Co-Curriculars: The Icing on the Cake

Being a student at HGSE is a lot like eating your favorite cake.  It’s something you look forward to with anticipation and something that you have to pace yourself through in order to enjoy every moment. Ever eaten so much of your favorite food you can’t stand it anymore?  At HGSE, it’s easy to get burned out or feel over burdened if you don’t pace yourself.  The research opportunities, courses, peers, and professors at HGSE make up the base of the cake.  They are what define the bulk of the “HGSE experience.” But a cake is not complete without its frosting, and I would be remiss if I reflected on HGSE without thinking about the activities, events, and resources that make up the icing.


HGSE’s Askwith Lectures, Master Teacher Series, workshops and conferences are the cream cheese frosting on my HGSE red velvet cake- they’re where I go to find inspiration.  I use these events to learn about issues and hot topics I’m not exposed to through my courses.  My program is in an area that I care deeply about and my courses help deepen my understanding of the field or supply me with skills I that will allow to produce deeper and more meaningful work as a professional.  While I truly enjoy my work and my research, it’s easy to forget the forest for the trees, and to get bogged down in the day-to-day challenges of research, writing and studying.   This is where the icing comes in.

When I attended David Malan’s Master Teacher demonstration, I learned a little bit about computer science and a lot about how to shift the college classroom experience away from lectures and into interactive learning (if you’re curious check out his CS50 course on EdX).  Similarly, Howard Gardner’s J-term lecture series, the speakers and panelists at the Alumni Color of Conference, and Christopher Emdin have increased my awareness of the challenges and solutions defining education today.   They give me an opportunity to leave my work and my field for an hour or two and learn about what’s going on somewhere in education.  Every speaker is passionate about the work they do and their passion is contagious.

The best thing about these events? They’re free, and there is a never-ending supply.  The HGSE calendar of events is packed with speakers, panels, movie screenings and workshops.  Some, like the Harvard Law School Negotiations Workshop, require pre-registration and a large time commitment, while others are open attendance and are 1-2 hours long.  Like icing, finding time to attend these events feels like a decadent indulgence, and something that you may regret later that night or that week as you struggle to keep on top of your work load.  The key to the best HGSE experience is to find a balance between cake and icing.  These lectures help me look at my coursework and research from new perspectives.  My favorite bites so far?  This spring it was the Alumni of Color Conference hosted a panel on minority experiences in the Ivy-League, and Matt Miller’s course, Using Data in Decision Making in Higher Education.  Or, maybe it was the Harvard Graduate Schools’ Masquerade Ball, or Eduardo Contreras’ course on the Possibilities and Perils of Internationalizing Higher education.  To be honest, there have been a lot of great opportunities this semester.  The biggest challenge?  Balance!

Ashley Litzenberger is a Graduate Assistant in HGSE Office of Admissions and Master’s of Education candidate in the Higher Education Program. Prior to attending HGSE, Ashley worked in Israel on projects that promoted peace dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian youth. She looks forward to exploring the ways in which colleges and universities facilitate intercultural dialogues.