Author Archives: edidier1213

Finding Internships as an HGSE Student

Many students take part in graduate assistantships and internships while enrolled in HGSE. All incoming students will have access to HIRED, an online Symplicity application to which students can upload resumes (and other employment-related documents) and to which employers post both internships and permanent positions with their organizations … some are also federal work-study eligible. Your cohort’s listserv may also be a great source for potential internships as well. In addition, the Harvard Student Employment Office’s website also features a variety of jobs around Harvard University, especially for those students with federal work-study awards. Although internships are not mandatory – some programs do have required in-the-field practicums – they are an excellent opportunity to deepen one’s experience in a specific area or explore new areas. Internship employers can be identified and contacted during the summer as well as at the start of each semester, especially the fall semester.

You can also get paid for the work you perform at your internship and simultaneously receive academic credit (generally up to three credits hours per semester each semester). All HGSE students can enroll in the Field Experience Program (FEP) course, and some programs, such as higher education, also have field-specific internship courses. As part of the FEP course or program-specific internship course, you will take part in periodic discussions with peers who are also participating in internships and have opportunities to reflect upon your experiences in your workplace. Finally, towards the conclusion of the FEP course, students will present on their work and reflections at a student practitioner conference.



A Day in the Life

The following is a day-in-the-life recap of my life from Thursday, March 7, 2013. Please note that I do not live a particularly exciting life; this a pretty typical Thursday, but hopefully you can get a sense of a graduate student’s schedule here at HGSE. As you can probably tell from my schedule, I’m in the higher education cohort.

07:00 – Wake up and look out window. Note that snow is falling at a light but steady pace. Decide that it would be best if I wear boots to get to classes today. Also decide on breakfast.

08:00 – Read for classes and reply to emails received overnight as needed. I have a fairly elaborate email filtering system so that I only read a small percentage of all of the emails I actually receive.

11:00 – Gear up to head out to class in light snow.

11:30 – Attend class on the economics of colleges and universities taught by Professor Bridget Terry Long in Larsen Hall. Today’s topic is on academic achievement and remedial coursework in American higher education. There are two brief student presentations towards the end of class.

13:00 – Head over to the café located on the main level of Gutman Library and pick up a sandwich for lunch. Quickly head back over to Larsen Hall for my next class.

13:10 – My final half-semester class on race, law, and education with Professor Philip Lee. Two of my classmates bring Dunkin’ Donuts assorted donuts for everyone. We’ve had amazing class discussions in previous sessions, and this class is no exception. A spirited discussion of Parents Involved and the current Fisher v. Texas case follows.

16:00 – Return to my studio apartment and review two inauguration videos of college presidents for my Friday morning class on leadership and management in education, comparing and contrasting the differences between the two videos.

18:45: Dinnertime!

19:45: Tidy up some cover letters.

21:00: Drop off the presidential inauguration videos to another classmate.

22:00: Check in on the daily traffic and advertisement revenue for the suite of websites that I/my company runs. Block future display of certain irrelevant advertisements.

23:00: Bedtime. Snow has been falling all day and will continue to fall through tomorrow morning.


Apartment Hunting Made Easy with HU Housing

Before coming to HGSE, I was finishing up law school in Virginia and then studying to take the Massachusetts bar (but studying in Virginia). It did not leave much time to go apartment hunting in the Boston area, and the Southern part of me rebelled at the notion of having to pay a broker a month’s rent just to find me an apartment.

Fortunately, Harvard offers housing through Harvard Real Estate Services (HRES) and the application process can be completed almost entirely online. You can register for a housing lottery in April. Your placement in the lottery will determine which lottery group you are assigned to … each lottery group is then assigned to a two-day window in which everyone in that group can select their housing from whatever HRES housing inventory is left on the website (there’s also a preview period prior to the selection period so you can see what’s still available). Last year, the selection windows opened at 6:05am EDT; if you’ve found an apartment you really want, you’ll want to be seated bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at your computer at 6:05am (or 3:05am PDT).

Many of the apartments are quite nice (these are definitely not dorms), and Harvard is usually a pretty good landlord as far as landlords go. I have a very nice studio in an interwar period building. You can live in a one bedroom or studio, or you can live with others (Harvard students, faculty, or staff) in a larger apartment. You don’t have to have a roommate lined up when you sign up for a 2+ bedroom apartment (but be aware that you’ll be responsible for the 100% of the monthly rent until you get a roommate). Rent, while expensive, is competitive with rental rates in the vicinity, and there isn’t any broker fee or deposit. Electricity, heat, and water are included for all apartments; some buildings also have free Internet and built-in air-conditioning. Rent is automatically billed to your Harvard account.

In an effort to be helpful, I created an online calculator last spring to help my fellow students and me come up with a ranked list of the best apartments (based on personal criteria input into the calculator). In addition to the directions and disclaimers noted below (from last year), the rent will probably be going up a bit, and some of the buildings may not be available for the upcoming (due to no vacancies or construction/renovation) and vice-versa. Even if some of the information is a bit out of date (Spring 2012), I hope that some of you might find it helpful.

