Category Archives: Student Life

Reflections on my first semester

As first semester has come to a close, it seems impossible that I am halfway through my master’s degree. I had heard that time would fly, but I did not imagine it would go this quickly. Coming into HGSE, I will admit that I did not know what to expect and felt some impostor syndrome setting in as I walked onto campus for the first time as a student. I kept thinking that the admission office made a mistake, that I somehow slipped through the cracks and snuck my way into Harvard. I went into the start of the school year with a mixture of excitement, curiosity and uncertainty. I could not wait to be in the classroom again but I feared that I would not remember how to write a strong paper or be too nervous to speak up in class. I looked around campus on my first day and found myself immersed in a vibrant community. Within the first 10 orientation, Dean Ryan told all of us that we belong here, and the feelings of doubt and fear began to fade.

As I got to know those in my cohort, I found myself amazed not only by what they have already accomplished, by also by their passion and kindness. I also found that many of us had felt some semblance of impostor syndrome, and that it was okay to be nervous or intimidated. My cohort established norms from the outset, including things like actively listening without judgement, trying to understand where someone is coming from and an overall focus on inclusion. I have found these values to extend across all HGSE cohorts.

ProSem Group Pic best

Higher Education Program cohort


With some of my cohort-mates coming right out of undergrad to some coming in with 20+ years of experience, the diversity of experiences and perspectives is quite incredible. While we spend a lot of time together in the classroom as the Higher Education program has several required courses, there is always some kind of social event outside of class, like a higher education themed trivia night, a spaghetti dinner or meeting up at a local brewery. We even have a group chat – all 50 of us, featuring everything from homework questions to showing off pictures of our beloved pets.  The support I have seen my classmates give to each other is remarkable. Though competition in HEP fantasy football might be fierce, HGSE is a place of collaboration, intellectual curiosity and drive to change the world.

Written by Kate Brown, photos provided by Kate Brown

Kate pic-1Kate, a former admission counselor, is an Ed. M candidate in the higher education program and a graduate assistant in the HGSE Admission Office. Her focuses in higher education are student access and success.

Outside of school, she is an advisor for the Campus Kitchens Project, an organization dedicated to fighting insecurity and reducing food waste and she enjoys hiking.


SSP: A Most Uncommon Cohort

The anticipation was real: the more I read over the summer, the more I looked forward to my first days at HGSE. I couldn’t wait to explore the quiet corners of Gutman and the dozens of other libraries around campus, and to finally meet the students and faculty with whom I would be sharing this adventure.

But I was nervous about one thing. The other master’s programs at HGSE — International Education Policy, Human Development and Psychology, Language and Literacy, to name a few — provide a core curriculum structured around a particular field, and a cohort of fellow students and colleagues who share academic and professional interests. My program, Specialized Studies (SSP), is different: Instead of having a set curriculum and required courses, we each design and propose our own course of study, with help from our advisors and faculty.

I won’t lie: looking at all the course options, I feel like a kid in a candy store! In SSP, each of us is free to build our own curriculum with courses at HGSE, as well as most of the other schools at Harvard including HBS, HKS, GSD, and HSPH. (Don’t worry, you get used to the acronyms quickly.) In addition, and depending on our professional and academic interests, we can also cross-register at MIT and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts.

On one hand, that freedom is what made SSP the natural choice for me: having no course requirements or set curriculum made it possible to take both courses in the Higher Education Program, e.g. College Student Development Theory with Professor Jim Antony, as well as courses focusing on organizational leadership and development including Education Sector Nonprofits with Professor Jim Honan, Mission and Money with Professor Joe Zolner, and Crafting a Compelling and Rigorous Proposal with my wonderful advisor, Professor Eileen McGowan. 

