Course Options at HGSE: An Embarrassment of Riches

What do Taco Bell, butterfly ballots, and union agency fees all have in common? (No, this is not a political joke.) These are all topics that, one way or another, have been covered by my classes at HGSE this week. Having researched my curricular options before I arrived on campus, I figured I would take a diverse array of courses during my time here. Never did I imagine, however, that I would be discussing Taco Bell’s effectiveness as a company in my entrepreneurial leadership class, analyzing the 2000 Presidential election using regression techniques in my statistics class, or debating the intricacies of agency fees in my policy class. The available courses here, in addition to their depth and breadth, truly stunned me, and if I could do this program three times over, I still would only scratch the surface of the list of incredible classes I want to take.

The Master’s program at HGSE is divided into thirteen cohorts, which run the gamut from Mind, Brain and Education to Technology in Education to School Leadership. Most cohorts require a few core courses, either prescribed specifically or to be chosen from pre-selected lists, but all leave plenty of room for electives. That flexibility, combined with the ability to cross register at the Kennedy, Law, and Business Schools, should have been the first indication of the plethora of options to which I was about to be exposed. It was not until Course Previews, though, when I was knee-deep in notes and open computer tabs, that I realized the extent of options available to us. For any education-related topic­­­ — program evaluation, urban schooling, prototyping, race theory, financial management, neurodevelopment — you name it, we got it. So, how did I tackle the daunting task of narrowing down my long desired list of fall courses to a mere four?

To begin with, I did some serious career research. The Career Services Office at HGSE offers wonderful resources for identifying your career goals, such as online workshops, virtual Q&A sessions, and gap identification methods. Participating in the gap identification process, for example, helped me realize that I should take a research methods course in order to gain necessary skills for research analyst positions. Next, I took full advantage of the Course Previews program. HGSE offers two days of Course Previews before the start of each semester, where each professor gives a 30-minute rundown of his or her course. These previews are a great way to see the professors’ teaching styles and get a better idea of the course content and expected workload (it’s good to know if your midterms would all be due on the same day, for example). Finally, the last step in picking my fall courses was talking to my advisor. HGSE pairs each of its students with a faculty member, whose job is to guide you academically throughout your year, and, if you’re lucky, provide free baked goods. My advisor has been extremely helpful, as, due to her years of student feedback, she could speak to the courses that were too similar to one another and the ones that overlapped slightly, yet still had important, nuanced differences.  

In the end, I settled on four classes that fit my professional, personal, and academic goals. I love waking up each morning knowing that my class discussions will challenge me, surprise me, and, no matter what, reinforce that I not only made the right decision in my course selections, but in my choosing of HGSE.

A glimpse into Stephanie’s life at HGSE…

HKS event
Stephanie recently attended a panel discussion with former White House Chiefs of Staff at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Law library - inside
HGSE students have access to all the libraries on campus. This is the inside of the Harvard Law School Library, where Stephanie spends a lot of her time studying.

Stephanie photo

Post and photos by Stephanie Straus

An Ed.M. candidate in the Education Policy and Management program, Stephanie Straus is looking to pursue K-12 policy research positions post-HGSE. As a Cambridge veteran, she is happy to share her favorite running trails and dessert spots.