Author Archives: breek1213

Making the Most of It

Submitted! I turned in an Econ paper and my business plan for LaunchED. LaunchED is an early-stage Ed Tech startup I’ve been working on throughout the semester whose mission is to provide a centralized platform where middle and high school students can gain the access to information, knowledge, and guidance to discover and cultivate their passions. We empower students to engage in meaningful activities that will boost their confidence and launch them on a path to college and career success. Although I have been focusing on my academics and finals are right around the corner, I’ve been trying to make the most of my spring semester by balancing academics/social outings/educational enrichment opportunities.

Last week I got the chance to see Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform at MIT’s Spring Fest. The Heist is one of my favorite albums at the moment and I suggest listening to “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” if you haven’t already. My friends and I dressed up – thrift shop style – which was fun and they were fantastic live. To make the weekend even better, I organized a trip to New Hampshire to hike the Franconia Ridge Loop. Although there was still snow on the ground, the temperature was in the high 60s and we had an absolute blast. It was a great reward for a long week. This week, I am greatly looking forward to seeing Bruno della Chiesa – a favorite professor of mine – who will be back in Cambridge for an event/graduation. He, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Gardner will be speaking in AskWith in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Only one month until graduation and I plan to make the most of it!



A Memorable Spring Break

Hi Everyone,

The two weeks leading up to spring break were quite busy for me – thank you for your patience – but I’m excited to be back in the blogosphere! That being said, my Harvard spring break was fantastic and it feels like I was away much longer than 10.5 days. My boyfriend and I took a long road trip down South and back. We stayed the night in 9 cities and our journey took us through 12 states! Neither of us had been to the South before, which  made it that much more memorable.

Our route looked like this: Boston (MA) ➞ Philadelphia (PA) ➞ Lancaster (PA) through Baltimore (MD) ➞ Charlottesville (VA) ➞ Williamsburg (VA) through Durham and Raleigh (NC) ➞ Charleston (SC) through Mt Pleasant (SC) and Savannah (GA) ➞ Brooklyn (NY) through New Haven (CT) ➞ Newport (RI) ➞ Boston (MA).

The diversity of the East Coast landscape is incredible! In each location we always checked out the major landmarks and attractions, we went on tours and visited friends, when possible, and we loved sampling the local cuisine, which ranged from BBQ, to pizza, to seafood. Although I’m loving my spring classes and missed my friends, I appreciated the academic break. I’m now back in the swing of things and I look forward to seeing many of you at our admitted students open house on April 4th!


Making the Case

My semester is off to a great start. I must admit choosing my spring classes was extremely difficult. There were so many options! I’m happy to share I just finalized my spring schedule and I’m already enjoying my classes. Here is a snapshot of what I’m taking:

Spring 2013

* Educational Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship in Comparative Perspective (HGSE course held at the Harvard Innovation Lab Professor permission required) 

* Founders’ Dilemmas (HBS course. Cross-registration, professor permission required, lottery) 

 * The Economics of Colleges and Universities (HGSE course. Final Higher Ed requirement)

* Managing Financial Resources in Non-profit Organizations (Joint HGSE/HKS course)


* Shop as many classes as you can (be open to new possibilities), read course evaluations, and choose valuable classes that align with your goals or help you build skills. The program is only one year long!

* Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the number of course offerings.

* Cross-register and apply to “instructor permission required” courses! It is worth the added effort. 

* Embrace the case method! While my fall classes were academic, each of my spring semester classes rely on it and I absolutely love it. 

Not only are these classes introducing me to new fields and concepts, they’re enabling me to meet graduate students from across Harvard and to get to know the school from a different angle.


J-Term Highlights

Although I couldn’t take a J-term class, I filled the last three weeks with work, workshops, time with friends, and a number of school sponsored events. Here are the highlights from a couple of my favorites:

* HGSE Trip to DC for Inauguration 

HGSE SGA arranged a trip to Washington DC to experience the historic inauguration of Harvard alum, Barack Obama. We took the overnight bus to DC and watched the sun rise over the Washington Monument. Then we waved our flags and enjoyed the Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony, Inaugural Address, performances, and speakers. Although it had already been a full day, we checked out the Smithsonian and National Portrait Gallery before grabbing dinner in Chinatown and heading home. It was a fun day and well worth the effort.