On the other hand, as fall orientation grew nearer, I remember worrying I wouldn’t have anything in common with my cohort, and that would miss out on the deep connections and lifelong friendships that so many of my friends had forged in grad school. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The SSP cohort certainly comes from diverse backgrounds: our ranks include a former airline pilot, a theatre company director, a squash coach, a few journalists, a handful of doctors, and a number of experienced classroom teachers from around the world, not to mention yours truly, a former political operative and communications / fundraising consultant. But where I worried that our differences would mean we’d have nothing in common, instead I’ve found the opposite to be true: our varied backgrounds and interests allow us to enrich each other’s experience at HGSE, and ensure we have no shortage of perspectives to share.

And man, do we share them! In addition to karaoke, trivia nights, and celebrating each other’s birthdays and engagements, this semester we’ve begun a new SSP tradition: weekly hot chocolate at LA Burdick on Brattle Street. 

SSP cohort

Now that finals are in full swing, it’s safe to say each of us is looking forward to a well-earned Winter Break. But whenever we get back into town, whether it’s during J-term or course shopping for the spring semester, one thing I’m looking forward to the most is getting together to raise a glass, break some bread, and share some more stories with these spectacular people – my SSP family.

Blog and photo by Eli Center


Eli Center is an Ed.M. Candidate (2018) currently studying higher education and nonprofit leadership in the Specialized Studies Program at HGSE. A marketing and communications consultant and a ten-year veteran of political campaigns, he lives in Jamaica Plain with his wife Shira, the politics editor at the Boston Globe.

Raising Our Voices

Sitting around the dining room table, we were trying to figure out how many items to include in our scavenger hunt. We wracked our brains together as the aroma of chicken vegetable stew and steamed rice filled the room. The food soothed our hunger, but couldn’t quite do the same for our heartaches that had followed the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey and Irma in Florida, Texas, and the Caribbean. The pain was an ache that only seemed to get better with movement. So we put our hands to task and came together to plan a scavenger hunt to raise money for those affected by these storms.

Not a few weeks went by before an earthquake, monsoon and two more horrific hurricanes struck Mexico, SE Asia, Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean. As Fall fell upon us, clouds hung overhead and cast shadows on our hearts. The damage was unprecedented; the campus-wide heartache was palpable. We drew warmth and comfort from each other as we drew closer together to support HGSE students with families affected by these devastating storms.

Our scavenger hunt team decided to join forces with a few other students who had families they still hadn’t heard from yet, particularly in Puerto Rico and Mexico as phone lines remained down for several days after the earthquake and hurricane, respectively. We altered our plans and opted to do a Benefit Concert instead, to create a space for students to raise their voices to “weep with those that wept” and find renewed hope with each other. The result was breathtaking. Some roared, others whispered – but either way the concert gave utterance to the pains yet unspoken and dared us to hope and believe in better days to come for all those affected.

It was such an honor to have had the opportunity to work with my deeply passionate and caring colleagues to bring together the Harvard community, and the broader Cambridge and Boston community as well, to support each other through that difficult time.

Unfortunately, many individuals are still reeling from the after-effects of these natural disasters. Please continue to show your support for them through the following organizations:

  • Help rebuild Mexico (click here to donate). Proceeds will be channeled to organizations that will support reconstruction efforts in affected communities.
  • Help rebuild Puerto Rico. You can support them through the conPRmetidos Relief Fund

Blog and photos by Joshua Onyango

Josh Onyango headshotJoshua Onyango

Born in Arusha, Tanzania, Josh has spent most of his life in the mid-west and southern US. He studied Biomedical Science in college and went to medical school in North Carolina. He’s still a medical student there, but decided to take a year to learn more about the role of technology in educating patients and training young physicians through the TIE program at HGSE. Outside of school he enjoys playing video games, basketball, and pondering the meaning of life.

3 Perspectives on the Zuckerman Fellowship


The Zuckerman Fellowship is a leadership fellowship through the The Harvard Kennedy Center for Public Leadership. It is for individuals who are committed to public service. It aims to bring together a multidisciplinary group to collaborate on ways to solve the complex problems facing society. The fellows are all in the process or have completed a MBA, MD, or JD and pursuing a supplemental masters: MPP, MPA, MPH and M.Ed.  This makes for a very diverse group. This year there are three HGSE Zuckerman Fellows (Zucks as we lovingly call ourselves), and in true collaborative fashion, we have come together to share three of our most valued co-curricular opportunities we have experienced through the fellowship.

