Charter Schools, HGSE, and Me

One of the best things about attending HGSE is having access to so many cool (and free!) events and lectures. Recently, I attended a charter school debate through HGSE’s public lecture series, Askwith Forums. The event, “More Charter Schools? The Massachusetts Vote and the National Debate,” gave voice to the two opposing sides on a state ballot question that could lift the cap on creating new charter schools in Massachusetts. As a TEP (Teacher Education Program) student, I am spending my year interning in a 6th grade classroom at a Boston Public School. As a future educator, it’s really important to me to learn about issues that may affect my students’ lives and schooling experiences. And as a brand new Massachusetts resident, I found the forum to be personally informative as I prepare to vote this November.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can live stream any Askwith Forum online or you can watch the recorded sessions afterwards. This is from the Askwith Forum I attended:


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.


Midterms: the half-point check-in with exams and papers that showcase the great human capital we’ve developed in the past month and a half. This familiar feeling is about as missed as the half-hearted final bite of an unsatisfactory meal. I forgot what it felt like to lock myself in the library and plug away for hours on end only to reemerge in society half-dazed and feeling like a zombie. Although you may be thinking, ‘Whoa, do I really want to go through that again?’ I’d recommend you finish reading this post.

Diving back into annotated pages where I drew skewed stars and underlined paragraphs with side bars of “GET OUT!” or “this hits home – another checkpoint of institutionalized racism” brought me comfort. I’ve been absorbing a lot of knowledge calories here, but I haven’t felt any ‘smarter,’ because the growth is unassuming. Listening to peers sharing perspectives adds to the ones I already cherish. Learning has been indefinite the past month and a half and it’s a bit weird to try and share how much I’ve consumed.

I remember having midterms in college where I was simply trying to get through the material. I remember acknowledging and hitting home points that the faculty mentioned with distinct emphasis in class, or championing texts that showcase deep intertextuality, but that’s not what it’s all about here. The push back of what you’ve learned the semester is predicated on the platform we share as a collective to improve the lives of the individuals we serve – young and old. We learn so we can improve the systems in which they live. Midterms can be grueling, but it’s not an unsatisfactory meal here. In fact, I find that it’s been pretty delicious.

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.

(Class) Shopping

My mind is buzzing with excitement, exhaustion, and total desperation. It’s 5:00pm on Thursday, having just finished the whirlwind two days of class shopping period. I slumped in my advisor’s chair – I needed expert advice.

“What’s up?” he asks.

I jumped right in. “I have a whole list of classes I want to take and can’t imagine narrowing it down. I’ve never had so much freedom to frame my course load. Can I enroll in four courses and audit another five? Is that normal? I’ve never done this before. What do I do? How do I do this?”

At this point, I realized I’ve just ranted for a solid two minutes. I sighed, “I just wish I could take everything.”

He sat back in his chair and smiled. “Welcome to HGSE. You’ll fit right in.”

Shopping period is an utterly exhausting and exciting two days of discovering the course book. Before each term begins, HGSE sets aside two days for exploring the offerings of the semester. From 9am to 5:30pm, our days are filled with listening to professors pitch their classes to us in short lectures, and at the end we’re asked to narrow our courses of interest to a precious few. 

My advisor sensed my uneasiness in making the final decisions. He gave another smile, folded his arms, and asked me to remind myself what drew me to study at HGSE – not what drew me to come to the school, but what compelled me to study here.

To my amazement and relief, my fellow cohort members faced similar dilemmas about their class selection. Most surprisingly, we all selected completely different courses from each other. We were each asking ourselves the same question, for which we had varied answers: what is my purpose for studying here? 

Even within cohorts, everyone comes to HGSE with a different objective. Our common thread is an interest in education-related issues (and, seemingly, a desire to take more than a reasonable amount of courses), but we each have a different purpose and path to take. Shopping week reminds us that the opportunities for study here are endless; but rather than overwhelm us, it reminds us that here we have the incredible ability to chart our own course, and this was our first step in our journey.

