a buddy to explore what the rest of the University had to offer for us, and that helped us first feel a sense of belonging at Harvard.

Gabi, HDP: That’s a funny question. When I decided to apply for Harvard, I wasn’t fully convinced it would be the best fit for me. However, as I gathered more information, as I watched videos and read blog posts and read about professors’ work and research, I started to realize that Harvard wants to produce research that is relevant and meaningful–and that’s what I want too. The moment I submitted my application, I knew that I could belong here. So I guess people realize they belong at different times, in different ways, and that’s okay–Harvard welcomes everyone.

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Dean Jim Ryan with members of the MBE cohort at the “Back to School BBQ”

Q7: What advice would you give to someone trying to decide what graduate program is the best fit for them?

Gabi, HDP: It’s okay to take some time to make your decision; talk to people and think about how the program you’re about to start will help you enter the next step of your career. Don’t forget that the ultimate decision is always yours. After you’ve decided, don’t look back–it is your commitment and your choices in the graduate program that will ultimately make the experience your own.

Arpi, MBE: Two things: First, consider the academic experience in its entirety. Flip through the course catalog of each program and pretend to build your dream schedule – are you excited about the course offerings or professors teaching them? Will those classes develop the skills or knowledge you need to further your goals? Go to the events pages or calendars for the schools you’re considering – which lectures or workshops would you attend? Second, visit the schools! Talk to some of the current members of your program, sit in on lectures, and take a walk around campus. If you’re considering HGSE among your options, come visit us during admitted students weekend! It’s time to more than just picture yourself here. We’re looking forward to meeting you and welcoming you to the HGSE community!

Gabriela Talarico is passionate about creativity, education, and qualitative research. She joins HGSE from Brazil as a Jorge Paulo Lemann Fellow and is currently a Master’s in Education Candidate in the Human Development and Psychology Program.

Arpi Youssoufian is a masters candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. A biologist by training, she is fascinated by the classic nature-nurture debate in the context of learning development, and wishes she could take every class in the HGSE course book. She hopes to pursue either a neuroscience doctoral program or medical school to bridge research and practice in the future.

True Life: I’m a Graduate Student at Harvard

My Monday Schedule:

7:45 am: Wake up, get ready for class

8:30 am: Leave the house and walk to HGSE

9:00 am-12:00 pm: Attend class

12:00-12:30 pm: Meet with my fellow Tri-Chairs about the Alumni of Color Conference

12:30-4:00 pm: Eat lunch, prepare for class, attend office hours, chat with friends

4:00-7:00 pm: Attend class

7:30 pm-1:00 am: Eat dinner, prepare to go to my internship the next day, complete assignments, read for class, job search, talk to family, self-care

This is a typical Monday schedule for me. I would consider this to be a calm day. One in which I do not have very many meetings and everything goes as planned. Of course, that rarely happens. During my time here at HGSE, I have been challenged beyond what I thought was possible. I have taken on many responsibilities and tasks that, at many times, make me feel as if I am being pulled in every direction. But I like this! There are so many opportunities and I am trying to take advantage of as many as possible.

Q: What do you like best about being a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education?

A: I like being surrounded by the community members at HGSE. Everyday I am learning from and with people who have done amazing things in their lives and careers. I love how humble everyone is about their accomplishments. I could be sitting next to someone who has started multiple businesses or who raises money to support kids internationally, and would never know it because people at the Ed school aren’t about competing with each other. We all just want to do what is best for kids!

Q: What is most challenging about being at HGSE?

A: Trying to do everything I possibly can in one year – and do it all well. I can honestly say that I have tried to take as much as possible from HGSE. Everyday I ask myself, “How can I take more from this experience?” I push myself to think beyond the classroom. The classroom is great, but there are so many other things to take from HGSE that is outside the classroom, and outside of HGSE as well.

Q: Did you feel prepared to come to HGSE?

A: After coming here and realizing how strategic people were in the things they wanted to see and do, I realized that I was not prepared. I was trying to figure things out as I went. Other people who knew exactly which professors they wanted to learn from, which organizations they wanted to be a member of, and how they wanted to impact the HGSE community. I didn’t. I just knew that I wanted to come here and make a name for myself and do something that would make HGSE and myself proud. That was my goal. Of course, I wanted to expand my network and learn from amazing people. But I knew I would only feel that I conquered this experience if I left a lasting mark on this school. Do I think I have positioned myself to do this? I am proud to say yes. Absolutely!

Q: Looking back, what might you have done before coming to HGSE to be more prepared?

A: If I could go back to last summer, I would have used my time more wisely. I would have actually planned out all of the opportunities I wanted to explore as well as the tangible deliverables of my time here. I feel as if there are resources that I am just now tapping into that would have been amazing to experience back in September or October. I then remind myself that it is impossible to do everything and that I have taken on a lot of responsibilities. I know that everything is working out in perfect timing and exactly as it should be. I take comfort in this. I realize that I am only one person and I cannot do everything, even though I try.

Q: What have you learned at HGSE that you will use beyond Appian Way?

A: I’ve learned so much! There is plenty to learn in the classroom and through internships. But what I have learned the most beyond that is about building my brand. Soon I will have this degree and will be back into the work to change the world. How am I going to use my knowledge to help others? How am I going to make a name for myself as a leader in education? These are things that I have learned outside the classroom through conversations with colleagues and friends. This is my focus as I progress through the semester and to graduation. At this moment in my program, I have realized that all of the work I have done here is great, but I have to keep working. I have to keep striving. I have to keep pressing.

Rashaida Melvin is a Master’s of Education candidate in the School Leadership Program. She has taught for three years and is excited about moving from the classroom into leadership. Rashaida is looking forward to serving both teachers and students in the future.