Chris on the Multidisciplinary Aspect

The Zuckerman Fellowship is predicated on the idea that in order to address our nation’s challenges, a multidisciplinary approach to leadership is necessary. The Zucks have been described as “boundary crossers,” with each member bringing to the table professional expertise in law, business, or medicine with the goal of expanding their knowledge in the realm of public service, through studies in public policy, public health, or education. This creates a cohort with, not only, incredible experience and perspective, but also tremendous hope for creating change. Despite our different paths at Harvard and beyond, we are bound by our mutual desire to expand our worlds and learn from others. For each of us, this year represents a point of inflection in our careers, leaving our comfort zone to try something new. For me, this shared experience has been one of the most valuable aspects of the Zuckerman program. Getting to know each of the Zucks and talk through our plans, hopes, and dreams has shown me how much we each have in common despite our varied trajectories. They Zucks have proved to be a home base this year when I’m doubting my direction or trying to define a new path. Diverse expertise is valuable, but the shared experience of being a “boundary crosser” has proven to be truly invaluable.

Josh on Leadership

This wasn’t the typical way most of us would choose to spend an early Saturday morning, but this day was different. As Zuckerman Fellows, we are a part of the Center for Public Leadership that functions as our training ground, equipping us to deal with the complexities of modern leadership. In pursuit of that mission, we had the opportunity to participate in an intensive, all-day workshop on Public Narrative with Marshall Ganz, a national leader in strategic grassroots organizing. Throughout the day, we listened to each other’s incredible stories come to life, and practiced vulnerability as we put our personal hopes and dreams on display. This is only one among many workshops and sessions focused on developing a greater depth of self-awareness in order to actualize the leadership potential within each of us. As I have continued to learn more about difficult issues facing education at HGSE, the Zuckerman Fellowship has been a wonderful place to reflect on these issues with a multidisciplinary perspective and gain confidence and inspiration to effect change through servant-leadership.

Tracy on Community

The Zucks: this is a group of individuals, who have contributed and dedicated their lives to service and have come together to create something truly unique – a community of people who are committed to each other. I am reminded of the recent fellows welcome retreat on Cape Cod. On the retreat, one Zuck mentioned that he had never held a live crab. The Cape is filled with tiny crabs crawling through the sand, and we made it our mission to make his dream come true. Through the innovation of borrowing another fellow’s t-shirt and many arms plunging into the bay, we worked together to catch these tiny crustaceans. The willingness to support and connect on any level – from catching animals to supporting each other’s personal, career, or life paths – is a commitment felt from every Zuck to another. A former Zuck once said, “We are the keepers of each other dreams,” and in a community where we all come as equals, this is a sacred task that we all step forward to hold together.

And although this highlights just three things that we value about being Zuckerman fellows, we are grateful to take these experiences back into the classrooms on Appian Way. However, I think, what cannot be understated is the value that we are able to provide the Zuckerman community from what we learn and develop here at HGSE. Our perspectives and foundation here at HGSE contribute to the Zucks, and we are fortunate to be a part of both of these thriving communities.

Zuck authors

From left to right: Chris Clayton, Tracy Seimears, Josh Onyango

Written by HGSE Zuckerman Fellows Chris Clayton, Josh Onyango, and Tracy Seimears

Chris Clayton is currently between his third and fourth year of medical school at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in NYC in the Bassett Track. He is pursuing a Masters in the Higher Education program at HGSE. Chris is interested in working in undergraduate medical education administration in curriculum development with a focus on social medicine, community collaboration, and student support services.

Josh Onyango was drawn to the Technology, Innovation, and Education (TIE) program at HGSE to pursue questions that had accumulated over the course of his first three years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Many of these questions involve how to most effectively utilize technology to improve student outcomes, facilitate more collaborative mentorships, and empower patients to take an active role in their care.

