Category Archives: Blogger Introductions

Welcome to campus: A tale of 3 buildings

The first week at HGSE was a blur of stimulating presentations, free food, and lots of new faces. As overwhelming as it could have been, I noticed right away that it was all grounded in a spirit of connection and building community. One common message students heard from faculty and staff was, “Reach out. This is your community.” They didn’t just say it—they showed it too. Every professor I met smiled and introduced themselves, eager to hear about my past experiences and interests. Every staff member—from the library to the Career Services Office—pointed me towards helpful resources and went above and beyond to answer my questions, hear my story, and ask follow up questions.

As any urban design student will tell you, space impacts experience. The fact that the HGSE campus is fully contained on one quiet, tree-lined street probably impacts the intimate, welcoming experience that I have had so far. For prospective students who haven’t visited Appian Way, I want to take you on a tour through the three main buildings on the HGSE campus.

Monroe C. Gutman Library, affectionately called “Gutman

Gutman photo

Gutman Library on a sunny day in October

If the HGSE campus was a human body, Gutman would be the heart. This is the building that many students, faculty, and staff find themselves gravitating towards first thing in the morning, between classes, before student clubs, and to grab a cup of coffee. The Commons cafe offers delicious, affordable food and there’s something for everyone: sushi, soup, pizza, sandwiches, salads, and hot entrees everyday plus coffee and baked goods to keep you going through moments of exhaustion. The Office of Student Affairs is situated on the first floor and they can answer most student questions or at least point you in the right direction. Gutman is also the HGSE library and has a diverse range of resources and study spaces, including outdoor patios, quiet communal spaces, group study spaces, and even a fireplace. If you visit HGSE, make sure you try the chocolate chip cookies at the The Commons. You will not be disappointed!

Larsen Hall


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Professor Tivnan in a typical lecture hall in Larsen

Larsen Hall houses classrooms and faculty offices. I have a Research Methods lecture in Larsen Hall room G08. The room makes it easy to pay attention—there is a surround-sound audio system and multiple screens so there isn’t a bad seat in the room. The built-in, wrap-around desks offer tons of electrical outlets so I can charge my electronics during class. Multi-tasking win!

Longfellow Hall

Longfellow photo

One of the entrances to Longfellow Hall

Longfellow Hall is home to many student service offices: the Admissions Office, the Financial Services Office, and the Career Services Office. It’s also home to Askwith Hall, a beautiful, historic lecture hall that hosts the Askwith Forums and several large lecture classes.  In my first month at HGSE I have attending several events in Askwith Hall; “Education and Transformative Justice: How is September 11 Significant,” hosted by the Office of Student Affairs and “HGSE 4 Help: A Benefit Performance for Disaster Relief,” hosted by HGSE students.

Post and photos by Cecelia DeKorne

Cecelia_TeamPortraitCecelia DeKorne is an Ed.M. candidate in the Human Development and Psychology program and is interested in how adult development principles can be used to improve organizational culture. Cecelia is excited for the year ahead and plans to explore the many libraries on campus, learn as much as she can about organizational psychology, and try every type of cookie at The Commons! Cecelia is a Graduate Assistant at the HGSE Admissions office and will be posting throughout the 2017-2018 school year. 


The Goodness of a Getaway

This weekend, I ventured out of the Cambridge/Boston area for the first time since I arrived at HGSE for a little weekend getaway. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved my first month and a half of graduate school and if it’s at all indicative of the rest of my time here, it’s safe to say that this will be an exciting, busy, edifying, demanding, inspiring, and memorable year. Still, when you’re drinking from the fire hose that is Harvard, with its amazing events and opportunities galore, it can sometimes make you nostalgic for the days when you could sip water slowly and without getting your clothes all wet.

That is why some friends and I decided to take a little trip up to New Hampshire where we slowed down, re-centered on what’s most important, and took in views of the famously beautiful New England Fall foliage. New Hampshire certainly did not disappoint:

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Now that I’m back in Cambridge, I feel refreshed and ready to take advantage of the Harvard experience as much as humanly possible.

Monique Hall is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Technology, Innovation, and Education program. She is passionate about children’s media, ice cream, and educational equity.

Home Away From Home

Flashback to August 1: moving day. For the first time in my life, I left everything and everyone behind in North Carolina to come to an area of the country that was completely unknown to me. Everything was different. I was used to my own apartment; here, I share with three other people. I was used to having my own car; here, I walk and use public transportation. How could I make a new life for myself when everyone and everything I knew were miles away? But then I met my SLP (School Leadership) family and everything changed. I was opened up to a community that was loving, caring and very helpful. I started to get to know the people that would help make this foreign place my new home. 


