Category Archives: Community

“Adulting” at HGSE

It’s 10 pm on a Tuesday night, and I’m standing close to the stage, eagerly awaiting Aquilo, one of my favorite bands for the past couple years now, to begin their act. I have two midterms and one major problem set all due in less than a week, but I push it out of my mind for the moment, knowing that the time for studies will come later. There’s so much more to Harvard than just academics, and The Sinclair, a venue less than a three-minute walk from the HGSE campus, has become part of my Harvard tradition.

Looking back at the past four months (having arrived in Cambridge back in June to begin a lab position), I’m struck by just how much like a kid I feel at heart, which is probably why I’m drawn to Education in the first place. There’s something strangely odd after being an adult in the “real world” for the last three years about throwing on a backpack every morning, heading to class, and pulling out my Curious George pencil case to retrieve my rainbow highlighters and sticky notes.

There’s something else, too, about having been in the “real world” that has changed the way I feel about academics now that I’m back in school again. Class now feels like a privilege, not like the duty that it once felt back in college. Choosing to come back to school – choosing to come to HGSE – has reinvigorated a sense of curiosity and wonder that I thought I had lost while working full-time. I’m enjoying life at HGSE so much that it feels more like a playground than a stereotypical school (which all education should be like, right?).

I’m finding myself engaging with academics in a new manner that is allowing me to truly understand my purpose in embarking on such a pedagogical journey. The material we learn in class feels tangibly animated. We’re not just learning concepts; we’re being challenged to engage our imaginations to envision using such theories in applied settings to truly incite meaningful change. Meetings with professors are not just matters of administrative duty but are brainstorming sessions that leave you inspired and empowered to apply yourself as a global solution. Homework assignments involve creating interventions that actually will be brought into the classroom. For me, academics have moved from a realm of duty to the sphere of energizing possibilities that makes me look forward to heading to the library every night.

And the motivation to practice my new skills has given me time and space to rediscover another “childlike” quality I thought I had lost – the desire to try everything. I do feel like a kid during my weekly Capoeira lessons – messing up my lefts and rights, struggling to remember the Portuguese vocabulary, singing with the rest of my class during roda. I’ve gone to my first professional soccer game, my first river cruise, and even my first PsyD campus visit. Last week, I even tried my first truly authentic, mouth-watering Chinese dinner, cooked from scratch by a friend’s mom, which necessitated a translator to keep the conversation flow over the meal. Long story short – there are a lot of firsts here at Harvard, inside and outside of the academic sphere.

If you do decide to come study at HGSE, which I hope you do, my best advice to you is embrace a childlike mindset; come here “tabula rasa” – ready to open your mind to all of the academic and non-academic opportunities that the university has to offer. Go to that weeknight concert. Sign for every listserv possible and actually go to the events. Say “yes” to joining that club, even if you don’t yet know how to properly say it’s name (like Capoeira = cap-o-ey-ra). HGSE will “grow you up” – a lot – in ways you never expected possible. Opening yourself up to such change through embracing a mindset of curiosity, wonder, and an interminable desire to try everything will help you cultivate a healthy sense of humility for such learning. In order to learn how to change the world, one must first learn how to change one’s self; I have broken my preconceptions of age and have discovered that one can “adult” without having to let go of what truly matters.

Written by Arianna RiccioHeadshot

Arianna Riccio is a current Ed.M. candidate in the Human Development & Psychology program at HGSE who aspires to pursue doctoral studies after graduation. She received a BA in French (Psychology minor) from Franklin & Marshall College in 2014 and spent the past year serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA for the Boys & Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation in northwest Montana. Arianna’s hobbies include yoga, meditation, writing, and having spontaneous discussions about the meaning of life.

Advertisements

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

 

G08 photo

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 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. 

