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Welcome Speech to 2007's Incoming Class

by Advanced Doctoral Student Kristen Bub

Posted: September 11, 2007

During the Dean’s Welcome at Orientation on Monday, Advanced Doctoral Student Kristen Bub addressed 541 masters and 43 doctoral students about what to expect as they begin their years at HGSE and shared advice considering what she has discovered along the way.

Good morning and welcome to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It is both an honor and a privilege to stand before you today and welcome you to this amazing community. If you are anything like I was when I started, you are sitting there feeling a million different emotions and asking yourself a million different questions. “Did I make the right choice?” (without a doubt); “Is this worth the sacrifices I have made to get here?” (absolutely); and perhaps as you have already heard, you are not the admissions mistake. In fact, I can assure each and every one of you that you are here because you deserve to be, and because you can bring something new and exciting to this diverse learning community. So welcome!

When Dean McCartney asked me to speak to you this morning, I began wondering what advice would have been most useful to me during my first year. I decided the best thing to do was to ask some of you what you wanted to know and what you were most concerned about. Several of you requested that I talk about what has made my experience at HGSE so memorable. And so, this morning, I do just that. For those D1s who heard me speak last week, don’t worry, I am not going to focus on the methods training, even though it’s great!

This summer, I, like so many others, eagerly awaited the arrival of the final book in the Harry Potter series. I reserved my copy ahead of time and it arrived on my doorstep at 8:30 am the Saturday it was released. I immediately began reading and two days later I was done. But I was disappointed that it was over so I started to watch the Harry Potter movies again. As I did so, I recognized similarities between Harry Potter’s educational experience at the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry and my own experience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. If there are some of you who have not yet read Harry Potter, I encourage you to do so. Most of your students will have read it, and many of the faculty and staff here at Harvard are avid fans as well. To me, Harry Potter is the story of transformation (figuratively, not literally), community, and development. These three words also embody my experience at HGSE. Let me explain.

Transformation. I arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Education convinced that I was going to be a developmental psychologist. I had little experience with, and frankly minimal interest in our public education system. Granted, I was at a school of education but I was here to study human development, with perhaps some education on the side. Little did I know that six years later I would leave as an educator who strongly believes that our public schools are more than capable of meeting the needs of all learners – from prekindergarten through college – and that together we (including all of you) can help make that happen. I have often joked that I feel a bit like Harry Potter in that sometime during the early part of my career here, my advisor, Dean McCartney said to me “You’re an educator, Kristen,” (just as Hagrid said to Harry, “You’re a wizard, Harry”) and from that time forward I have been learning how to improve the educational experiences of young children.

I imagine some of you are just like me in that you have arrived knowing exactly what you want to study and intend to stay focused on that topic. I think that’s great. But I also encourage you to be open to new ideas, experiences, and directions. You are learning from the greatest in the field and with the best and the brightest surrounding you, and will undoubtedly be challenged to think about new topics or view old topics in a new ways. You never know when something might pique your interest.

I also arrived convinced that I was not an academic but a researcher. Last week I completed the first draft of my first cover letter for an academic position.  I have seen these transformations happen many times and I imagine you will be witness to them as well, if not undergo them yourselves. I strongly recommend you be open to these changes. I have become a different person because I was.

Community. I came to HGSE expecting an education. I will leave with so much more. I suspect the same will be true for you. The community of friends and colleagues you will find here is like no other. Everyday I learn from my professors and my peers and feel supported by an amazing group of mentors and colleagues. When milestones are accomplished, wedding dates are set, and children are born, there is always someone around to head over to Grendel's with you and celebrate. When it’s time for your first professional presentation, your oral exams, or even the “job talk,” there will be an endless number of people willing to spend as many hours as you need listening to you practice, providing you with feedback, and helping you fight with your bullets in Powerpoint (it will happen!). And if life throws you a curveball, the entire community will rally around you to offer support, guidance, and a shoulder to cry on. Like the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts, the Ed School community appears when you need it and remains in the background (though always present) when you don’t. Not once have I felt I was alone while I was here.

Look around you. The people sitting in this room will be your friends, your colleagues, and perhaps most importantly, your stats partners. Don’t hesitate to call upon them when you need to — personally or professionally. They will be your best source of support and they will help you make the most of your experience here. I guarantee there will be times when you wonder why you’re here (I still have those days); that’s natural. But the people in this room and on this campus will be there to remind you of the reasons. The relationships you develop here with the faculty, staff, and students will also help you build your career. You are all here because you want to become the movers and shakers of the future. I urge you to make this happen by meeting new people, tapping into new resources, and joining the HGSE community. The benefits will follow you forever.

Development. I, like many of my colleagues, have grown tremendously at HGSE. I remember my first day of orientation; I sat in a circle with 20 other Human Development doctoral students and I began to panic that I was not cut out to be in a class at Harvard. After all, I was shy, didn’t like to speak in class, and never felt like my ideas or comments were “original enough”. To speak in front of a large group of people was simply out of the question. Six years later, I stand before you as an illustration of how HGSE supports your growth and development. I no longer have a problem stating my opinions, challenging my peers (or advisors), or questioning my professors. And I’ve only had a few nightmares about giving this speech. I feel more than prepared to hop on my Nimbus 2000 broomstick and meet my teammates and my opponents on the education field. And in a year (or seven) you will too!

Just as I eagerly awaited the arrival of the last book in the Harry Potter story, I eagerly await graduation and the next chapter of my life. But just as I was disappointed when I finished reading the book, I know I will also be saddened when I leave this amazing community of scholars and friends behind. There is no other place quite like the Ed School. I hope you find this to be true as well.

I conclude by offering you some simple advice for how to make the best of your experience here at HGSE. Share your knowledge and skills; don’t keep them to yourself. Challenge yourself and your peers on a daily basis. Embrace one another’s passions for children, education, communities, policy, and practice. Absorb everything. And above all, have fun.  Oh, and I suggest you learn to love the Red Sox (or at least pretend you do).

As a boy, Harry Potter was told he had the power to change the lives of all individuals in the wizarding community. You, too, have the power to change peoples’ lives — the lives of students, faculty, and staff in the public education system. And I look forward to doing this with you!  Best of luck to each and every one of you!

Thank you.


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