A majority of my School Leadership Program (SLP) cohort at orientation!



There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home. A phrase that I stopped saying thanks to my cohort!

Rashaida Melvin is a Master’s of Education candidate in the School Leadership Program. She has taught for three years and is excited about moving from the classroom into leadership. Rashaida is looking forward to serving both teachers and students in the future.

Harvard Orientation: Replacing FOMO with JOMO


The tent where HGSE Orientation activities took place.


Breakfast at Henrietta’s Kitchen in Harvard Square.

I arrived in Cambridge with a two-week head start before Orientation to have some more time to get used to living in a new place, and I think it was the best thing I did. As simple as it seems, the moving process entails a ton of tiny things: from buying pillows and hangers to understanding what to order for breakfast not to gain 10 kg in a year, to feeling comfortable in a new environment and being able to sleep normally (I’m still getting there).

All of this takes an amount of time really hard to estimate, but to make it easier for international students to decide when to come to the United States, there is a time limit for the arrival of foreign students: a student visa will allow us to be here at a maximum of 30 days before the start date of our study program, not earlier than that. I thought it was pretty reasonable. To be honest, at the same time that I feel I could have done more, I was looking forward to the beginning of activities, so maybe arriving much earlier wouldn’t have been such a good idea.

These adaptation weeks have been a happy medium between doing everything and doing nothing: I’ve met new people, walked around Harvard Square, gotten to know the Boston Public Library and the Boston Commons, done some reading (the dean assigned us materials including texts, videos, and podcasts to warm up for Orientation discussions), and started to plan my year here.

Even so, my anxiety level was high. Everything was about to start, and damn it, it’s only nine months — how come I didn’t read all the books I downloaded, or those I had always promised myself I would read as soon as I left work? How come I didn’t complete the top ten list of things to do in Boston? How could I not do so many important things?!


International Student Pre-Orientation

Fortunately, we had a pre-Orientation event for international students (There is also a pre-Orientation for students of color and for students who are the first generation in their families to go to a university). Besides feeling proud to see people from all around the world bringing their dreams here, it was comforting to think that everyone is going through this same agony. In the conversations with current and former students, it seemed unanimous: this year is going to fly by and there’s much more to do than anyone is humanly capable of doing. After all, we are already scared to miss out on interesting stuff (our frenemy FOMO) at home; imagine being at Harvard?!

It is a little nerve-racking to have so many options and to know that you can’t have it all. Not for nothing: I’ve heard many conversations about balance and mental health around here.

That same week, an alumnus suggested replacing my FOMO with JOMO: the joy of missing out. According to him, if we know ourselves and are aware of what is important to us, then it makes complete sense to focus our energy on our interests and to spare it in other things.

It is hard to accept this perspective shift without a fight, but I think it could be worth it. I’ll try to calm myself down to get a good night’s sleep.… This is a promising week.

Note: this post was originally written in August (during the 2016 Orientation). It is also posted in the Portuguese language here.

Gabriela Talarico is passionate about creativity, self-regulation, education, and qualitative research. She joins HGSE from Brazil as a Jorge Paulo Lemann Fellow and is currently a Master’s in Education Candidate in the Human Development and Psychology Program.

Wire & Fire Series: Building community one network at a time!

One of my many goals for my year at Harvard has been to not only bask in the glory of the genius that surrounds me but to engage these ‘brainy’ peers/alumni/professors in coffee or lunch meetings; my hope in setting up these coffee sessions is to learn a little bit more about the holistic human behind the impressive credentials and experiences. It was during one of these meetings that a recent alumni of the Mind, Brain, and Education program lamented, “I wish I had more meetings with people and built meaningful relationships last year.” This person was so caught up in course work, talks, events, and projects, that she confessed putting genuine human connection on the back burner. Now she makes it a point to caution current cohort members, lest we fall into the same trap. It is very easy to prioritize personal growth over community-building even though, more often than not, the places we go are heavily dependent on the people we know!

When all is said and done, there is no resource out there that is kinder and more generous than another human. Even better if that human is a former colleague or friend. With that in mind, the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council [DIAC] subcommittee for this cohort (a.k.a The Dream Team) – Yanela, Jordan, Rachel, and Mona (with unconditional support from Mandy, our Program Administrator) – set out to establish this core community by highlighting each member’s personal and professional diversity.