HRES Apartments Interactive Rankings is now up. Weight how important location to HGSE, size, amenities, a/c, Internet, Graduate Commons, and rent are in deciding what kind of apartment to rent. Get a ranked list of apartments according to your preferences.

You will need a passcode to generate results. The passcode is: highered. Click here to access the calculator.

Please note that the un-weighted base ratings are my own (and hence are subjective and not necessarily accurate). The base ratings are relative to each other (so the cheapest HRES apartment gets the highest base rent score, even if it’s still expensive).

Also, only buildings with one-bedroom units are included. Although many studio and two-bedroom-or-more units are also included (if there are also one-bedroom units in the building), some buildings are not included as a result. Rent is only for one bedroom units.

– Evan

Let It Snow (a Lot)!

Having grown up in the South, any accumulation of snow meant that schools closed down. In the very rare event of a blizzard, school would be out for at least a week, often longer. While they admittedly take blizzards seriously up here in Boston, the response of state and local officials (as well as Harvard staff) helped mitigate the severity of the effects of the storm.

Before the blizzard arrived on Friday, February 8, Harvard announced that the university would close at noon on Friday and remain closed through Saturday. Harvard was back up and running on Sunday, February 10 with the MBTA following suit the next day and local public schools reopening shortly thereafter.

I want to commend the Harvard Real Estate Services staffer who was driving a Bobcat during the storm in order to keep pathways cleared near my apartment. To get a sense of what the snow plows were battling against, this was a video I took near where I live (I live fairly close to Harvard Yard) during the evening of the blizzard. The light whistling you can hear in the background in the wind.

This is the same location a bit over 12 hours later on Saturday morning. Note that some of the cars have disappeared under the snow.

The road and sidewalk were passable by Sunday. The biggest personal effect the blizzard had on me was making it too difficult to visit Chinatown in downtown Boston for Chinese New Year’s (February 10). I never lost electricity and stayed quite toasty in my apartment during the brunt of the storm. All in all, although there are now many deceptively-shallow-looking puddles scattered around the Boston area from the melting snow, most of the roads and major sidewalks are quite passable. Harvard has likewise done a great job of clearing the snow from its walkways, making it possible to make it to and from classes at HGSE without too much of an adventure.


Course Shopping and Enrollment at HGSE

Back at my undergraduate institutions and in law school, “course shopping” period was synonymous with “add/drop” period … the set of days at the start of an academic term in which students scurried about to figure out what classes they were taking. When I first arrived at HGSE, it was a bit of an adjustment to learn that they were two distinct periods of time, with course shopping preceding add/drop period. After two semesters of enrolling in courses here at HGSE, the process has become less mystifying and can reduce the stress associated with picking classes.

During a two-day period the week before classes formally start, HGSE students have the opportunity to sit in on a 45-minute session and get the instructor’s synopsis of a particular course. It’s rather like window shopping, just for courses. Each course offers two sessions, so students should be able to make it to most, if not all, course shopping sessions for classes in which they have an interest. During and after course shopping, students can enroll in courses online with the approval of their adviser, and, if the course has “limited enrollment” (i.e. a maximum cap on the number of students who can enroll in the class), the permission of their instructor (which works on an honor system basis).

Most courses aren’t limited enrollment; when necessary, the registrar’s office does an amazing job of finding larger classrooms for classes that exceed their expected enrollment. For the handful of courses that are limited enrollment, instructors can pick from a variety of methods to determine who gets into the course. Some use a lottery system and leave it to chance. Others ask for a statement of interest and review those statements in order to assemble a class. And finally, some courses give preference to students in a particular program … for instance, some higher-education-oriented classes with limited enrollment give priority for seats to students enrolled in the higher education program. Generally, within 48 hours (or less) of the course shopping session, you’ll know whether or not you’ve gotten into a limited enrollment course.

It can be a bit confusing at first, but ultimately gives everyone the opportunity to check out classes before committing to enrolling in a course.


Winter Break: Beyond J-Term Courses

For those of us not taking a J-Term course, winter break is a great opportunity to get caught up on the non-HGSE and non-internship elements of our lives. It’s a chance to catch up with family and old friends and also provides some time to take care of more mundane housekeeping tasks.

I went back to visit my parents for a few days for Christmas and came back to Cambridge only to bear witness to a series of days where the temperature never rose above freezing … I suggest solid shoes, lip balm, heavy outerwear, and hot cocoa as antidotes. But the temperature has warmed up nicely since then, and it’s energized me to do year-end bookkeeping for my business (and learn how to use QuickBooks), get some figures together for my taxes (unfortunately, the late congressional action on the fiscal cliff means that I can’t file yet), and keep up with my IRS certifications for their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.  I’ve also been applying for admission to the bars of a few different federal courts, and so far have been admitted to U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. And if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be visiting a close friend in New York City later this winter break; in addition to the plethora of bus companies shuttling people to and from NYC, Amtrak has multiple daily Northeast Regional trains and Acela Express trains to NYC and back.

