Category Archives: Transitions

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.  

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.

True Life: I’m a Graduate Student at Harvard

My Monday Schedule:

7:45 am: Wake up, get ready for class

8:30 am: Leave the house and walk to HGSE

9:00 am-12:00 pm: Attend class

12:00-12:30 pm: Meet with my fellow Tri-Chairs about the Alumni of Color Conference

12:30-4:00 pm: Eat lunch, prepare for class, attend office hours, chat with friends

4:00-7:00 pm: Attend class

7:30 pm-1:00 am: Eat dinner, prepare to go to my internship the next day, complete assignments, read for class, job search, talk to family, self-care

This is a typical Monday schedule for me. I would consider this to be a calm day. One in which I do not have very many meetings and everything goes as planned. Of course, that rarely happens. During my time here at HGSE, I have been challenged beyond what I thought was possible. I have taken on many responsibilities and tasks that, at many times, make me feel as if I am being pulled in every direction. But I like this! There are so many opportunities and I am trying to take advantage of as many as possible.

Q: What do you like best about being a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education?

A: I like being surrounded by the community members at HGSE. Everyday I am learning from and with people who have done amazing things in their lives and careers. I love how humble everyone is about their accomplishments. I could be sitting next to someone who has started multiple businesses or who raises money to support kids internationally, and would never know it because people at the Ed school aren’t about competing with each other. We all just want to do what is best for kids!

Q: What is most challenging about being at HGSE?

A: Trying to do everything I possibly can in one year – and do it all well. I can honestly say that I have tried to take as much as possible from HGSE. Everyday I ask myself, “How can I take more from this experience?” I push myself to think beyond the classroom. The classroom is great, but there are so many other things to take from HGSE that is outside the classroom, and outside of HGSE as well.

Q: Did you feel prepared to come to HGSE?

A: After coming here and realizing how strategic people were in the things they wanted to see and do, I realized that I was not prepared. I was trying to figure things out as I went. Other people who knew exactly which professors they wanted to learn from, which organizations they wanted to be a member of, and how they wanted to impact the HGSE community. I didn’t. I just knew that I wanted to come here and make a name for myself and do something that would make HGSE and myself proud. That was my goal. Of course, I wanted to expand my network and learn from amazing people. But I knew I would only feel that I conquered this experience if I left a lasting mark on this school. Do I think I have positioned myself to do this? I am proud to say yes. Absolutely!

Q: Looking back, what might you have done before coming to HGSE to be more prepared?

A: If I could go back to last summer, I would have used my time more wisely. I would have actually planned out all of the opportunities I wanted to explore as well as the tangible deliverables of my time here. I feel as if there are resources that I am just now tapping into that would have been amazing to experience back in September or October. I then remind myself that it is impossible to do everything and that I have taken on a lot of responsibilities. I know that everything is working out in perfect timing and exactly as it should be. I take comfort in this. I realize that I am only one person and I cannot do everything, even though I try.

Q: What have you learned at HGSE that you will use beyond Appian Way?

A: I’ve learned so much! There is plenty to learn in the classroom and through internships. But what I have learned the most beyond that is about building my brand. Soon I will have this degree and will be back into the work to change the world. How am I going to use my knowledge to help others? How am I going to make a name for myself as a leader in education? These are things that I have learned outside the classroom through conversations with colleagues and friends. This is my focus as I progress through the semester and to graduation. At this moment in my program, I have realized that all of the work I have done here is great, but I have to keep working. I have to keep striving. I have to keep pressing.

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.

Welcome Spring Semester!

OMG: One of my favorite slang terms. I found myself saying this a lot as I returned to HGSE for Spring semester.

OMG time to shop for classes. OMG time to choose classes. OMG time to start classes. OMG time to finalize and begin my internship. OMG I have assignments due already? OMG I missed my friends! OMG I have to find a job. OMG I’m planning a conference! OMG this year is going by too fast!

Needless to say, the first week back was stressful. Getting back into a routine is my main goal moving forward. One of my classmates and friends reminded me that although there is a lot going on in our lives, we have to stop and think about how fortunate we are to be in this place at this time. No one can take away this experience. With her encouragement and friendly reminder, I am confident that this Spring semester will be stress free (generally speaking–I can’t guarantee all the time) but most importantly it will be successful. Everything will work out in perfect timing, including securing my dream job. Until then, I am going to dive into my work and continue creating memories of a lifetime. 

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.

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. 

“It’s Kinda Like Being a Freshman and a Senior All At Once”

It’s true: The end of Fall semester is practically upon us.

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The past four-ish months have come and gone in a literal whirlwind of activity—filled with classes, interning, paper-writing, group meetings, problem sets, happy hours, film screenings, Askwith Forums, peace circles, chill sessions, #WaffleFridays, and everything in between—and I couldn’t be happier with all that I’ve gotten to learn and experience thus far. I feel like I’ve done so much. Though, as I stand here on the horizon of the second and final half of my time at HGSE, I can’t help but realize how dizzying of a pace things are going; I feel as though I’m on a speeding train toward our May graduation day, which is both exciting and nerve-wracking.