Yanela Cruz, MBE ’16


Jordan Freeman, MBE ’16


Rachel Hanebutt, MBE ’16

profile pic 2014

Mona Anchan, MBE ’16     (DIAC Rep)







Mandy Farhoodi Moberger, MBE Program Administrator







The activities and events planned to achieve this were cleverly titled the Wire & Fire Series, as a nod to both the neuroscience element of the program and the famous saying, “cells that fire together, wire together” based on the work of psychologist, Donald Hebb. It also denotes the committee’s dedication to provide several avenues for cohort members to connect and interact with each other in order to build deeper and stronger bonds.


The first phase of the series is Member Spotlights, which are scheduled to begin in mid-February. The spotlight series will showcase one cohort member every day in order to highlight the rich mix of background and experiences that exists within the group. Once started, the Spotlights will run each day in the semester until every member in the cohort has been featured. The next event that will begin in early March will include several coffee and tea gatherings with professors, alumni, and affinity-based peer groups. The third will be a “fishbowl” event that will further the progress made in the previous two events by allowing an avenue for people to connect with each other based on future professional interests. In addition, there are talks about doing a talent show and a musical event in service to the same cause. The committee is also working towards jump-starting awareness and active conversations around the topic of disability since it is an area that does not have the same visibility as the concepts of race, gender, sexuality, and identity at HGSE.

As we begin our spring semester full of hope about building a strong and tight-knit cohort community to last us a lifetime, here is a sneak peak into one such resonant story that patiently awaits in our daily e-mails and Facebook notifications to brighten our days and enrich our lives:

Today’s Spotlight isERIN MERNOFF !
Mona Anchan is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. Mona has toggled between the research and teaching professions for the last ten years. In addition to her role as a Neuroscience and Psychology researcher, Mona has also taught science and math as a high school classroom teacher, tutor, and college instructor. She is on a quest to find avenues to bridge the theory-practice divide between neuroscience and education. She is actively seeking to connect with kindred spirits with the same mission.
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There’s no place like “Hugsie”

joey & HuggsyHugsy? Like Joey’s stuffed penguin from Friends?

Or maybe Hug-Z,  Jay-Z’s cuddly cousin we haven’t heard about! However you spell it, it sounds like a blanket of thousand marshmallows cascading you on a snowy winter’s day…so soft, so warm, an all-embracing bubble of kindness and compassion. That’s Harvard’s Graduate School of Education or HGSE, lovingly referred to by students as “Hugsie” for the ethereal feeling it generates among all who frequent the one block that is Appian Way. I felt it on that cold March day as I set foot on this campus as one of many prospective students at an Open House, and I feel it even more so now that I have spent five long but amazing months as a student here.

Born and raised in India, I was always taught to pick a lane and stick to it if I ever wanted to go somewhere or be somebody. Of course, I never listened! “If you put one leg in one boat and one leg in the other, you will go nowhere and you will drown” is one of the many nuggets of wisdom I heard almost everyday growing up. That’s one way of looking at it. “What if a big awesome ship comes by and picks me up? Then I’ll have something better than two boats and I’ll reach my destination faster,” little me always wanted to say but deferred out of respect to my elders. Well, they may not exist in abundance but there are havens for people who like to pledge their allegiance to more than one discipline and one interest. The Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) cohort at HGSE is one of those havens!

MBE Pie Party 1__Nov 20 2015

MBE 2015-16 cohort at the MBE Pie Party

Having lived under the poverty line for more than six years after my family came to this country, I developed a whole new appreciation for people who generously dedicated their lives to education as a means towards liberation and enlightenment. Since then, I started my dream of starting a school for children in low-income households. As I began to be trained as a neuroscientist, this dream shifted into a different type of school – a school whose methods, operations, and pedagogy was based on neuroscientific research. As I began teaching at a high school, reality reared its attractively-challenged head and my dream came crashing down. How on earth was I going to do this? Where would I start? Who would even understand my mission and goal? Nothing that existed came close to my vision for a school. Looking back, it seems silly that I thought I was alone in this journey. In MBE, I have found scientists, educators, managers, artists, and a variety of other kindred spirits who are fearlessly balancing themselves on the cusp of multiple boats, and are for the most part, WINNING!

