Another First Day of School But This Time I am The Student


Author Erica Jordan-Thomas in front of an HGSE back drop

On August 20th, 2018, I turned onto Appian Way, entered the Gutman Library and took the elevator to the basement. For the first time in seven years, I wasn’t walking into a room as Ms. JT the school leader, I was walking in as Erica. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t welcoming new students on their first day, I was the student. It was the first day of orientation and my “first day of school” feelings could best be described as complex. I was excited for a new chapter, nervous to be a student again, and missing the community I left behind in Charlotte, North Carolina.

I walked into that basement of Gutman and embraced the warmth that filled the room. The staff who had been our lifeline via email throughout the summer were present in person welcoming us with a hug and a smile. There were 24 others beginning their first day of school too and together we were the 9th cohort in the Doctor of Education Leadership (EdLD) program. Many of us recognized each other from our interview day and immediately reconnected. We made it here to Harvard and would be on this journey together for the next three years and beyond.

Our two week orientation was such a rich and intimate experience reflective of the Ed.L.D community that we were now apart of. Our orientation was led by two 2nd year Ed.L.D students, Rebecca Grainger and Keri Randolph. Given their wisdom having just completed their first year in the program, they curated a deliberate orientation experience inclusive of us trying on our new role as a student, answering all the technical questions that come with a transition back to school, and creating space for us to begin collectively writing our own story as a cohort.

During the two weeks we engaged in text discussions that pushed us to reflect inward on our identity and leadership. Our readings centered around topics of social justice, privilege, brave spaces, and defining respect. We created journey lines to share our leadership stories with each other. We toured the infamous Widener Library, engaged with Student Affairs, Financial Aid, the Registrar, and Alumni Relations. We heard from a panel of 2nd year Ed.L.D students about managing finances. We toured the business school, engaged in a campus scavenger hunt to help learn our way around Harvard, and we even made a music video featuring our own cohort dance! Keri and Rebecca recruited many other 2nd year Ed.L.D students to led different orientation activities, so we were able to make new connections within the Ed.L.D community throughout orientation.

We wrapped up our orientation with a two day workshop with Marshall Ganz, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, to create our personal narratives. On the last day we delivered our personal narratives in front of our cohort, 2nd year Ed.L.D students, and faculty.  By the end of orientation, it felt like I had known my new cohort family for months!  Orientation affirmed that the transition was worth it and I was exactly where I needed to be.

Blog written by Erica Jordan-Thomas. Photos provided by Erica Jordan-Thomas

Author Erica Jordan-Thomas

Erica Jordan-Thomas is a 1st year doctoral candidate in the EdLD program. Prior to her move to Cambridge, she was a middle school principal in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was raised in Columbus, Ohio and a proud alumna of The Ohio State University…#GoBucks! She holds a M.Ed. in Instructional Leadership through Relay Graduate School of Education. In her spare time she loves prioritizing self care through visits to the beach, massages, watching reality tv, and listening to Beyonce.