Tracy Seimears is currently working as a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital after recently completing her pediatric residency here in Boston. I am interested in a full multidisciplinary experience to support my interests of utilizing education as a tool for providers to advocate for disadvantaged patients and communities. I found my fit at HGSE in the Specialized Studies Program (SSP). From the incredible SSP cohort, to the coursework and extracurriculars, I have been able to take coursework at Harvard Business School, the Kennedy School plus a foundational grounding here on Appian Way.


Urban Scholars: A Shared Commitment to Urban Education

The first time I met my Urban Scholars cohort, I was overjoyed to be in a space with others who also shared my passion and commitment to urban education. My incredibly talented cohort includes the director of a college access program in San Diego, a former creative writing instructor at Rikers Island Correctional Facility, a special education instructional coach from New Orleans, and exceptional educators with up to ten years of teaching experience in urban schools across the nation.

denise 1First dinner together as an Urban Scholars cohort

The Urban Scholars Fellowship Program, which began in 2006 with a cohort of just nine students, has expanded to fourteen students for the 2018 school year. As Urban Scholar Fellows, we define ourselves as leaders committed to actively engaging with the complex challenges inherent to the field of urban education, a professional learning community that leverages the diversity of our experience and knowledge to develop leadership capabilities, and change makers dedicated to positively impacting our communities and the future of urban education.

Building lasting relationships with a diverse set of individuals from different programs has been one of the most formative, engaging, and rewarding experiences during my time at HGSE. Throughout the year we engage in a series of monthly discussions and workshops with HGSE faculty and guest speakers. This semester we had the opportunity to engage in rich conversations about urban education with Domonic Rollins, Senior Diversity and Inclusion Officer at HGSE as well as Dr. Irvin Scott, Senior Lecturer of Educational Leadership. We also had the opportunity to lead a job skills workshop for individuals transitioning back into employment post-incarceration under the guidance of Tracie Jones, Assistant Director for Student Diversity and Inclusion Programs.

denise 2Job Skills Workshop for Haley House Program Participants

Beyond our monthly discussions, our cohort has decided to use this year to set the course for the future of the Urban Scholars program by crafting a mission statement which articulates a shared vision for our program. We have also decided to participate in the Alumni of Color Conference as a cohort to provide insight into our unique areas of expertise about urban education, and create an Urban Scholars Alumni Network and Advising Council to ensure these programs and initiatives are instituted beyond this school year.

denise 3Lunch at the Harvard Faculty Club

I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to develop a lifelong network of colleagues and friends who share a common passion for urban education. I have truly enjoyed learning from each member of my cohort, and am excited to collaborate with them upon our return to the field to advance issues related to urban education.

denise 4Supporting fellow Urban Scholar, Edyson Julio, during a panel discussion entitled “The Words to Say It: Teaching, Writing, & Incarceration”

Written by Denise Archibald, photos provided by Denise Archibald

denise 5

Denise Archibald is an Ed.M. candidate in the Education Policy and Management Program. As a former special education teacher and program manager for Chicago Public Schools, Denise plans to return to Chicago upon graduation from HGSE to expand career and technical education opportunities for students and advance policies and programs that empower students for success in college and career.


One Person at a Time: building your social capital

Quitting my job and entering a new profession wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. It took a lot of soul searching, prayers, a pay cut and a great deal of courage. I want to explain why I quit the world of finance and investment banking and entered the education field.

I quit because I wanted to have a positive impact on learning, which I believe cannot be accurately measured by test scores. I quit because children are not just our future, they are our present, and they need to be empowered now. I quit because I have a soft spot for dreamers and had to find a way to make their dreams come true.

Entering this new profession has made me uncomfortable several times and one of the hardest parts for me so far is learning how to network. For some people networking is a cakewalk but for me it is as hard as getting a perfect score on the GRE. Since the day I arrived at Harvard, I have wondered, “how do I network?” I received a variety of answers ranging from “you need to be present at all events and talk to as many people as possible to build your social circle,” while others told me “networking is meeting someone for a cup of coffee.” I didn’t know what to do with this advice because I wasn’t sure yet what it meant to “fit in” at Harvard. However, I didn’t give up my quest to find out.