But what makes HGSE unique is not just the rapport you build within your own cohort. Professors, coordinators, alumni, and many other permanent members of the community constantly advise us to capitalize on the sea of human potential that we encounter in the form of peers, and that is exactly what I set out to do during my Fall semester. I chose mostly elective classes in non-familiar areas such as policy, entrepreneurship, and technology to complement my  existing knowledge and networks. As a result, I experienced first-hand the reasons behind the gaps between different disciplines as well as professions. But the magnitude of learning, growth, and networks that tagged along with this challenge is so immensely valuable that words cannot do it justice.

A801 section

My A801 section buddies when we’re not disagreeing and debating with each other!

My HGSE colleagues have taught me to truly respect and utilize the value of my peers while being genuinely open and true to myself. I wake up everyday excited to learn things I know nothing about from people in HGSE and beyond. From constant battles about the necessity and feasibility of 21st century skills in an International Development context in my A801-Education Policy Analysis and Research section, to collaborating with the Harvard Graduate School of Design to introduce a design thinking workshop for the HGSE community, and so much of everything in between, the synapses in my brain have formed at an exponential rate since I started this journey in August.

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Happy campers at the Design Thinking Workshop we organized for the HGSE community.

The multitude of interactions and conversations with my peers and professors has taught me to be brave about my vision for a better school, but they have also opened my eyes to the many underlying issues I need to tackle first. But most importantly, they have shown me that I am not fighting alone. We’re all in this together!


Mecca, Eden, “Hugsie”….call it whatever happy place you will! I have never looked back and as this new semester starts, I am hungry for more.

Mona Anchan is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. Mona has toggled between the research and teaching professions for the last ten years. In addition to her role as a Neuroscience and Psychology researcher, Mona has also taught science and math as a high school classroom teacher, tutor, and college instructor. She is on a quest to find avenues to bridge the theory-practice divide between neuroscience and education. She is actively seeking to connect with kindred spirits with the same mission.

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“You’re taking Ergonomics??”

People are often surprised when I tell them I’m taking a class called Ergonomics. “Is it part of the curriculum?”, they ask. “Yes”, I reply, “It is part of my curriculum.” 

Learning about ergonomic desks for the classroom!

Learning about ergonomic desks for the classroom!

How? How is Ergonomics a part of the curriculum in a school of Education?

The answer is simple, and is the very reason I applied to come to HGSE in the first place.

The Ed.M Special Studies program. On this track, I design my own curriculum. I pick the courses that I decide will best suit my needs and interests.

If it sounds too good to be true, rest assured, it IS indeed 100% a real track! But I am still in awe everyday at how lucky I am to be part of such a flexible and personally-tailored Master’s program. It is truly the perfect fit for me.

I chose to take Ergonomics (a course offered by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) to gain insight into K-12 classroom design for optimal student working conditions. The curriculum I proposed in my personal statement involved a combination of Math Pedagogy and Health Awareness. However, this may change as I discover new interests inspired by classmates and courses. That is the beauty in SSP–you are not “stuck” with the curriculum you initially planned.

Many of my cohort peers are also taking advantage of our unique Special Studies program by engaging in classrooms at Tufts, MIT, other Harvard schools, or independent study.

In the Special Studies program, you take control of what you study! Education is the intersection of many different fields, and there is no curriculum too crazy for consideration! If you are debating between a few different tracks at HGSE, I encourage you to apply to SSP. The cohort is full of individuals with unique stories and unique educational perspectives and goals.

There is no other program like it, and you will not regret joining the SSP crew here at HGSE! 🙂

Pam Liu is a beer-loving yogi who works as a high school math teacher and travels the world on the side. She’s currently a Master’s candidate in the Special Studies program.

Student to Student: The HGSE Community

Hello to all the “Notes from Appian Way” readers out there! It is not often that we, the Admissions Office, post on the blog but we wanted to share a new resource that is available to everyone.

We are excited to introduce this year’s blogger video series “Student to Student” – an opportunity to hear our bloggers talk candidly about their experiences at HGSE. We hope that you enjoy the video and hope that these will inspire you to complete your application for admission!

Meet Our Bloggers: Joshua Jenkins

Joshua Jenkins is an Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy strand, pursuing licensure as a reading specialist. Josh was a special educator and reading interventionist in New Orleans and is interested in the research on reading disabilities and what all grown-ups can do to help bolster reading development for all children.


Ghazal Gulati is a Master’s in Education candidate in the International Education Policy Program. After transitioning from finance to teaching, Ghazal is now interested in systems design for monitoring and evaluation programs. With a love for museums, she is enjoying exploring the historic aspects of Cambridge and Boston!