Looking Ahead: A Thank-You to HGSE and a Poem

In July, I moved up here from my college town in Louisiana having only been in New England once— on visit day. I came here determined to learn as much as I could about language and literacy, meet fascinating Professors, and be involved in everything I could be. But, that’s not what happened. I mean on face value, yes, I was involved outside of the classroom up to my eyeballs (literally so involved it hurt sometimes), I met amazing faculty, and I gained knowledge in the field. However, in these things I did even more important work— I had conversations about culture, equity, and society in ways that I never imagined; I imagined ways to improve my classroom and public districts, reimagined them, and talked about them with passionate educators and professors from all over the world; I learned about myself through coursework, involvement, and nights spent belly-ache laughing on the HUNAP (Harvard University Native American Program) couch with four of the greatest women I’ve ever known. So, this is my thank-you to those who made this experience exceed my expectations.

I could never list all the people who contributed, but of course, I’m going to attempt to anyways. First, the HGSE student community. It really is like a family—a family that pushes you to expand your consciousness, dishes out sarcasm better than even myself, and gives you their yogurt when you have class until 8pm and didn’t have a chance to eat that day (true story and you’re still the real MVP). I really could never list all of you, but just know I’m talking about every single one of you. Second, HUNAP and FIERCE. Cute Instagram captions aside, they are the greatest people you’ll ever meet. Thank you for being shoulders to cry on, bad influences on my restaurant budget and diet, and beautiful souls. Shelly, Jason, Sam, Damon, Megan, Jordan, Danielle, and Autumn (and Alice), thank you. Third, Tracie and OSA. Is there anything y’all didn’t do for us? I can never thank you enough for the support of FIERCE, HHEI, and me as a student. Fourth and finally, all the professors and other faculty that have had an impact on my learning (including Andrena, my Program Administrator). I am exceedingly thankful for every course I’ve taken this year and the impact it will have on my practice.

As the year closes out, I’m thankful, reflective, and looking forward to a new adventure. When I started the job search, a few people asked me what I was going to be doing next year and were disappointed that I was “just” going to teach. I began to feel like maybe that was an inadequate reach after finishing a master’s program, so I looked into things like research fellowships and central office jobs. However, my heart always returned to teaching. Sometimes in society we devalue teaching as a job that is beneath us once we get experience and education, and while one day I want to pursue a doctorate and leadership, I’m glad I didn’t listen to the little tug to get a higher up job that I don’t actually want. Next year, I’ll be moving back to Dallas, Texas, and teaching ninth grade English as the founding ELAR teacher of a new Dallas ISD public school. It is without reservation that I say HGSE and the beautiful, innovative, empathetic educators I’ve been blessed with meeting have prepared me for my next steps. I can’t wait to incorporate the learning I’ve done this year into my classroom and into some exciting community work outside of the classroom as well (stay tuned). And, in true English teacher fashion, I’ve written this poem to celebrate and look forward.


It radiates with curiosity and bad fluorescent lighting—

Not always inviting.

But a place of promise and future

A place of questioning and, sometimes, confusion

Begging for men and women who care, with innovation and passion at their core—

Not afraid to challenge the status quo and demand the system for more.

More love, equity, support, student voice

Not just more, better, way better

Resources are thin, but the year is long—

Not a simple task that gives birth to a summer vacation song.

It is a place, a place of government and systemic failure

A place of promises

A place of promise

A place

They serve students in abundance—

Sometimes in a monotony of redundance.

But in August I embark to transform

A classroom

Into a home

Surrounded by springtime bluebonnets and Texas heat, adventure awaits—

Adventure to anticipate.

It awaits in the halls, the young lives,

In the coffee shops I’ve yet to explore

And in familiar streets

And the sunshine of the south

And the lullabies of thunderstorms

Within the complex system of both sunshine and thunderstorms—

A home

Wado and donadagvhoi (thank you and see you later), HGSE.

Kaci McClure is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy program. Her primary passions are increasing literacy skills among high school students; addressing inequity in low-income, largely minority schools; and culturally responsive teaching. A transplant out of Louisiana who originally hails from Texas, Kaci has an affinity for sweet tea, spicy food, and the word “y’all.” She’s also an avid supporter of conscious rap and frybread, neither correlated to the other but both very powerful.  

The 15th Annual Alumni of Color Conference

On March 2-4, I had the honor of chairing the 15th Annual Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC) with the theme Define. Defy. Dismantle: Forging Our Legacy Through Activism. It was hands down the most rewarding experience for me as a student at HGSE. Five months of planning came together for a weekend filled with social activism. We had over 700 registered participants which consisted of students, faculty, staff, alumni, youth, scholars, and citizens from across the country. We had 7 keynote speakers, a special guest, and about 45 workshops over the course of six breakout sessions.