In one of our meetings, Professor Fernando Reimers addressed my question. In his words, “it isn’t as much about networking as it is about building your community.” Some people may network by talking to as many people as possible and trying to be the most popular person at a party. But for me, building community means getting to know one person at a time and taking the time to really talk to them. This way, I’m building long-term relationships that won’t die as the party comes to an end. 

And that’s how I started building my social capital – with the philosophy that I don’t have to know everyone at a party or an event. Instead, I focus on meeting one person at a time and developing lifelong connections. I hope this post helps people who don’t see themselves in the category of “fitting in” realize that there is more than one way to connect with others at HGSE.  

networking photo

Blog and photos by Aarushi Singhania

Aarushi Singhania is a master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. She is passionate about bringing inclusive education to marginalized students and the financial empowerment of women. Aarushi has a small–scale startup focused on empowering young girls and women in Bangalore, India that teaches them to work towards building financial capital with vocational skills, entrepreneurial competencies and digital literacy.

The 16th Annual Alumni of Color Conference

The Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC) is home to me.  I call it home because after attending and presenting at this conference for the last two consecutive years, it propelled me to apply and join the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) family to further my impact as a Filipinx-American Educator, Poet, and Entrepreneur.


AOCC is a convening of leaders of color and allies from all around the nation, both from HGSE and beyond. We gather for three days and share best practices in cutting edge research and social justice work focused on strengthening the diversity, equity, and inclusion competencies essential to all educational spaces that impact communities of color.  In the past we’ve brought in the likes of Tina Tchen (Golden Globe Award-Winning Chinese-American Actress), Alejandra Y Castillo (National Director of Minority Business Development Agency), Dr. Christopher Emdin (Author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood….and the Rest of Y’all Too), Brandon Marshall (NFL Linebacker), Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams (Historian and Professor at Vanderbilt University) and more.

1 - Dr. Christopher Emdin

Dr. Christopher Emdin


For both years, I had the opportunity to co-lead two sessions with my colleague Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah (current HGSE student) entitled “Empowering Youth Voice through the Art of Spoken Word” and “Exploring Identity and Intersectionality through Poetry.” Through these sessions, we were able to share our expertise in facilitating culturally responsive and identity-rooted pedagogy with youth and practitioners in the field of arts education. Through this conference I was able to radically imagine myself into a position of collective power in solidarity.

2 - Boston Pulse Poetry

Boston Pulse Poetry, AOCC 2016


After getting my acceptance letter into HGSE, I knew I had to give back to AOCC. So I naturally applied to lead the conference as one of the Tri-Chairs. Our role is to design the vision and trajectory of a conference that pulls in 700 – 1000 participants. We also manage the steering committee to co-develop and co-execute the vision.  After much deliberation with my fellow Tri-Chairs (Jen Kuang and Avriel Epps), we’ve solidified our vision to the following:

“Radicalize, Reimagine, and Reconstruct: Grappling with antiquated systems and designing alternatives to capitalism, systemic oppression, and monolithic identities.”

3 - AOCC

Chapter one of this vision is rooted in the term “Radical.” We chose this word because we recognize the need for a vision that dismantles the status quo.  When we think of the term “radical,” the word “change” automatically comes to mind. In a reductionist era of Trump, radical change and coalition building are elemental to us surviving and thriving as leaders of color in white dominant spaces.  Chapter two is entitled “Reimagine,” inspired by our nation’s desperate need for “radical imagination.” Radical imagination is ability to reimagine the world, life, and social institutions not as they are but as they could and should be.  Our final chapter of this conference dives into “Reconstruction.” The idea to recreate and rebuild is the perfect coalescence after defining and rethinking how to approach these antiquated systems of oppression.