* HGSE Snow Tubing

Snow tubing at the Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford, MA was a blast! A bus full of Ed School students spent a half day barreling down a designated snow tubing hill. We’d link up in pairs and chains, play games, try going forward and backward, and race one another to the bottom. We all felt like kids again. 

I also spent a considerable amount of time choosing my spring classes. I am pivoting away from a career in academe and I hope to synthesize my passion for education,  entrepreneurship, business, and communication. I was accepted into A-132 Educational Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship in Comparative Perspective, which is taught by Fernando Reimers and held at the i-Lab. I’m looking forward to another incredible semester!


Fun, Friends, and Finals

Happy 2013, Everyone! With finals behind me and the break coming to a close, I took time to reflect on the end of a fantastic fall semester. November and December flew by! Although my workload definitely increased, I continued to strike a balance between work and play.

The Game (Harvard vs. Yale) – a well-known Harvard tradition – was worth the wait. Although I am a USC Trojan football fan for life and I love Pac-12 football, I also enjoyed the Ivy League experience. Donning my Harvard gear, tailgating with my group, and cheering on Harvard in a packed stadium were a lot of fun. I was happy when we held onto our winning streak and beat the Bulldogs 34-24! After a celebratory dinner at Redbones in Davis Square, my friends and I got dressed up, hopped on the T, and headed downtown to the official Harvard-Yale After Party. The Harvard Graduate Council reserved the loft at Royale, one of Boston’s best night venues, and we danced all night. It was a great way to commemorate a special occasion.

Then came the holidays and finals. Although I did not fly home to California for Thanksgiving, I spent the much deserved break with my friends in Cambridge. I even enjoyed a traditional Turkey Day feast two days in a row! Until then I had always had Thanksgiving with my family, but I’m happy to have stayed in Boston as it was a Thanksgiving to remember.

Then I blinked and it was the last week of classes. A large group outing downtown and the official End of Term Bash marked the end of a wonderful semester. Although finals may have been punctuated by holiday gatherings, it doesn’t mean that people didn’t go into finals mode, myself included. I focused my energy on my four final papers and began exploring different coffee shops and libraries in the area in order to change up my routine and prevent writer’s block. Between Crema, Peet’s, Pavement, the Thinking Cup, 1639, not to mention the libraries: Gutman, Widener, Spangler, the law school library, the divinity school library, and the Boston Public library, I cranked out four papers that I felt great about.

After a strong finish to my first semester, I am now looking forward to J-term and the spring semester. See you soon, Cambridge!


Seasons & Snow!

I love the taste of crisp New England air and the crunch of multicolored leaves beneath my boots. I enjoy donning my favorite fall coat and the warmth of seasonal coffee in my gloved hands. I have never experienced seasons, so when the trees started turning from green to gold to fiery sunset, I felt myself wanting to photograph every one. I refrained, but fall truly is a wonderful time of year. Whether walking across the Yard, watching the Head of the Charles, or riding my bike along the Esplanade, fall has provided the perfect backdrop for my Harvard experience.

Then it snowed! To give you a bit of insight, this was my third non-ski resort snow ever. Riding home and feeling the flakes melting on my rosy cheeks made me giddy. When I called up my dad in California to tell him it was snowing – I mean really snowing – he jokingly told me he’d seen snow before. He was born and raised in New England, so the novelty had worn off, but I was still riding the high. Although my first Nor’easter was fun, I was glad when the skies turned blue, again, and the temperature climbed back up to 50. I’m not quite ready to let go of my new favorite season.


Hanging a Question Mark

Bertrand Russell, a great philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic, once said, “In all things it is a good idea to hang a question mark now and then on the things we have taken for granted.” One of my professors likes to end class on this note and I always enjoy it.