As a Tri-Chair, I was tasked with turning an idea into a full 3 day conference. Before this year, the largest event I planned was a male scholarship pageant through my sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.) in undergrad. I had never planned a conference before and was honestly unaware of all it would take to successfully execute this conference. I quickly found out the amount of work, dedication, and sacrifice it would take and I am truly appreciative of the phenomenal leadership team that helped make this conference possible.

On Thursday, March 2, Dr. Peter T. Keo provided a kickoff for the conference. He gave a speech that energized participants and excited the crowd about what was to come over the course of the weekend. Many participants commented on the appreciation of hearing a man of Asian descent speak about dismantling racism from a perspective that is often not highlighted.

IMG_1223

Dr. Keo with the Tri-Chairs (from left to right: Kimberly Osagie, Rashaida Melvin, Alfatah Moore)

Friday, there were three breakout sessions and an Askwith Forum. The Askwith forum titled “Take Action: Advancing Justice and Equity in Today’s Climate” was composed of keynote speakers Dr. Arshad I. Ali, Ed.M.’04, Assemblyman Michael A. Blake, Albino Garcia, Jr., and Simran Noor with Christina “V” Villarreal, Ed.M.’05 moderating the panel. We also gave the Courage Award to the Denver Broncos’ linebacker Brandon Marshall for having the strength to fight for justice in regards to police brutality.

AOCC 1799

From left to right: Christina “V” Villarreal, Assemblyman Michael Blake, Albino Garcia, Simran Noor, and Dr. Arshad Ali.

AOCC 1784

Brandon Marshall with the AOCC Tri-Chairs

For a full video of the Askwith Forum, check out the live video on the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Facebook page from March 3rd. Also, check out this article I am featured in about the conference and specifically the Askwith Forum.
On Saturday, we had three more breakout sessions, a conversation with Brandon Marshall, granted three awards, and welcomed two additional keynote speakers: Dr. Rhonda Williams and Dr. Bettina Love. All of the speakers were phenomenal. Dr. Williams used spoken word to defy systems of oppression and Dr. Love discussed her curriculum on hip-hop education and fired up the crowd as she provided ways to dismantle oppression in education. I am beyond proud of the final product of AOCC 2017. It will be my greatest memory and experience at HGSE.

Image-1-1 (1)

Dr. Rhonda Williams, keynote speaker.

IMG_1248

Myself and Dr. Bettina Love (Fun Fact: Dr. Love is a professor at the same university I attended for my bachelor’s degree, The University of Georgia!)

I would love to help recruit the next Master’s Tri-Chair for AOCC 2018! I can give you the ins and outs of the planning process. I had to make sacrifices and give up a lot of free time because of this conference, but it was the BEST decision I made as a student here at HGSE.   

17191303_2106252862934539_3020224487982217186_n

AOCC Tri-Chairs with Tracie Jones from the Office of Student Affairs

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.

Community Building with “The Bachelor”

As you might imagine, Harvard is a place filled with really intelligent and driven people. Most times I can feel my IQ increasing just from walking around campus and taking in bits of conversation as I go. I’m grateful for the wealth of knowledge and expertise that exists in the people I get to interact with everyday—it’s a major reason why I chose to attend HGSE. Still, remembering that these very brilliant people are also just regular people, with regular-people interests, is such a comfort. I’m reminded this every Monday night, when a group of us Harvard students meet to watch The Bachelor.

The_Bachelor_usa_logo

Being someone who has avoided the entire Bachelor franchise prior to this current season, I have to admit that when my friends Kathryn (HDP ‘17) and Manya (PSP ‘17) invited me to watch, I scoffed at the idea. Though, because they’d be watching the show in the TV room of our dorm, the Cronkhite Center, I figured there was no harm in moseying down to the basement for two hours of levity.

