Reflections on my first semester

As first semester has come to a close, it seems impossible that I am halfway through my master’s degree. I had heard that time would fly, but I did not imagine it would go this quickly. Coming into HGSE, I will admit that I did not know what to expect and felt some impostor syndrome setting in as I walked onto campus for the first time as a student. I kept thinking that the admission office made a mistake, that I somehow slipped through the cracks and snuck my way into Harvard. I went into the start of the school year with a mixture of excitement, curiosity and uncertainty. I could not wait to be in the classroom again but I feared that I would not remember how to write a strong paper or be too nervous to speak up in class. I looked around campus on my first day and found myself immersed in a vibrant community. Within the first 10 orientation, Dean Ryan told all of us that we belong here, and the feelings of doubt and fear began to fade.

As I got to know those in my cohort, I found myself amazed not only by what they have already accomplished, by also by their passion and kindness. I also found that many of us had felt some semblance of impostor syndrome, and that it was okay to be nervous or intimidated. My cohort established norms from the outset, including things like actively listening without judgement, trying to understand where someone is coming from and an overall focus on inclusion. I have found these values to extend across all HGSE cohorts.

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Higher Education Program cohort


With some of my cohort-mates coming right out of undergrad to some coming in with 20+ years of experience, the diversity of experiences and perspectives is quite incredible. While we spend a lot of time together in the classroom as the Higher Education program has several required courses, there is always some kind of social event outside of class, like a higher education themed trivia night, a spaghetti dinner or meeting up at a local brewery. We even have a group chat – all 50 of us, featuring everything from homework questions to showing off pictures of our beloved pets.  The support I have seen my classmates give to each other is remarkable. Though competition in HEP fantasy football might be fierce, HGSE is a place of collaboration, intellectual curiosity and drive to change the world.

Written by Kate Brown, photos provided by Kate Brown

Kate pic-1Kate, a former admission counselor, is an Ed. M candidate in the higher education program and a graduate assistant in the HGSE Admission Office. Her focuses in higher education are student access and success.

Outside of school, she is an advisor for the Campus Kitchens Project, an organization dedicated to fighting insecurity and reducing food waste and she enjoys hiking.