I’m honored to have the ability to pay respects to my ancestors and work in solidarity with fellow students of color by bringing this conference to life in its 16th year. Through this work, I’ve been able to acquire incredibly talented, humble, and supportive family members and mentors. Among them are Tracie Jones (Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion Programming), Estefania Rodriguez (former AOCC Steering Committee Lead and Ethnic Studies Teaching Fellow), and Professor Christina “V” Villarreal (Professor of Ethnic Studies). These three leaders exemplify the type of leadership I want to embody and exude as I manage the Youth Empowerment, Communications, External Engagement, and Publicity committees.

4 - mentors


Beyond networking, part of my personal vision for AOCC this year is to co-empower youth to work alongside our steering committee.  In order for this to happen, we created the inaugural “AOCC Youth Leaders Fellowship,” which will recruit two Boston High School youth leaders to co-design, co-host, and co-execute various aspects of this conference. In doing this, I invoke philosopher and educator, Paolo Freire, and his concept of perceiving students as experts to their lived experiences.  We can learn so much from our youth experts, if only we give up our power and entrust it to them. Creating this fellowship was but another way of giving back and paying forward. It grounds me in why I was drawn to HGSE in the first place, and reminds me how I would not be here without my students.

*The AOCC Call for Proposals has just launched. If you would like to present on research, curate a panel, and/or have a workshop idea to facilitate, please visit the AOCC website!*

Written by Tony DelaRosa, photos provided by Tony DelaRosa

Tony headshotTony DelaRosa is California by chance and Cambridge by choice. He’s a Filipinx-American Educator, Writer, Entrepreneur, and Poet. He cofounded two city-wide spoken word youth organizations: Indy Pulse (Indianapolis) and Boston Pulse Poetry (Greater Boston). At HGSE, he is a current student in the Arts in Education program. He serves as a Co-Chair of the Pan-Asian Coalition for Education, Communications Fellow for the Voice Program, and Tri-Chair for the Alumni of Color Conference. Find out more by visiting: CNN, The Hechinger Report, and NPR.

The opportunities are endless!

I’m learning that the opportunities to engage with course material in innovative ways are endless at HGSE. I’ve been especially impressed with how possible—and encouraged—it is to tailor-make opportunities for myself. The faculty and staff are intent on cultivating students’ individual passions and supporting them in diverse ways; academically, emotionally, and even financially. I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference funded by the Student Conference Fund. Here’s the story, in three chapters. 


An Everyone Culture

Chapter 1: April 2016

As the Director of Team and Operations at a start-up non-profit in Toronto, I read Kegan and Lahey’s An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization to learn more about encouraging adult development within our team. An Everyone Culture is based on the theory that in most workplaces, people are spending valuable time and energy hiding their weaknesses. This is not only inefficient but also discouraging; it’s impossible to strengthen weaknesses if they’re hidden. The book detailed several companies that made a major commitment to integrating principles of adult development into their internal operating system. I was hooked; in college I had learned about the stages of child development, but reading An Everyone Culture was my first introduction to the phases of adult development. My fascination with adult developmental stages solidified my desire to apply to graduate school programs and served as motivation to apply to the Human Development and Psychology program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

Chapter 2: September 2017

At the beginning of my first semester at HGSE, I learned that there would be a Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO) conference in Boston in the coming months! Soon after I also discovered that HGSE students can apply to the Student Conference Fund to cover the registration cost at conferences related to their area of study. It was the perfect storm of opportunity! The DDO Conference was designed to serve as a live epilogue to the book; it would include update presentations from the companies featured in An Everyone Culture and the authors would facilitate discussions and reflections about how to create an “everyone culture” in any workplace.

Chapter 3: November 2017

In late October, I attended the DDO Conference in Boston. Walking into a room full of people who shared my interests was exhilarating, intimidating, and validating. I met all types of people: professors, CEOs, coaches, and one-person consulting firms. Everyone shared my passion for learning about people and encouraging them to be the best version of themselves in the workplace. I was grateful for, and impressed by, the authenticity in the room. The companies were transparent about the challenges they were experiencing as they integrated principles of adult development into their structures and the participants genuinely engaged with the discussions, including sharing vulnerabilities and areas for growth.

DDO conference

Author and former HGSE professor Robert Kegan making closing remarks at the conference

I am grateful to the Student Conference Fund and continue to be impressed with the individualized learning experiences that each student can create at HGSE!