I was surprised to see a solid group of people in the room that first Monday night, and as the weeks progressed—and the number of roses being given lessened—our Bachelor-watching posse grew. Students from across the Harvard graduate schools were convening around our TV to see what Corinne said or did and make predictions about who Nick would and wouldn’t end up with. And I, who was at first a hostile viewer, found myself (gasp!) looking forward to these Monday night gatherings—partially for the show, which is both entertaining and ridiculous, but mostly for the community.

While this season and semester are drawing to a close, I realize that I’m really going to miss Monday night community-building with The Bachelor. On the bright side, however, the next season of The Bachelorette is right around the corner and I will almost certainly be watching.

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.

 

Congratulations!

It was on a Friday, March 4th, 2016, when I received an email on my phone regarding an admissions decision from Harvard Graduate School of Education. I was sitting at home, watching Parks and Recreation after a long day of reading applications (I worked in Admissions for Lafayette College). I made a delicious burger and french fries and was mid-bite when I saw my phone light up. I dropped the burger. Grabbed the phone with my less-greasy hand and used my knuckle to open the email while moving towards the kitchen to wash my hands.

Even more tantalizing was the fact that I needed to pop into ANOTHER webpage to actually see my decision–how CRUEL! But I did. And watched the pixels congratulate me. I cried. You may have as well. Or maybe you screamed? Or maybe you didn’t drop the burger and made that email wait until you consumed all of the calories in front of you. But I cried.

I cried not because I was simply admitted to a wonderful institution with human capital and a reverberating signal–I cried because I thought about my statement of purpose. I ask you to think about the same. You are in the midst of making your decision of where to enroll, which can be a heartwarming challenge to have, but I challenge you to take a moment and read your statement of purpose once more. Remember the hours you spent diving into why you want to make this career move? Think about the personal narrative you let bleed into those 1500 words. That story is who you are. And who you are, down to your core, is what HGSE wants.

You are welcomed into a community who plan to serve the scholars across the world. Of course, HGSE is not the only community that plans accordingly. So explore your options, friend! What I can say from personal experience is that your cognitive and emotional intelligence matters here. Education is the intersection of both, and we look forward to sharing validation and growth to promote our collective social change. Join us at HGSE or join the larger movement–regardless, we are happy to have you in the field.

Taaha Mohamedali is a Master’s of Education candidate in Higher Education. Prior to enrolling at Harvard, Taaha was an admissions officer coordinating efforts to improve access for marginalized groups at Lafayette College.  He hopes to improve transitional support structures for these groups in the years to come. His passions include spoken word, comedy, and rock, paper, scissors.

You’ve Been Admitted to HGSE! Now What?

So, you’ve been admitted to HGSE for the 2017-18 academic year – CONGRATULATIONS! Now what? How do you decide whether to attend or not? Here are a few thoughts as you consider HGSE from Gabi and Arpi:

Q1: Where were you and what were you doing when you found out you were admitted to HGSE?

Gabi, HDP: I was out on vacation in Salvador, Brazil, with my parents. The process of gathering material and writing statements can be very stressful, so some time after I was done submitting my applications, I decided to take a work leave to let off some steam and distract myself from the anxiety of waiting for answers. One day when we got back to the hotel I checked my email and it said there was an update to my Harvard application. My parents sat down by my side as I opened the message, and we celebrated together in a crazy mix of laughing, crying and hugging.

Arpi, MBE: I was in my dorm room, running late for dinner with a friend. I was a heartbeat away from closing the lid of my laptop when suddenly the email popped up from the admissions office. In some incomprehensible blur of happiness and exhilaration I called my parents to tell them the news. I still attribute my breathlessness over the phone to the excitement of receiving the decision rather than physically racing out the door.

tumblr_mmlueqouub1qd10pyo1_500

Q2: What was important to you in deciding to attend HGSE?

Gabi, HDP: The factors that most influenced my decision to join Harvard were the focus on research and financial aid (I should note that financial aid information doesn’t always come at the same time as the general admission decision).

Arpi, MBE: The connection between students and professors was definitely of importance to me. I was nervous that one year was too short to make meaningful connections with our academic advisors and professors, but was impressed when I visited for the admitted student open house day how fond the students were of their professors and the connections they made with them. The professors here make themselves readily available to their students, get to know us by name and aspirations, and are genuinely invested in our achievement and success. Even Professor Brennan knew all 100+ of her students in T550 by name!

