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Master’s Students Embark on HGSE Journey

By Jill Anderson
09/17/2008 1:55 PM
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The Harvard Graduate School of Education welcomed 516 master’s students to campus last week and officially kicked off the 2008-2009 school year.

“You’re probably wondering what kind of student goes to HGSE, and more importantly, how you fit into the mix,” said Mohan Boodram, associate dean for enrollment and student services, as he welcomed incoming master’s and doctoral students. “Well, first of all, relax – it’s no mistake that you’re here…. So, what kind of people study at HGSE? I think the common denominator is what I think of as the three P’s: passion, promise, and potential. All of you share our commitment to transform the world through education.”

The 2008-2009 class, including both the 516 master’s students and 44 doctoral students, has an average age of 28, and is 79 percent female and 21 percent male. The class is comprised of students representing 30 countries and 39 states. Sixteen percent are international students and 29 percent are students of color.

“Given the diversity of background and experiences among you, we can only begin to imagine the impact you will have on this community as your bring your unique perspectives to Appian Way,” Boodram continued.

Assistant Dean for Master’s Studies Jennifer Petrallia noted that the new master’s students had already made significant contributions to the field of education including a medical doctor who plans to gain knowledge to help enhance patient and resident education; the founder of a nonprofit organization who works to improve educational access for disadvantaged children with disabilities; and a young man who dedicated 10 years to adult literacy programs serving immigrant populations who now plans to use his degree to facilitate technology-based solutions to issues facing adult learning.

“Broadly, students go on to a variety of careers in educational practice, policy, and research,” Petrallia said. “While they are with us here at GSE, our goal is to provide for them a first-class education as well as a rich, deep network of student support services that will help them succeed in every way.”

But before the students could begin their studies, provided an opportunity for students to get to know each other and the campus, and hear about all the things Harvard has to offer.

A session about managing your graduate school experience hosted by the student affairs office discussed the realities of trying to balance life and learning. Ghazi Kaddouh, a member of the Bureau of Study Council, shared his own experience of coming from war-torn Lebanon to America and using the resources around him to learn and make something of himself. “Start thinking about your journey here and what you are going to do to support that student [you are],” he said.

Aurora SanFeliz, C.A.S.’90, Ed.D.’94, also of the Bureau of Study Council, shared her experience of coming to HGSE 19 years ago. She shared survival tips such as making sure that every year you are at Harvard, you treat it like your last, so that you keep perspective and experience everything around you. “Try to be balanced — there’s more to Harvard than classes,” she advised.

Similarly, doctoral candidate Zak Stein, Ed.M.’06, encouraged the students to find a purpose while at the Ed School. “Figure out what motivates you,” he said. “Figure out why you are here.” While Stein emphasized the value of exploring all Harvard resources, he also noted, “Your greatest resource is you guys, so talk to each other.”

By the week’s end, the new master’s students, despite feeling some nerves about starting classes, reported being impressed by the resources offered, as well as by how approachable and welcoming everyone is at Harvard.

“At the end of the day, my brain was fried,” said Elaina Barroso, about the onslaught of information at orientation. Still, Barroso, a former teacher from Corpus Christi, Texas, who is entering the Human Development and Psychology Program was excited about her upcoming HGSE experience. “I’m looking forward to classes after being away [from my studies] for so long.”

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Jill Anderson

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617-496-1884jill_anderson@gse.harvard.edu