Written 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 loving her year at HGSE and has tried 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. 




Living in Central Square, Cambridge

When I was looking for places to live once I got into HGSE, I found myself gravitating to all of the nice pictures online. Whether it was Craigslist or a website from a realtor, there were some pictures that just called to me—sunlight, a nice kitchen, big, open spaces.

Visiting these homes was another story… I learned that you should not base your decision on pictures and should be very aware that Photoshop is a real tool used by many people in order to make something look nicer than it actually is.

My blog post is not about my process, however. I want to talk about why I chose to live in Central Square.

For the past two years, I was living in rural New York where there was little access to good restaurants, nightlife, things to do in the immediate vicinity, and nice places to walk. When I made the decision to move to Cambridge, I was overwhelmed by the many options available to me, but I knew for sure that I wanted the following:

  • Walking distance to grocery stores/restaurants
  • A neighborhood feel with the perks of living in a city (being close to the T stop)
  • A separate life from school
  • Proximity to running trails/biking trails
  • Pet friendly

Other than those minor details, I was open…

I recognized that my qualifications for my new home were limiting, and I learned that there were some things I would have to be more lenient on. However, when we found the perfect blue house 8 minutes from Central Square, I was sold. It had everything!

Central Square is located a mile away from campus. It’s easily accessible by foot, train or bus, and feels completely separate from Harvard Square and Kendall Square. The population is much less student-heavy, but still has a fair share of young adults. Central also has every store imaginable—you can go three blocks and achieve just about all your shopping. Hmart, a wonderful supermarket with a Korean flare, has both delicious produce and food, as well as ample samples on the weekend. CVS is located very close by, as is a co-op food store. Trader Joes and Whole Foods are just a 10-15 minute walk from the T stop. There is an outdoor apparel shop, the best ice cream I have ever had (Toscanini), a vegetarian restaurant, two dumpling restaurants, a restaurant that specializes in small plates, a Tibetan food restaurant… I could go on and on. Central Square truly has everything.

But the aspects of Central Square that I now enjoy span far more than just the number of great restaurants. I have come to appreciate the separateness from campus—I need that distance from the place I go to school every day. I love the culture and vibrant scene Central Square has to offer—Graffiti Alley is an artist’s mecca. There are festivals almost every weekend around Central Square, and it’s easy to make your way down to the Charles River to watch Head of the Charles or just sit by the river and people watch.

There are, of course, downsides to living in Central Square, as well. The primary one is cost—because it’s a desirable neighborhood, the rent is a bit pricier than some other areas around Harvard. This is definitely something to consider, but having two roommates really helps mitigate the money issue.

When thinking about where to live, listen to your gut. Don’t jump on the first house you see. Take your time and start early. It may seem ridiculous to start a few months before you begin school, but apartments go quickly here, and it helps to know what you want. Get to know the different neighborhoods. Allston is very different from Cambridge which is very different from Watertown. Also, ask questions. Everyone at HGSE is here to help you navigate the search and help you solve problems that may arise. Someone has been through what you’re experiencing with housing troubles before, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

Some questions to think about:

  • How close to campus do you want to be?
  • Do you need central air conditioning?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Do you want to be in a house or apartment building?
  • Are you okay paying for heat?
  • How close to a T stop do you want to be? (Think about the winter)
  • What are three things you just will not sacrifice in your housing search?

Written by Mia Ritter

Mia Picture


Mia Ritter grew up in New York City before going to college at Grinnell College in Iowa. After college, and after she realized she wanted to go into college access/college counseling, Mia worked at Hamilton College in the admission office. Realizing she wanted to further her career, Mia went on the graduate school search, and found HGSE. The Prevention Science and Practice (PSP) program spoke to her, and Mia is now a Ed.M. candidate in the adolescent counseling strand of PSP.