Q3: Did you speak to anyone at HGSE who helped you make the decision to enroll? What advice did they give you?

Arpi, MBE: Less than a week after being admitted, a current HGSE student in my program called to congratulate me and answer any questions. I, being pleasantly surprised by the unexpected phone call, yet again running late for dinner with a friend, and still in shock of receiving the admissions decision a few days earlier, could only formulate one question: “Do you like it there?” (Geez, could I think of a more blunt question?) The student I spoke with couldn’t convey her love of her HGSE experience more, and even rallied a few other MBE students in the room with her to express this. I also visited campus and was entirely taken by the community here, just as I had felt in my virtual interactions until then. So it wasn’t necessarily advice that solidified my decision; it was more so a vibe and reassurance that this community would be welcoming of me and my goals in the MBE program. (Note to the newly-admitted MBE students: I will be one of the current students on the HGSE end of the phone line this year during call night (woohoo!). Please feel free to ask us any questions about our experiences as MBE/HGSE/Harvard students, we’re all very excited to speak with you!)

Gabi, HDP: I spoke to so many people in order to make my decision: my family, my boyfriend, friends, HGSE alumni and my HDP Program Administrator from Harvard, other schools I was considering, and finally my undergraduate professors from Brazil. I would say it was especially helpful to talk to recent alumni, as they still had the fresh experience in their mind, but were able to have some distance when looking back. To find these people, I reached out to the Admissions Office and asked to be connected with alumni with similar backgrounds as me. I think more than giving me advice, they gave me valuable information about what the program would be like and the life I would have here, which made me confident to make my own decision.

Q4: Are you happy that you ultimately enrolled at HGSE?

Arpi, MBE: Unquestionably. I still feel butterflies whenever I walk through the main University gates, onto Appian way, or into class each day. This has persisted since day one of orientation.

Gabi, HDP: Yes. It has been a crazy few months since I arrived at Cambridge in August, but some things I know for sure: I love my friends. I learn from them everyday. I love my professors. They push me to do my best and inspire me to be my best self. I love being here.

Q5: What information do you wish you knew when you were deciding whether or not to accept your offer of admission from HGSE?

Arpi, MBE: I wish I more fully understood how quickly one year flies by. Suddenly it’s March, and the Ed.M. and finishing doctoral students are realizing that graduation is on the horizon. It makes every moment here invaluable. While I’m still incredibly happy to have enrolled in HGSE’s full-time Ed.M. program, the length of the program is certainly an important consideration and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Q6: The idea of Harvard can be intimidating. When did you begin feeling like you belong at Harvard? What helped you feel this way and what advice would you give to someone to help them along this journey?

Arpi, MBE: Oh undoubtedly, the Harvard name can be intimidating. It carries a lot of prestige and respect and I wasn’t sure if I would fit the mold. It turns out that mold does not exist – at all. Within the first hour of orientation I felt a connection to my cohort as we exchanged stories and we realized that we all had the same apprehensions and excitements for being here. When Dean Ryan came onto the dance floor at the “Back to School BBQ” before the start of classes (I have photographic proof below!), I knew that HGSE welcomed me as a person, and not just as an application for admission. It took some time for me to feel like a member of the greater University, as being admitted to HGSE tends to keep you on Appian Way, but that adjustment came with a little help from the rest of the HGSE community. We attended lectures hosted at the main campus, the Harvard-Yale football game, cross-registered for classes at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and bought a couple sweaters in the process. It only took a short walk into main campus every so often with a buddy to explore what the rest of the University had to offer for us, and that helped us first feel a sense of belonging at Harvard.

Gabi, HDP: That’s a funny question. When I decided to apply for Harvard, I wasn’t fully convinced it would be the best fit for me. However, as I gathered more information, as I watched videos and read blog posts and read about professors’ work and research, I started to realize that Harvard wants to produce research that is relevant and meaningful–and that’s what I want too. The moment I submitted my application, I knew that I could belong here. So I guess people realize they belong at different times, in different ways, and that’s okay–Harvard welcomes everyone.

14199396_10153692698125248_8951839337090855432_n

Dean Jim Ryan with members of the MBE cohort at the “Back to School BBQ”

Q7: What advice would you give to someone trying to decide what graduate program is the best fit for them?