Not long after I was admitted to HGSE, I remember asking a recent Ed.M. alumna if she felt that 9 months had been enough time for her to be at Harvard and her response – “yes and no” – left me completely baffled. How could the master’s program be simultaneously too long and too short? Now, nearing the midpoint of my time here, I get it. It’s so peculiar: I feel like I just got here, but I also recognize that I’ll soon need to start applying for jobs and planning for the next phase of my life.

Having spoken with friends about this, many of them echoed these sentiments, which was quite the relief. Like me, they’re looking forward to getting back out into the workforce in a few months, but wish they could spend more time taking advantage of all the opportunities Harvard has to offer. As one friend eloquently put it, in this one academic year we’re going from freshmen to seniors. How odd. How wonderful.  

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.

How not to change the world (in 4 easy steps)

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Seems accurate. Illustration by Julia Gamolina

I have to start by saying that I feel really arrogant writing this. Who am I to talk about “changing the world”? That’s right, nobody. But I still believe this is a blog post worth writing, especially because I wish someone had told me these things when I was younger.

I’ve always had this ambition to change the world, and I think it’s something everybody wants whether they express it or not. But this idea has gone through many transformations over time. Before, I thought changing the world was this completely revolutionary thing that would be included in history books.

My plan to success was infallible:

  1. Choose a very noble domain of knowledge
  2. Learn all available content in that domain
  3. Think of something no one in humankind has ever thought before
  4. The world would NEVER BE THE SAME!

I see now how this plan was an obstacle to actually doing anything, because it put so much pressure that is was paralyzing. Today, when I say to myself that I want to change the world, I don’t see it as arrogance, I just have a new understanding of what that might look like. Its now a value that guides my life and something I take into account when choosing how to spend my time. Here’s how I think about things now:

1. Choose a very noble domain of knowledge

It is very tempting to rank domains and professions as more or less noble – and, worse, to think we can only make a difference by devoting ourselves to specific fields. For a long time I thought that the things I liked (singing, drawing, creative activities in general) were silly and superfluous, and I even stopped dedicating myself to them because of that. But somehow I would always go back to them. Today I see how foolish it was to judge my own passions, and I think the best change happens when we find what makes sense for us as individuals.

2. Learn all available content in that domain

With so much information at hand, not knowing sounds like failure: it seems like passivity. I felt like I had to know everything before I “did the good work” because I was afraid to say something and give away my ignorance. It took me a long time to accept the open ended nature of knowledge. It’s a liberating concept: if no one can know it all, there is no reason to hold back from doing for fear of not knowing. And, even better, I love thinking that through doing, I’ll always have new things to learn.

3. Think of something no one in humankind has ever thought of before

We need a lot of people trying to “change the world” because, in our human condition, we are small, mortal, and flawed. Our reach is limited in terms of time and place. It is not enough, for instance, to have someone doing amazing work today in the United States if families in other parts of the world or future generations don’t have access to that work. The painstaking labor of cultivating and scattering wisdom is something we don’t consider as revolutionary when we’re younger, but it is what keeps knowledge alive and constantly growing. I know I have a part, no matter how big or small, in advancing the greater narrative of knowledge.

4. The world would NEVER BE THE SAME!

I don’t know if I’m going to be in history books or if my 15 minutes of fame were actually my Facebook post that had 300 likes (that story is for another time). Maybe in five years, I’ll be writing another blog post about how I saw things all wrong but that is the nature of learning, growing, and staying in the present. But I think putting my best foot forward is the only way I can actually change things, no matter how big or small.

Note: this post was originally 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.

Why HGSE?

At this time last year, I was both excited and anxious about my application to HGSE. My biggest worry was whether it was time to go back to grad school. I was debating whether it was a good idea to make the career shift away from law practice back towards education, the sector where I began my career. I am also in my mid-thirties with a family, so it is no small feat to move my entire life across the country. At any age and stage though, it is a major decision to invest the time and money to go to graduate school.

I am happy to say that after two months in the Education Policy and Management (EPM) program, I am confident that I made the right decision. There are multiple reasons I think HGSE is worth all the effort it took to get here. No one will claim that a degree from Harvard looks bad on your resume – earning the credential is a legitimate reason to come.  A better reason would be to learn from professors who are the leading experts in the education field. That is absolutely one of the reasons I came here, and I have already learned an incredible amount from my courses. What I find to be the most compelling thing about HGSE, however, is the community of students. It is the energy and inspiration I get from my classmates that I find most valuable about the entire grad school experience.

There is something very refreshing about spending a year in Cambridge with a group of people who are all passionate about improving education. It is fascinating to hear the stories of how people got here, and where they plan to go next. I also find it valuable to hear everyone’s different perspectives. Even though we all want to make the system better, we approach solving the education sector’s problems from different angles, no doubt influenced by our varied backgrounds. I think understanding these different motivations will make us all better education leaders when we are out in the field next year. For now, there is no place I would rather be than HGSE!

