Author Archives: Jessica Acosta

I’m in! Now What?: Deciding on the Right Graduate School

Congratulations to the newly admitted students of HGSE! I remember all too well the moment I learned of my acceptance to my program and the overwhelming excitement I felt at the prospect of joining such a vibrant community. I also recall the early weeks of spring as a time of intense reflection as I carefully weighed my offers before making my final decision on which school to attend.

Which graduate program is the best fit for me? What do current students really think of their program/school? Can I afford the tuition and living expenses? Will I be supported as a student of color? How will this program prepare me for future positions in my field? If you find yourself asking similar questions, then I hope you find the following tips useful in your decision-making!  Continue reading

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AOCC 2014 – A Moment to Reflect, Recharge, and Respond


“Fear paralyzes us but we have to turn it around to empower us…to just say, ‘Enough!’” – Gaby Pacheco, AOCC 2014 Keynote Speech

As is the nature of a one-year master’s program, there is a never-ending list of events, workshops, lectures, and conferences beckoning for our attention and participation. Selecting from the vast number of activities can be quite challenging but one event I whole-heartedly recommend to prospective students is the annual HGSE Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC). The AOCC’s mission is to bring together students, scholars, practitioners, and other leaders together to discuss the intersection between education, race, and class. This year’s theme was entitled “From Dreams to Movements: Education, Inequality, and Justice”.  As graduate students, I admit that sometimes I get lost in the pile of essays, group projects, and meetings during the semester and the AOCC was a much-needed surge of inspiration – a reminder to us educators that this is why we are here.

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Gaby Pacheco (center) with Professor Roberto Gonzalez and members of the H517 Contemporary Immigration Policy class. (From left to right: Stephany Cuevas, Krystal Rincon, Evelyn Quezada, Prof. Roberto Gonzalez, Gaby Pacheco, Pedro Navarro, Jessica Acosta, Victoria Villalba, Sheila Jackson)

Gaby Pacheco’s keynote speech moved me to tears. An immigrant rights leader and undocumented American, Gaby has played a central role in the immigrant youth movement. In 2010, Gaby and fellow youth immigrants organized the Trail of DREAMs, a march from Miami to Washington, DC in order to urge President Obama to stop separations of families and deportations of Dreamers. Gaby not only shared her courageous story but also touched on the power of community, “the power that we have as human beings to come together.”  Gaby’s speech has motivated me to continue exploring immigration issues not only in my immigration policy class, but across my courses and in my internship work with Boston college youth.

Jessica Acosta is Master’s in Education candidate in the Higher Education Program.  Deeply passionate about issues of race, equity, and college access, Jessica aims to gain knowledge and tools to promote a deeper understanding of multicultural issues and to help students of color strive towards academic success in college and beyond.

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Where do YOU come from?

“Where do you come from?” This was the one of the first questions that Professor Roberto Gonzales posed to our class during our first week of the semester. Our course, Contemporary Immigration Policy and Educational Practice, looks not only at broad immigration issues but also examines the intersection between immigration and education.  Seemingly simple, this question – and the answers that followed – served as a reminder of just how wonderfully different and interesting students at HGSE are. Continue reading

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Guest Lecture on Race and the Power of Social Media

For one of my elective courses this semester, I decided to enroll in the Critical Race Theory (CRT) course taught by Professors Daren Graves and Kimberly Truong.  The course is designed to teach students about CRT as a theoretical lens from which to examine and deconstruct racial inequalities in society and in education. While CRT is a framework used to confront the general race-based disparities that exist in society, other offshoots of CRT have developed to address particular racial or ethnic groups. One of these is called TribalCrit, which looks at issues facing Native Indian communities.  Because of the nature of the course, much of the work has been theoretical, but I appreciate the moments in class when we are able to see the real life applications of the theories we learn.

In mid-October, we had the honor of having Adrienne Keene (a doctoral candidate in Culture, Communities, and Education) as our guest lecturer. Adrienne’s research focuses on college access and college transition for Native students (http://scholar.harvard.edu/ajkeene). In addition to her research, Adrienne has a blog called Native Appropriations, which is a space to discuss and challenge Native representation in the media and society (www.nativeappropriations.com).

Adrienne Keene

 Adrienne’s lecture was illuminating for several reasons.  Even though I am interested in college access and success, I did not know much about issues affecting Native students. Hearing Adrienne speak about her experience with College Horizons opened my mind to an entirely different side of college access and higher education.  Furthermore, I was inspired by Adrienne’s use of social media to push back on offensive cultural misrepresentations.  Adrienne spoke out against designer Paul Frank’s 2012 “Dream Catchin’ Powwow”, which eventually resulted in the designer’s company taking actions to correct their wrongs and to collaborate with a Native designer to make a collection whose proceeds would be donated to a Native cause.  The guest lecture was not only a chance to see theory in action but also an opportunity to learn about the incredible things fellow Harvard students are doing to spark positive change in their communities.