Gabi, HDP: It’s okay to take some time to make your decision; talk to people and think about how the program you’re about to start will help you enter the next step of your career. Don’t forget that the ultimate decision is always yours. After you’ve decided, don’t look back–it is your commitment and your choices in the graduate program that will ultimately make the experience your own.

Arpi, MBE: Two things: First, consider the academic experience in its entirety. Flip through the course catalog of each program and pretend to build your dream schedule – are you excited about the course offerings or professors teaching them? Will those classes develop the skills or knowledge you need to further your goals? Go to the events pages or calendars for the schools you’re considering – which lectures or workshops would you attend? Second, visit the schools! Talk to some of the current members of your program, sit in on lectures, and take a walk around campus. If you’re considering HGSE among your options, come visit us during admitted students weekend! It’s time to more than just picture yourself here. We’re looking forward to meeting you and welcoming you to the HGSE community!

Gabriela Talarico is passionate about creativity, 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.

Arpi Youssoufian is a masters candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. A biologist by training, she is fascinated by the classic nature-nurture debate in the context of learning development, and wishes she could take every class in the HGSE course book. She hopes to pursue either a neuroscience doctoral program or medical school to bridge research and practice in the future.

Soak it All Up

The realization of how little time I have left at HGSE hit me hard at the beginning of second semester. I have learned so much here, and there is so much more I want to soak up before I graduate. Luckily, there is no shortage of fantastic speakers and events. Here is a glimpse at some of the education leaders I’ve had a chance to learn from over the past few weeks.

At the beginning of the month, I attended a lecture series with Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, a distinguished professor at HGSE who is the first African-American woman in Harvard’s history to have an endowed professorship named in her honor. The series focused on three of Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot’s books, and examined the relationships parents have with their children and with their children’s teachers. Having played all three roles of teacher, parent and child myself, I was intensely interested in the subject matter. I was also both moved and inspired by Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot’s storytelling abilities. The series was a great opportunity to learn from a professor I may not have been exposed to otherwise.

Last week, I got three chances to glean some wisdom from Kaya Henderson, the former Chancellor of DC Public Schools who made amazing gains in the district during her tenure. First, we had an Education Policy and Management cohort meeting with her that was set up as a “fireside chat.” The day after the cohort meeting, I attended an Askwith Forum featuring Dr. Henderson called Driving Change: Challenges Superintendents Face in Urban Schools. Askwith forums are public lectures put on by HGSE that feature a wide range of topics and often include panels or interviews with prominent leaders in the education field. This Askwith panel also included two other well-known successful district leaders, Tom Boasberg, Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and Tommy Chang, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools. Then I got a final chance to learn from Kaya Henderson when she attended my Politics and Education Change class.

Kaya Henderson is just the tip of the iceberg with speakers I have been exposed to through my Politics and Education change class, taught by Chris Gabrieli. Other class speakers over the past few weeks have included John King, former U.S. Secretary of Education, Josh Delaney (EPM ’14), education policy advisor for Senator Elizabeth Warren, Charles Barone, policy director for Democrats for Education Reform, and Neerav Kingsland, former CEO for New Schools for New Orleans.

These are really just a small fraction of the events and lectures I could have attended this month – HGSE and the other graduate schools at Harvard have a never-ending stream of influential people lined up to speak to students. The hard part is choosing what to attend with a limited amount of hours in the day. In the few months I have left, hopefully I’ll be able to attend as many events and soak up as much wisdom as I can!

Sara DeWolf is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. She has experience as both a civil litigation attorney and a public school teacher. When she’s not at HGSE, you can find her playing with her daughters and exploring Boston.

 

Q&A with Gabi and Arpi

 

Many of the programs at HGSE overlap in course requirements and student interests. We (Gabi and Arpi) are in two related masters programs – Human Development and Psychology and Mind, Brain, and Education, respectively, and have many shared and unique experiences from our first semester that we would love to share with you through this combined Q&A between bloggers.

Q#1: What is your favorite place to go study?