What will be your purpose at HGSE?


Members of the MBE ’17 cohort on our first day of classes outside Gutman Library, starting our grad school journeys together

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 Goodness of a Getaway

This weekend, I ventured out of the Cambridge/Boston area for the first time since I arrived at HGSE for a little weekend getaway. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved my first month and a half of graduate school and if it’s at all indicative of the rest of my time here, it’s safe to say that this will be an exciting, busy, edifying, demanding, inspiring, and memorable year. Still, when you’re drinking from the fire hose that is Harvard, with its amazing events and opportunities galore, it can sometimes make you nostalgic for the days when you could sip water slowly and without getting your clothes all wet.

That is why some friends and I decided to take a little trip up to New Hampshire where we slowed down, re-centered on what’s most important, and took in views of the famously beautiful New England Fall foliage. New Hampshire certainly did not disappoint:

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Now that I’m back in Cambridge, I feel refreshed and ready to take advantage of the Harvard experience as much as humanly possible.

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.

Home Away From Home

Flashback to August 1: moving day. For the first time in my life, I left everything and everyone behind in North Carolina to come to an area of the country that was completely unknown to me. Everything was different. I was used to my own apartment; here, I share with three other people. I was used to having my own car; here, I walk and use public transportation. How could I make a new life for myself when everyone and everything I knew were miles away? But then I met my SLP (School Leadership) family and everything changed. I was opened up to a community that was loving, caring and very helpful. I started to get to know the people that would help make this foreign place my new home. 


A majority of my School Leadership Program (SLP) cohort at orientation!



There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home. A phrase that I stopped saying thanks to my cohort!

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.

Harvard Orientation: Replacing FOMO with JOMO


The tent where HGSE Orientation activities took place.


Breakfast at Henrietta’s Kitchen in Harvard Square.

I arrived in Cambridge with a two-week head start before Orientation to have some more time to get used to living in a new place, and I think it was the best thing I did. As simple as it seems, the moving process entails a ton of tiny things: from buying pillows and hangers to understanding what to order for breakfast not to gain 10 kg in a year, to feeling comfortable in a new environment and being able to sleep normally (I’m still getting there).

All of this takes an amount of time really hard to estimate, but to make it easier for international students to decide when to come to the United States, there is a time limit for the arrival of foreign students: a student visa will allow us to be here at a maximum of 30 days before the start date of our study program, not earlier than that. I thought it was pretty reasonable. To be honest, at the same time that I feel I could have done more, I was looking forward to the beginning of activities, so maybe arriving much earlier wouldn’t have been such a good idea.

These adaptation weeks have been a happy medium between doing everything and doing nothing: I’ve met new people, walked around Harvard Square, gotten to know the Boston Public Library and the Boston Commons, done some reading (the dean assigned us materials including texts, videos, and podcasts to warm up for Orientation discussions), and started to plan my year here.

Even so, my anxiety level was high. Everything was about to start, and damn it, it’s only nine months — how come I didn’t read all the books I downloaded, or those I had always promised myself I would read as soon as I left work? How come I didn’t complete the top ten list of things to do in Boston? How could I not do so many important things?!


International Student Pre-Orientation

Fortunately, we had a pre-Orientation event for international students (There is also a pre-Orientation for students of color and for students who are the first generation in their families to go to a university). Besides feeling proud to see people from all around the world bringing their dreams here, it was comforting to think that everyone is going through this same agony. In the conversations with current and former students, it seemed unanimous: this year is going to fly by and there’s much more to do than anyone is humanly capable of doing. After all, we are already scared to miss out on interesting stuff (our frenemy FOMO) at home; imagine being at Harvard?!

It is a little nerve-racking to have so many options and to know that you can’t have it all. Not for nothing: I’ve heard many conversations about balance and mental health around here.

That same week, an alumnus suggested replacing my FOMO with JOMO: the joy of missing out. According to him, if we know ourselves and are aware of what is important to us, then it makes complete sense to focus our energy on our interests and to spare it in other things.