Of course, there’s still plenty going on at HGSE during winter break, and you can participate as much or as little as you like. Aside from J-Term courses, a number of workshops on a variety of educational issues are offered and since they’re not offered for credit, there’s no need to fret about writing a massive final paper as part of the workshop. The Career Services Office also offers a number of virtual workshops online that can be accessed wherever you may be during winter break (as long as you have an Internet connection). Although we’re not allowed to live 24/7 in Gutman Library, Harvard libraries usually open back up on regular or near-regular schedules after New Year’s Day (including Gutman).

I hope application season is going well for all of you! I remember how waiting to hear back can produce some anxiety (e.g. repeatedly hitting F5 on admission decision status webpages), and wish all of you the best.


Volunteer Opportunities in the Community

With the fall semester drawing to a close, one of the great things I’ve discovered about Cambridge and the greater Boston area is the plethora of volunteer opportunities available to HGSE students at local schools and non-profit organizations. And while there are many involving education and learning, there are also other great possibilities outside the world of education for those who want to maintain or further an interest while studying at HGSE.

Many of these opportunities are flexible in terms of timing and duration, complementing what can be a hectic and varied academic courseload. Volunteer commitments can range from spending a Saturday afternoon helping high school seniors complete college application essays through Let’s Get Ready, bridging the achievement gap by tutoring children with Tutors for All (which also has federal work-study positions), to dedicating an evening or two every week during spring semester assisting lower-income households with preparing and filing income tax returns with LIFT.


Collaboration at HGSE

Here at HGSE, we spend a lot of time discussing collaboration and collaborative learning. At first glance, it might be easy to dismiss this focus as one that is honored more by talking than by actual action. Having been at law school before HGSE, I have experienced firsthand the magic of students’ collaborative approach to learning and academics.

The atmosphere here is friendlier with less stress-fueled competition … and more collaboration. This is not to say that there aren’t similarities (or that law students are always at odds with each other); many people at both institutions are happy to share their class notes with people who are unable to attend class. On the other hand, one of my classes here at HGSE makes a note of students’ birthdays and engagements at the start of every class, something that did not happen in law school. In the days and hours before papers for my higher education classes are due, my Higher Education cohort usually creates and fosters a number of moral support threads on Facebook to help everyone struggle through a late night. It makes the HGSE experience that much more enjoyable.


The Other Libraries of Harvard University

Although HGSE has a solid library in Gutman, there are no 24-hour study facilities available at HGSE. Fortunately, Harvard University opens Lamont Library, located in Harvard Yard and just a short walk from HGSE, for 24 hours a day from Sundays (starting at 9:00am) through Thursdays throughout the academic year. Open to the Harvard community, there are multiple study areas spread across multiple floors, including a large study lounges on the third floor and the ground floor.

Aside from being open during the wee hours of the morning, Lamont also features a café that stays open until 2:00am from Sundays through Thursdays and a 24-hour self-service espresso machine. If you have a hankering for new and old television shows, movies, and music albums, there’s an entire floor of Lamont replete with DVDs and CDs dedicated to satisfying your multimedia cravings. If you’re interested in archival copies of popular (or even not-so-popular) periodicals, Lamont is also the place to be.

In the spirit of Halloween, I also want to highlight the Andover-Harvard Theological Library at the Harvard Divinity School. It’s a quieter library than Gutman or Lamont and a bit more out of the way relative to HGSE and Harvard Yard, but has its own quiet charm (as well as an impressive collection of old and historical religious documents). Its architectural features and layout also lends itself to an interesting atmosphere at night….

It looks quite stately, even if a bit gothic, from the outside.

At first glance, the stacks seem pretty typical…

Until you realize that you’re walking on glass catwalks and can see about four floors down.

Older sections of the library are also accessible from old wood staircases or secured with steel cages.


Learning beyond the classroom at HGSE through internships

In addition to the plethora of classes to pick from here at HGSE, any HGSE student can take on an internship for academic credit through the Field Experience Program (FEP). Your internship need not be specifically related to your program at HGSE. I’m in the Higher Education program and my FEP site is at a high school (Codman Academy Charter Public School) a bit less than an hour away on the T’s Red Line. Locations and organizations can vary from intern to intern; I have classmates interning at primary/secondary schools, colleges and universities (including Harvard!), non-profit organizations, and government agencies.

Internships can be unpaid or paid through federal work-study funds or an organization’s own funds. Most interns work somewhere between 8-12 hours per week; organizations are generally cognizant of mid-term and finals pressures and adjust work schedules accordingly. The Field Experience program, which lasts for one semester (but can renewed for a second semester), is flexible enough that some of my classmates intern at educational organizations outside of the Boston area (and rely primarily on the Internet to communicate).

In terms of paperwork, it’s relatively simple to sign up for the FEP course. At the start of the semester, I submitted brief online form giving background information on my employer and what I hoped to accomplish during my time with Codman Academy. If you don’t have an organization lined up, no worries … aside from program-specific resources, there was an internship fair during the first week of my fall semester and a number of opportunities that were posted on Harvard intranet sites, most notably Hired.