Gabi (HDP): I’m not sure if it’s my favorite place, more of a love-hate relationship, but you can always find me at the Cronkhite reading room, hahaha! It is our dorm room study lounge, very cozy, almost always silent and occasionally we have guests who bring treats and great stories. One place I would like to explore more is the Music Department Library – it has a homey feel, with nice curtains, long wooden desks and chairs that have harps carved in them. I really liked the day I spent over there.

img_5602

Arpi (MBE): Apart from the Cronkhite reading room, I love the first floor of Gutman Library. The first floor is designated a collaborative space, so you’ll often run into classmates and cohort members working on their next big project and getting excited about their work. The cafe is also a few steps away from the study area and is quite the hidden gem of graduate school cafes at Harvard. I especially loved that during finals, the Dean’s office and Office of Student Life also provided everyone with free coffee and tea in the library! They certainly know how to support us in a stressful academic time.

Q#2: What is the coolest event you have attended here so far?

Gabi (HDP): There have been so many cool events around here! I enjoyed the Student Night offered by the Harvard Art Museum. In addition to the tours, which were lovely, they had snacks inspired by the art collections, printed replicas of art pieces which you could rent to show in your own room and temporary tattoos of art pieces. I would crack myself up every time I looked at my ankle and saw Van Gogh’s face.

Arpi (MBE): My favorite event this semester was the Harvard-Yale game, hands down! HGSE organized a fun tailgate with breakfast in the morning, after which my cohort sat together in the graduate student section, all decked out in Harvard gear. I haven’t quite found a better word to sum up the experience other than as a “phenomenon.” I have never seen so much school pride in one stadium (from both teams), and although Harvard lost, it was such a fun few hours away from our pre-finals workload!

 

Q#3: What did you do this semester that you never thought you would do?

 

img_4187

Gabi’s electrical circuit.

Gabi (HDP): I never thought I would ever build an electrical circuit! In one of our classes, Designing for Learning by Creating, we had one amazing guest from the MIT Media Lab who guided us through the process of making a simple circuit with an LED and I was surprised at how easy and accessible it was! Watching my circuit light up filled me with joy and pride.

 

Arpi (MBE): I never thought I would willingly and enjoyably stay up until the early hours of the morning to finish a class project. The professors instill you with such motivation and excitement to complete your work, which often has potential for real-world application (or is actually being applied!)

Q#4: How did you choose your Ed.M. program at HGSE?

Gabi (HDP): I knew that I wanted to study creativity, so I found out where scholars who studied creativity were, and a lot of them worked in Psychology programs inside Education schools. In addition to that, I was very interested in the idea of creativity as a process that develops over time, while we evolve as human beings. So the Human Development and Psychology program was the only one that made sense to me.

Arpi (MBE): I’m broadly interested in cognition and cognitive development, and wanted to gain a holistic understanding of how the brain develops and how we learn. Because my background is in the natural sciences, I wanted to not only continue studying this from a neuroscience end, but also gain perspective from the psychology and education fields. The MBE program was perfect for me to explore all of these fields and grapple with them equally for my research interest.

Q#5: What do you wish people knew about the HGSE cohort?

Gabi (HDP): I wish they knew how diverse the cohort is; there is no recipe for what an HGSE student is like. It is comforting for me to see that everyone is insecure about one thing or another. At the same time, everyone has so much knowledge to share. I’m probably learning as much from my peers as I am from my professors!

Arpi (MBE): I hope everyone knows that the HGSE experience is unique for each person as well. There is no singular experience or path to take here, or next step to take after HGSE. It makes for such a vibrant community and shows that everyone has an important voice to contribute to the field of education.

 

Arpi Youssoufian is a masters candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. A biologist by training, she is fascinated by the classic nature-nurture debate in the context of learning development, and wishes she could take every class in the HGSE course book. She hopes to pursue either a neuroscience doctoral program or medical school to bridge research and practice in the future.

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.

Looking back at a Semester of belonging.