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.   

Resources Abound!

Graduate School is synonymous with one of those crazy fun (but also terrifying) roller coasters that knocks the wind out of you while you’re on it, but as you get off you immediately crave more—more knowledge, more time with your peers, and more (let’s be honest) free food. We’re at that mid-point time during the semester where papers seem to pile up, readings feel like they never end, and free time is more of a distant memory.

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In addition to the demands of school, many students’ stress level can be affected even more by family expectations, financial concerns, identity, mental health, and the general woes of adjustment. Consequently, it’s always important to ensure that we are caring for our most valuable asset, ourselves. Luckily, there are many ways to engage in self-care practices at Harvard that don’t require a huge time commitment and address the many facets of identity.

Below are some ideas and resources for engaging in self-care, while also rockin’ graduate school.

  1. Find an affinity group

    HGSE has plenty of ways to get involved and build support networks. Don’t do everything, but do something. I’m currently one of the Co-Chairs for the Native American student group, FIERCE (Future Indigenous Educators Resisting Colonial Education). Although that adds a little more to my plate, it’s an extraordinary way to decompress and do work that is meaningful to me and my own identity.

(See a list of recognized organizations here: http://osa.gse.harvard.edu/currently-recognized-organizations)

  1. Exercise

Four words– Barre at the MAC. But, if those four words don’t make you want to dust off your workout gear, Harvard has plenty of resources to stay active that you can take advantage of as an HGSE student.

Yoga: http://cw.uhs.harvard.edu/programs/yoga.html

Dance: http://ofa.fas.harvard.edu/dance-non-credit-classes

Harvard Recreation: http://recreation.gocrimson.com/recreation/membership/graduate

Basically, the possibilities are endless.

  1. Adult Coloring Books

If you’ve yet to explore this world, I highly recommend it.

  1. Meditation

Getting started: http://cw.uhs.harvard.edu/mindfulness/index.html

  1. Put down social media

Seriously, you do not need to watch yet another Facebook video of someone getting killed or read everyone and their dog’s political opinions. A little break from screen time in general can be good for the soul.

  1. Keep track of compliments

When someone gives you a compliment, write it in a journal or keep it in your notes on your phone—when you’re having a hard day, re-read them.

  1. Admit when you need help

Go to office hours, make that writing center or research librarian appointment, or go talk to someone about the non-academic things you are struggling with. There is no shame in admitting you don’t have it all figured out.

Academic help: http://bsc.harvard.edu/ or http://www.gse.harvard.edu/osa/access-and-disability-services

Help with that paper: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/library/services

When you need someone to talk to: https://huhs.harvard.edu/services/counseling-and-mental-health

At the end of the day, HGSE is a mind-blowing and wonderful experience–one that is worth the endless reading, midterm papers, and rapid growth. However, learning to change the world requires attention to your own needs and limitations as well.

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.

(Class) Shopping

My mind is buzzing with excitement, exhaustion, and total desperation. It’s 5:00pm on Thursday, having just finished the whirlwind two days of class shopping period. I slumped in my advisor’s chair – I needed expert advice.

“What’s up?” he asks.

I jumped right in. “I have a whole list of classes I want to take and can’t imagine narrowing it down. I’ve never had so much freedom to frame my course load. Can I enroll in four courses and audit another five? Is that normal? I’ve never done this before. What do I do? How do I do this?”

At this point, I realized I’ve just ranted for a solid two minutes. I sighed, “I just wish I could take everything.”

He sat back in his chair and smiled. “Welcome to HGSE. You’ll fit right in.”

Shopping period is an utterly exhausting and exciting two days of discovering the course book. Before each term begins, HGSE sets aside two days for exploring the offerings of the semester. From 9am to 5:30pm, our days are filled with listening to professors pitch their classes to us in short lectures, and at the end we’re asked to narrow our courses of interest to a precious few. 

My advisor sensed my uneasiness in making the final decisions. He gave another smile, folded his arms, and asked me to remind myself what drew me to study at HGSE – not what drew me to come to the school, but what compelled me to study here.

To my amazement and relief, my fellow cohort members faced similar dilemmas about their class selection. Most surprisingly, we all selected completely different courses from each other. We were each asking ourselves the same question, for which we had varied answers: what is my purpose for studying here? 

Even within cohorts, everyone comes to HGSE with a different objective. Our common thread is an interest in education-related issues (and, seemingly, a desire to take more than a reasonable amount of courses), but we each have a different purpose and path to take. Shopping week reminds us that the opportunities for study here are endless; but rather than overwhelm us, it reminds us that here we have the incredible ability to chart our own course, and this was our first step in our journey.

What will be your purpose at HGSE?

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Members of the MBE ’17 cohort on our first day of classes outside Gutman Library, starting our grad school journeys together

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.