It is hard to accept this perspective shift without a fight, but I think it could be worth it. I’ll try to calm myself down to get a good night’s sleep.… This is a promising week.

Note: this post was originally written in August (during the 2016 Orientation). It is also posted in the Portuguese language here.

Gabriela Talarico is passionate about creativity, self-regulation, 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.

2017-18 Application Launch

We are pleased to announce that our online application is now live! You can access the form, requirements, and instructions on our website. The application deadline for the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) is December 15, 2016, while the Master of Education (Ed.M.) deadline is January 5, 2017. HGSE and the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) additionally offer the interfaculty Ph.D. in Education. Applications for this research-based doctorate must be submitted to GSAS by December 1, 2016.

Also, we have posted many of our fall recruitment events on our website and we encourage you to check our website for details – If you are able to visit the Cambridge area this fall, we will be hosting the following on campus events:

Please do not hesitate to engage with us via email at or on Twitter (@hgse_admissions).

Finding a Place to Live at Harvard University

After the initial shock of your acceptance wears off and you have already introduced yourself to your cohort via email, it is important to channel your energy to the next phase of coming to Harvard: finding a place to live. Thankfully, Cambridge—and more broadly, Boston—offer myriad places to live but with each place comes pros and cons. Below you will find some information on the most popular options.

Harvard Housing | Graduate Housing

If you are at all like me, you will want to spend your graduate experience as an engaged member of the Harvard community. Thus, it would make sense to try and live as close to the University as possible. Though you will be at school for classes, you will probably also want to attend group meetings, clubs, activities, social hours, and speaker series—living close to campus makes the commute easy and strips the need of public transportation.

Cronkhite: I chose to spend my year living in the Cronkhite Graduate Center. Cronkhite is a graduate dorm (you must be 21+ to live in it) situated three blocks away from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and across the street from Radcliffe Lawn. Though single dorms rooms can be pricey ($1200-$1400 but with all expenses included) and you have to share restrooms, it makes getting the school beyond easy (especially during the frigid winter). Additionally, though approximately 50% of the residents attend the Graduate School of Education, the dorm houses students from all over the University and as a result, makes it is easy to find an intellectually diverse set of friends. Harvard Housing also has 20+ other properties in the area.

GSAS: Another option is the dorms available at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Like Cronkhite, these are located close to school and are actually a bit cheaper ($900-$1200). However, these dorms do not have the same social actives and events that happen at Harvard Housing properties. Also, students who are interested in this property need to apply in advance as a lottery is used to determine who is accepted.

Getting a Place on Your Own

Before writing this, I asked classmates about their experiences renting places. As for the individuals who rented cheap and far away from school, they noted that you should take into account the added amount of time you will spend in transit (hopefully you can read on the bus without feeling nauseous). Also, once you leave campus, you are usually gone for the day as the commute is too long to attempt it twice. However, if you, like many of us, are ballin’ on a budget, this can lead to a much more affordable and financially responsible year (but do account for costs like transit, heat, gas, hot water, and internet as some times the final cost is not much cheaper than closer options).

I recommend reaching out Office of Student Affairs if you are considering renting a property. Everyone in the office is extremely helpful and Alex is well versed on best rental practices for Boston whether you are searching with a broker (they charge one month’s rent) or off of Craigslist.

Best of luck during your transition to Cambridge!

Daniel Dickey is a Master’s of Education candidate in Higher Education, and was elected the Chief Financial Officer and Higher Ed Senator for the HGSE Student Council. Prior to enrolling at Harvard, Daniel taught high school English in an urban school as a Teach For America corps member.

The Split Life, Transformation, and Reintegration

I came to HGSE with a clear mission of what skills I needed to gain and how I would apply them to the nonprofit I’m starting, which is located 700 miles away from Cambridge. I’m coming from that community, and I’m returning back to it, but in the interim, I have been transformed. The best education is transformational, of course, but it is harder to carry that transformation back to a place where I am already known.