I remember this time last year, being still unsure of the exact route I wanted my career to take and of my shortlisted colleges that somehow seemed to lead up to that. A compulsive curiosity to know everything I can so I can get a “feel” of it, I had just spent 7 hours straight watching videos from HGSE, trying to see if I could picture myself there. I was far from convinced. Until I came across a goofy “Stories from Appian Way” video about a man in search of a Harvard bag. In that video-marathon-induced delirium, I thought that was the most hilarious thing I had seen in a while. More importantly though, something about that told me, I would fit in. From then on, in the admissions process, it was mostly just trying to put into words why as I completed my application essays, knowing in my gut that this was the only place I wanted to really go.

A year later, after having gotten 7 hours of sleep for the first time after 3 weeks of finals, that gut feeling is probably what has still stayed with me. It’s been a semester of moments like that. That warmth in the belly that comes from knowing I belong. I don’t know how else to describe the roller-coaster of a semester it’s been – unlearning and relearning everything I have known about the world, learning about all the possibilities of the people I could be, and finding out that each one of those seems to find comfortable belonging here.

It’s a montage of moments like these that I would send to the me a year ago to ease all that anxiety: Sitting by the mound outside Gutman Library in the first month here, basking in the sun, discussing the belief systems we brought here, and watching them unfold as we added layers from each others’ experiences. Sitting in the massive T-550 class, rediscovering everything I have known about learning, and arranging these aha-moments collectively on post-its. Hearing 140 students stand up in the Public Narratives class, describe their stories and hope in 10 seconds one after the other. Reflecting on my “researcher” identity at the end of “Interviewing for Qualitative research” class, and hearing back from the professor with personalized comments in response. Coming clean to my statistics professor about my fear for stats, and have him respond most reassuringly, putting my learning at the center of the conversation. “I want you to walk away comfortable with stats”, as he always said. Sharing lessons and ideas from a semester with my cohort in a formal event, and having them write back with suggestions, feedback, links and resources, as well as wise words of encouragement; and learning things as varied as race theory to blacksmithing at the event. Coffee dates with classmates as we mutually reflect on the questions we picked up from our classes, and finding their connections for further exploration in the answers we also found there. Specialized Studies Fridays, where we have strung together our thoughts from the week as a cohort over a few beers. Beverages and “everything-you-know”-altering conversations in general. Having a panic attack in the middle of the library the week before finals, only to be hugged until I was calm again (and fed cookies) by a fellow classmate I have barely spoken to before, who turned out to be a secret ninja in the subject I was panicking about, willing to tutor me even in the middle of all her own madness. Finding words to my feelings and getting over my fear of the camera at the same time as I recorded my story for “Double Take”, and then ugly crying after being immensely moved by the stories others shared at the school-wide Double-Take event. Making sense of the elections through origami and art as much as through informed conversations and community meetings. Dancing to Bollywood music in the library the week before finals. The Dean serving us Thanksgiving lunch. Meeting the “bag-guy” from the aforementioned video, telling him how that video changed my decision, which led to a conversation brainstorming ways to take ahead the project I worked on over the summer.

 

The first thing we were told in our cohort orientation was, “Everything here is for the asking, all you have to do is ask”. A semester later, I see what that means. It’s been a semester of being exposed to just an unbelievable wealth of wisdom. It has been enriching in ways that has expanded my brain in directions I didn’t previously know existed.  Of having access to the people I had been studying for so long (and I am not talking only about “I almost dropped coffee on them on my way to school” kind of access); access that is comfortable enough to go in with my unformed questions and coming out with multiple pathways of discovery opened up before me. Of meeting people, who, along with having the wisest wisdom and a whole range of stories to share, are also people who you can count on to genuinely care. People filled with a certain kind of optimism, the kind which draws them to think of changing the world through education, and have them actively engage with me with that in tow. And of finding my place within it, a place that’s evolving, with a kind of faith that no matter the expansion or shape-shifting, there will still be room for it. Of learning about “asking” as an act of belonging within it.

As one of my professors once said in class, “Be a wedge in the door. And then find the community of such wedges in the doors to help open them for you”. What that girl watching those 7 hours of video didn’t know last year, is that this is what perhaps makes this place what it is, that warmth of belonging from cultivating relationships that are as much about laughter as about learning. That community of wedges in the doors, helping each other grow and evolve as they figure out their place in the world they want to create.

Jayati Doshi is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Specialized Studies Program. She is currently exploring what happens when we look at living as an act of learning, and what educating for that would look like.