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Excerpted from the HGSE Student Handbook.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) is committed to recruiting, cultivating, engaging, and encouraging a diverse and vibrant community of faculty, staff, and students. Diversity can be multivariate, intersectional, and complex, and at HGSE, we define a diverse population to include a wide range of racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender identities; economic and geographic backgrounds; physical abilities; life, school, and career experiences; and political, religious, and personal beliefs. As part of our commitment to our common mission, we each share a responsibility to respect the rights, differences, and dignity of others, and to sustain an environment that is conducive to fostering the highest levels of learning for all.
There are four notable reasons — each critical to our school’s mission — why fostering a diverse community is important to HGSE.
As the leading school of education in the United States, we are committed to providing the highest quality educational experience, and we continually seek to improve our pedagogical practices and curricular offerings. When students with differing backgrounds and perspectives are supported to engage in rigorous and shared inquiry, the results lead to deep learning, excellence, and innovation in the form of new ideas for all of our students. Core to our approach is the pedagogical strategy of classroom discussion, which we use to broaden and enhance student thinking. The richness of these discussions relies on the differing viewpoints, perspectives, and insights that a diverse group of students and faculty brings.
Changing demographics across the United States mean that HGSE graduates will most likely meet, work with, and serve a vast array of people with different backgrounds from their own. Even if the differences between our graduates and the students they will serve are not visible, the realities of our polarized and divergent society mean our graduates will certainly encounter a wide variety of views and opinions. The best way to prepare our students to succeed in an increasingly diverse society is to expose our students in meaningful ways to a diverse group of peers.
The students that HGSE attracts and trains to be leaders are an important part of the contributions we make to the field of education. HGSE strives to meet the great demand for strong leadership and innovation in education, including highly educated and well-prepared teachers, principals, systems leaders, faculty members, and leaders at all levels of education systems. Moreover, non-profit organizations, government agencies, foundations, and other related fields are also in need of highly qualified individuals. In order to prepare the talented, leadership-oriented individuals needed in education, we must reach out to as broad a pool as possible, recognizing the range of aptitudes and talents necessary to be an effective educator. This necessarily requires a diverse pool of students, including those from underserved communities, underrepresented minorities, and individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, research has shown that students from preschool through college benefit inside and outside the classroom from diverse classroom teaching and leadership.
One of the most basic and important questions in education is how we can best help each and every child learn across his or her lifespan. As a school, we devote much of our time and attention to the rigorous study and evaluation of this issue and the implementation of promising practices. In the context of an increasingly diverse nation and world in terms of students’ backgrounds and circumstances, we must approach our work using the broadest set of perspectives and insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the wide-ranging set of students, schools, and communities we serve. Our work must account for the diversity of those we seek to help so that we can figure out what works best for whom and in what context. To do this work in a rigorous way, we utilize our diverse faculty, students, and staff. Their varied backgrounds and perspectives of our community members provides a unique window into the education system — prompting our faculty and students to ask new questions, utilize different methodologies, and foster a range of helpful insights.
Taken together, HGSE’s mission relies fundamentally on having a highly diverse community and fostering engagement across the school. Including a diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives at HGSE is essential to our ability to engage in meaningful teaching and practice, conduct relevant and pioneering research, and have a positive impact on the larger field.