I came to Harvard with an open mind and a desire to learn. Since arriving, I have enjoyed tackling complex issues that engender new ways of thinking and, at times, pose more questions than answers. Although far more courses caught my attention than I could possibly take, I am exceedingly happy with my fall selections:

* A702 Proseminar in Higher Education – Judith Block McLaughlin (Higher Ed. requirement)

* A412 The History of American Higher Education – Julie Reuben (Higher Ed. requirement)

* H250 Developmental Psychology – Paul Harris

* AH108 Learning in a Globalizing World: Language Acquisition, Cultural Awareness, and the Roles of (Neuro)Science in International Education Policies and Practices – Bruno della Chiesa

All of my classes are interesting and engaging. I am rapidly acquiring knowledge and I appreciate that the material builds upon on itself from one week to the next. I also value the role collective knowledge plays in the classroom and beyond. It goes without saying, but Harvard’s faculty are top notch. Not only do my professors do a fantastic job of sharing their expertise, I greatly appreciate their approachability. Whether sharing their history during office hours or at a “Salon,” it is clear my professors love what they do and are invested in their students.


Doing it all

When people tell me “You can’t do it all,” the little voice in the back of my head says, “Watch me try!” I do best when extremely busy, so I tend to take on more than most. I am currently taking a full course load at HGSE (4 classes), working part-time at MIT in Global Education & Career Development (20+ hours per week), managing a thriving social life, maintaining my fitness, and attending as many local events as I can, among other things. Despite my desire to maximize my graduate experience, the opportunities available to me at Harvard, in Cambridge, and in the greater Boston area feel limitless. As a result, it is impossible to do everything I would like, so I am forced to pick and choose.

I’ve found that time management is key to striking a healthy school/work/life balance. I tend to push myself hard during the week and use my weekends to bond with my friends, enjoy New England, and unwind. This past weekend I attended a “Thrift Store Formal” with my Higher Education Cohort (Friday), spent a full day hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with a couple of friends in the Technology in Innovation program (Saturday), and spent the day apple picking at Shelburne Farm with my girlfriends from the Ed School (Sunday).

Knowing that I had a fun-filled weekend to look forward to, I made sure to get ahead of the curve the week before. This meant doing my week’s readings during the previous weekend, waking up earlier than usual during the week, and making use of any downtime I had to ensure that I wouldn’t fall behind. Let me tell you, it was well worth it! Although I am here to learn and to gain professional experience, I am also here to enjoy the area and to make life-long friends. “Doing it all” takes effort, but I can confidently say I am trying my best.


West Coast, best coast?…Not necessarily

Why would you ever leave a place that’s 70º and sunny year-round? You’d be surprised how often I get asked this question, but my answer is simple – Harvard. Sure California has fantastic weather, a laid back culture, and my family and friends, but it doesn’t have my dream grad school. The Harvard Graduate School of Education and my desire to pursue my passion brought me to Boston, and I love it here!

Although New England has a noticeably different feel than California, I’m greatly enjoying the contrast. The walkability, the public transport, the history, the architecture, the accent (I go to “Hahvahd” not “Harvard”) and the fact that there is always something to do make Boston a good fit. I’m even enjoying the crisp morning air and the first signs of fall. Like many Californians, I’ve wondered what it’s like to live on the East Coast. Thus far, Boston has exceeded my (admittedly high) expectations and, for that, I have the Harvard/Cambridge “Bubble” to thank.

Being in the heart of higher education, surrounded by exceptional people from all over the world, is really something special. Thanks to HGSE, I have an instant circle of friends that I love spending time with. What’s more, there is an intangible energy here that you need to experience to fully understand. I feel it when I’m listening to my professors, exploring the area, and bonding with my classmates. Although this “magical” feeling is difficult to articulate, I feel present, engaged, challenged, and excited. Nearly everyone I meet is as bright and driven as they are down-to-earth, which seems to elevate even the most basic interactions. It’s wonderful how inclusive this incredible community is and I pinch myself every day knowing that I belong.