Cultural and Intellectual Diversity at HGSE

At Harvard, intellectual curiosity is leveraged not only in classrooms and the myriad places around campus, Cambridge, and Boston more broadly, but within warm, welcoming, and supportive spaces that fuel our unique sense of community. I cannot emphasize enough how important this sense of community is in extending our thinking in new directions and applying knowledge vis-à-vis innovative programs that reflect a deep sense of care for others; whether it’s for the students we hope to inspire in classrooms, designing evidence-based interventions that buffer the effects of toxic stress in high-risk communities, protecting the legal rights of children around the world, or helping young people find meaning, passion, and purpose in their everyday lives by nurturing skills and abilities unique to their individual learning styles and personalities.

But to accomplish all this, we first ‘learn to learn’ from others by opening our minds and ears to both the renowned scholars here at HGSE – and perhaps more importantly – to our incredible peers who bring to Appian Way a diverse range of cultural and intellectual experiences. During my time at Harvard, I’ve had the privilege of learning from students who arrived by way of China, Japan, Thailand, India, Australia, Ghana, Nigeria, Spain, Russia, France, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Singapore… The list literally goes on and on.

In addition to a rich cultural diversity, our community consists of students and faculty spanning an array of intellectual disciplines and ideological differences. A typical classroom will be full of students studying health, medicine, law, government, physics, and engineering. Furthermore, our classes often intersect with surrounding universities including Tufts and MIT. This interdisciplinary exposure puts us in a unique position to collaborate with experts (and emerging experts) from diverse domains of knowledge, and equips us with real-world skills needed to sift through dilemmas with fresh lenses. For instance, a recent discussion with students in one class illuminated the ways in which different cultures view American youth identity as portrayed in westernized new digital media. On the same day in another class, I learned about conceptions of childhood, labor, and marriage from a student growing up in Ghana. Yet in another course, our project team consists of a psychology student, educator, and medical student confronting social-emotional learning difficulties among refugee children. In our SSP cohort, we recently established a working group on justice, power, and privilege to better understand how these concepts manifest in our personal and professional lives.

At the core of each example above lies a thirst for shared knowledge and deeper understanding within and across cultures and experience, all nested within a supportive environment where we look forward to every opportunity that propels discussions into uncharted territories. We learn from one another, share our personal stories, and navigate all this through an established culture of intellectual curiosity and social support. A critical element embedded in our shared learning is openness to understanding and respect for diverse points of view. Engaging in such collaborative discourse has had profound implications for shaping how I listen, learn, and express myself. And I feel fully supported in this initiative by our faculty, students, and staff.

During orientation, our program coordinators shared with us a TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (recommended viewing for all!), which underscores the “danger of relying on a single story.” Coming to terms with how biases are shaped provided a platform for generating iterative dialogue where so many “Eureka!” moments take place. Indeed, a willingness to question our own preconceptions is needed for making lasting, innovative change. In the spirit of avoiding the pitfalls of single stories, I encourage each of you to reflect on what you currently know, what you think you know, and to bring with you a sense of wonder as you explore new ideas with those around you; because there is no better venue for reflecting on past experiences and exploring new ideas than with your fellow peers and colleagues here at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

A glimpse into Daniel’s life at HGSE…


Bill Damon (Stanford) and Howard Gardner discuss virtues and character during the 50th year anniversary of Project Zero.


Yohannes Abraham, Dan Balz, Karen Finney, Jason Chaffetz, Sally Jewell, and Mark Strand square off on “Protests, Partisanship, and Fixing Politics” during a JFK Jr. Forum event at the Kennedy School.

Classroom view

Typical view from a classroom window in October.

Blog and photos by Daniel T. Gruner

Daniel Gruner

Daniel T. Gruner is an Ed.M. candidate in the Specialized Studies Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is concurrently pursuing his PhD in Positive Developmental Psychology at Claremont Graduate University. As a member of SSP, Daniel is focusing on cognitive development, education policy, technology, and international human rights. His research synthesizes three overarching themes that fall at the intersection of young peoples’ engagement with learning, their development of moral and ethical sensibilities, and the broader sociopolitical institutions that shape daily human experience with particular emphasis on inequality, political freedom, and digital democracy.