(source: http://www.nativeappropriations.com)

Jessica Acosta is Master’s in Education candidate in the Higher Education Program.  Deeply passionate about issues of race, equity, and college access, Jessica aims to gain knowledge and tools to promote a deeper understanding of multicultural issues and to help students of color strive towards academic success in college and beyond.

Managing the Graduate Application Process

Graduate school applications can initially feel like a daunting experience. Taking the GRE, writing your personal statement, finding the right programs, etc….the list of things to do seems endless! At least that is how I felt after only a few minutes into my graduate school search. But do not despair!  Here are some tips I found helpful during my own graduate school application process.

1) Keep graduate school hard copy materials in one place. I know that sounds pretty straightforward but if you are like me and you applied to several graduate programs,  you probably have received emails, brochures, business cards, and other material from many schools. Having all that material in one central location like a folder or binder (and separated by school) will help you easily access important information.  If you have all this information online or on your computer, it can also help to have a spreadsheet, detailing the different application requirements and deadlines for each school.

2) Create bookmarks on your web browser for the specific graduate programs in which you are interested . Bookmarking or saving the link of your programs of interest saves you a great deal of time. I did not bookmark the school websites at first and found it tedious to have to navigate through each site any time I wanted to check more information on a particular program.

3) Set SMART goals.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. SMART goals can be used as  effective ways   to accomplish a particular objective by breaking it down to smaller, more “measurable” and manageable steps.  For example, I gave myself a month during the fall to finalize my list of schools and another month to work exclusively on my personal statement. Breaking down the application process and setting smaller deadlines for myself allowed me to focus on individual aspects of the process without feeling overwhelmed.

I hope these tips will help you as much as they helped me. Best of luck!

Jessica Acosta is Master’s in Education candidate in the Higher Education Program.  Deeply passionate about issues of race, equity, and college access, Jessica aims to gain knowledge and tools to promote a deeper understanding of multicultural issues and to help students of color strive towards academic success in college and beyond.

Engaging in the Admissions Process

The 24th Annual Diversity Recruitment Program took place on October 28th, where hundreds of prospective students visited HGSE to learn about our academic programs and our community. With only a couple of months on our belts, current students have already been helping the Admissions Office by sharing their graduate experiences with prospective candidates.  Having attended a few recruitment activities myself almost a year ago (has it been a year already!?)  when I was applying, I recall how instrumental these activities were in my decision to attend HGSE. I could learn nearly everything about a particular program through a website, but there is something special about hearing directly from a current student – who not too long ago was in your same shoes!

As I prepared to meet prospective students, I was worried I might not have enough interesting things to share but then I realized just how much has happened over the short span of two months. Papers, midterms, group projects, events, social gatherings, interactions with classmates and faculty…the list could go on and on!

As a student ambassador, I am happy to not only share my experience and advice to prospective students but also to learn about their incredible accomplishments and stories.  Learning about students coming from all different walks of life with a wide array of goals and interests also reminds me of the amazing work the Admissions Office does in bringing together a class of talented and bright individuals.

ALANA at Diversity Program

African, Latino, Asian, and Native American Alliance (ALANA) Co-Chairs attending the HGSE’s 24th Annual Diversity Recruitment Program

As you – the prospective student – read this blog, I hope you consider taking advantage of all the resources HGSE offers – observe a class, attend a Saturday session, sign up for virtual info sessions, or chat with a student ambassador. Wishing you all much luck during this application season!

Jessica Acosta is Master’s in Education candidate in the Higher Education Program.  Deeply passionate about issues of race, equity, and college access, Jessica aims to gain knowledge and tools to promote a deeper understanding of multicultural issues and to help students of color strive towards academic success in college and beyond.

The President-in-Residence: A Unique HGSE Experience

As Harvard students, we are fortunate enough to learn from some of the leading experts in our fields of interest. When I was searching for graduate programs in Higher Education, Harvard’s President-in-Residence component was one of the most compelling reasons to apply – and it definitely has lived up to my expectations!  As part of the Higher Education Program, the President-in-Residence component provides students with a yearlong opportunity to learn from a former college or university president. The president attends class and advises students.  This year, we are lucky enough to have Lawrence “Larry” Bacow, president emeritus of Tufts University.

(Lawrence Bacow at Tufts University. Photo credit: Brian Loeb from Tufts Journal )

It has only been a couple of months with Larry and his input adds a wonderful dimension to our readings, giving our class in-depth knowledge about issues in higher education. It is one thing to read about an event or change in a university and quite another to listen first-hand from someone who has a wealth of knowledge and experience. To some, having a former president in class may seem intimidating yet Larry is nothing but approachable. From the beginning of the semester, Larry welcomed students to chat with him over a meal or even go on a run. I look forward to learning even more from our President-in-Residence as the year continues!

Jessica Acosta is Master’s in Education candidate in the Higher Education Program.  Deeply passionate about issues of race, equity, and college access, Jessica aims to gain knowledge and tools to promote a deeper understanding of multicultural issues and to help students of color strive towards academic success in college and beyond.