I presented at EdTalks on the Askwith Hall stage about my nonprofit, Dimensions Family School. We open for families in September 2016.

In many respects, I am living a split life. My husband stayed back home during my year of graduate school, so other than a video chat or text message here and there, I’m functionally single. At my permanent home down south, I homeschool my kids and drag them along on my various employment adventures (the perks of being an independent educator!), while in graduate school I have a full time nanny and we have pieced together versions of public education. At home, we drive to almost all of our activities. Here, we use our bikes. My friendships are different; my social activities have fundamentally shifted.



Learning & Teaching cohort 2016 at Field Day and Kickball – a total blast!

Now graduation looms, and I look toward going home, but while I am headed south again, I am not simply “going back.” I am shifting into a leadership role in my community. My marriage has altered and there will be a readjustment period. My kids are a year older, their relationships more tenuous. They have transformed this year as well.


Two friends, Laura Peters (AIE) and Alice Liou (TIE), helped me transform the TIE lounge into a more comfortable seating arrangement, instead of its prior waiting-room feel. (Future students: move the furniture! Transform your environment! Tinker!)

Growth implies change. It is necessary. Now, as I consider what I want to bring forward from this alternate life I’ve led this year, I know only one thing: Harvard is now within me. I carry the lessons I’ve learned here into the next phase.


This is from the wall at the Harvard I-Lab, which I’ve used as a place to work in order to separate school time from business activities. And also to drink the free coffee.

The transformation continues from this point forward, and I feel trepidation about the coming changes, yes, but also gratitude for all that has come before.

Thank you, HGSE community and Class of 2016.  I’ve been honored to share this year with you.

Charlotte Dungan is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Learning and Teaching program. She has worked in home education networks, independent schools, museum education and summer camps. She has a passion for child-directed learning experiences and plans to start a Family School upon graduation.


Timelessness in Time

Time is especially tricky when you only have a year to experience your masters program. 9 months, to be exact. There is so much to learn, so much you wish to do, and you inevitably have to make choices and negotiate trade-offs, and accept what you might lose out on. At this 9th month mark, I find myself looking back with much nostalgia – not on the moments that I’ve had to miss out on, but on the wonderful milestones that were birthed along the way. These were moments that I could have never imagined or planned for prior to coming to the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). They evolved and came to life most unexpectedly, thanks to incredible people that have inspired, supported and worked with me during my journey here. Some of these unanticipated, joyful milestones include:

1. Creating tangible real-life products/movements with colleagues, which embody our shared passions and visions in education


The Palette, an all original podcast focusing on arts and learning, hosting a live podcast recording on accessibility in the arts at HGSE


Harvard STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths), a student organization that facilitates and explores trans-disciplinary dialogue and collaboration, presenting their projects at HGSE EdTalks

2. Making connections with my community. Beyond the classrooms, beyond the readings, beyond theory, beyond philosophizing.


Gathering to listen to Project Zero Artists in Residence present their works



Having a 1960’s music singalong with fellow HGSE student Ruhith Ariyapala and the Tremble Clefs, a choral group designed to strengthen the voices of people with Parkinson’s


HGSE students from Singapore performing a medley of Singaporean National Day songs at Cabaret Night, an open mic night as part of Monday Night Remix

3. Getting married in the middle of the final semester (I highly recommend Cambridge City Hall if any of you are considering this!)


Getting married at Cambridge City Hall after morning class made it a school day to remember


Time feels exceptionally precious here, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed, stretched, and doubtful of your decisions at HGSE. But I dare say that choosing to invest your time in – and even make time for – projects and people that matter most to you, is something you will not regret. Time may be limited and beyond your control, but the memories you  create here at HGSE will be timeless – and yours to keep forever.


Jasmine Chin is a Masters in Education candidate in the Arts in Education program. She was an arts administrator and public relations consultant that dabbled in piano performance, singing-songwriting, and flash-mobbing prior to pursuing her Masters. She is currently enjoying exploring new creative mediums beyond music, as well as learning about how to create positive impact through arts and education.